Build a craft business logo by Gordon Hamme

Introduction

Build a craft business logo by Gordon Hamme
The Build A Craft Business book and course (BACB) has been developed to help makers turn their skills into commercially viable businesses.
 

The ideas for the course – and so for the book – came to me while I was researching for my doctorate at Edinburgh University which was split between the art school and the business school. I became very concerned that business education for artisan craftspeople was not hitting the mark, and I spent a great deal of time working out why this should be. I eventually realised that business courses in art schools were being written using theories and language which are simply not appropriate for makers who learn by doing, trial and error.

 

By now you have already spent several years learning your vocation – you now need simple systems to run your business and earn a living. So I’m looking to give you the tools to do just that.

 

Who is the BACB book and course aimed at?

The BACB book and course has been created to support makers from all sectors to develop their ideas and skills into commercially-viable businesses. The target audience includes:

  • Recent and final year graduates of craft colleges 

  • Creative businesses which need help in growing to the next stage

  • People considering a second career in craft 

  • Craftspeople with skills but little business experience

Would the course suit you?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘Yes’, then the BACB book and course has been designed for you:

  • Are you developing a really good craft or makers product range or idea?

  • Do you want to establish a commercially-viable business based on your skills and talent?

  • Have you changed career and now want a detailed plan for how to get started? 

What is the basis of the Build A Craft Business book and course?

The most important idea for this course came from Finland, where a business school running a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programme took a revolutionary step in teaching. They asked three groups of 20 students to brainstorm business ideas, then told them to just ‘get on with it’.

The groups developed their ideas in a practical, pragmatic, learning-by-doing way. They did this with limited resources – just as in the ‘real’ world. Plus, at the outset, no business theories were taught or used, only discussions of the results – what worked, what didn’t. The students did carry out research on business theories, they did that much later and as part of a wider programme of study. The end result was that a significant percentage of the students did not finish their MBA course. They were so happy with the progress they were making in their chosen projects that they left the business school and just ‘got on with it’.

 
My PhD research took this Finnish experiment as its starting point, then explored how artist craftspeople learnt to operate commercially. For the majority of such craftspeople, studying business tends to be a bolt-on course at the end of a 3- or 5-year programme of learning about art, design and craft. Not surprisingly, most of the students I met during my research couldn’t relate to this kind of education and learned little – largely because the teaching wasn’t set in the right sort of context.
 

Artists are hands-on people who learn by experimentation, and I realised that for them, mastering business skills should follow the same process. So I created the BACB course on a ‘need-to-learn’ basis, and this book follows the same approach

 In both course and book, the information aims to cover the essentials – setting up your business, marketing and sales, business structure, intellectual property rights, finances – in a system which is simple, which works, and which will guide you in how to keep trouble at bay. It tells you how to do what you need to do, and then not have to worry about it. You choose which pieces of advice are pertinent to you – it’s your vocation, your business.

Where for you now?

You’ve probably spent several years getting to the stage of launching a business. How does this book and course help – and how should you best use them?

Read the book through once to get the feel of it. Then take each chapter and complete the suggested follow-up exercises purely from your point of view. Keep your answers short and simple, and don’t worry about ‘what if’. By the time you’ve completed the exercises, you should have created a complete set of notes which are personal to you.

Then you can make a clear, straightforward plan.

Do you need to be entrepreneurial in your outlook? Often not. But you do need to consider what type of enterprise you will run and what your motivations are.

Is there a market for your work? This is the trial and error bit. Show your work to friends and family – they’ll love it whatever it looks like. Then show your products to someone you don’t know – if they offer to buy, you’ve got a winner!

How do you want to present yourself and your craft? What professional ‘personality’ do you want your customers to associate with you? You might say you’re just a small business and not a ‘brand’. But if you haven’t devised a brand for yourself, your public will devise it for you.

What is your marketing approach? Look at the websites of makers you admire. What shows did they do last year, which galleries stock their work, should you follow in their footsteps? You might like to contact these organizations too. Have your CV ready, along with high-quality images of your work. Build a really simple website to tell people where your products are stocked and where you will be exhibiting. Talk relentlessly about your venture. And always be positive when talking to everyone. Cut out the negative.

What systems for making, outsourcing and dealing with your legal obligations and finances do you need to organize? A bank account, a book-keeping system, an accountant if needed? You could delegate some of these systems, particularly the ones not critical to the final outcomes.

Once you have settled these issues, you can turn your attention to the important bits – earning a living, being creative and enjoying yourself.

And please, please, please, try to ‘get on with it’. Small trial and error steps are the way forward.