This is something I have been meaning to do for a long time and after two years of wild procrastination here it is. Perhaps now that two years have passed it is actually easier to recognise how great an impact the bursary had on my business. I'm therefore going to look on the time lapse between the event and this appallingly belated post as almost necessary.
In 2014 I won a bursary organised by journalist Katie Treggiden. Katie is a passionate design writer and has enthusiastically championed many young designers and businesses through her blog "Confessions of a Design Geek". In 2012 she launched the COADG Bursary in order to give one young design business a leg up. The bursary included a stand at the trade show 'Home', a photo shoot and advice from a group of mentors to help with every aspect of running a start up design business from PR to stand layout. Since then the bursary has mushroomed and now includes an invaluable abundance of advice and opportunities from industry professionals.
It's that time of year again and with the 2016 shortlist on the immediate horizon I thought it might be a apt moment to acknowledge how grateful I am to Katie and all the mentors (there is, if you haven't got it by now, a Noah's Ark of mentors) that worked with her to provide it. (If you want to apply follow the link here but you'll need to be quick as the bursary carriage turns into a pumpkin midnight on Sunday).
At the time I applied I had been in business for a year or so. Things were ticking over but I knew there were aspects of the design industry where I felt madly out of my depth (although, for the record, it has become apparent that that feeling never leaves you). I had never done a trade show, in fact barely sold to trade, and was so anxious about seeming inexperienced or unprofessional that I rarely asked for help. The bursary seemed like business manna and, as it turned out, it was.
I was short-listed with four extremely talented designers: Annabel Perrin, Keith Varney, Nancy Straughan and Taz Pollard and the voting went public. I have to say that, horrendous as this prospect was, as a previously fully subscribed PR hermit, it forced me to become more comfortable with social media and talking about my own work in a way I had never had to before. I had desperately been trying to overlook the fact that if you don't talk about your work at this stage, really, who is? I won purely by the miracle that is social media and swallowing my pride and emailing anyone I'd ever met. I wouldn't want to go through it again but I am certainly less shy about the prospect of talking to people about my work and sometimes (although I can barely admit this) even enjoy it.
The advice and support I received through the bursary was invaluable. Katie's enthusiasm for design and her optimism is infectious and the friends and mentors she had on board reflected her vision and energy. The bursary gave me the opportunity to look into every aspect of my business, build on what I already had and consider the future possibilities. I had advice on how to market my work, display it, present it and sell it. There were elements I hadn't even imagined and those that I knew I needed but hadn't been able to afford.
The bursary made my first trade show a success instead of a blundering, anxious mess and provided me with the confidence that I wasn't going to balls it up ('it' being everything in general). I learnt that feeling like you don't know what you're doing is entirely natural and that however far you get this will almost always be the case. My business is more established and professional because of the bursary. I have a clearer vision of what it is I want to achieve and how I want it to happen and without the friendly encouragement and generosity of everyone involved it would have taken me a lot longer to find my feet.