What is your business?
I am a freelance costume and set designer, so the business involves multiple disciplines. I might be designing puppets one week and making costumes or set design for a performance the next. Sometimes I work with communities as a community artist, or I might be running creative workshops. My business is therefore quite broad, but I call myself a Set and Costume Designer.
How did you get started?
I did a degree in costume and performance design at Arts University Bournemouth. Prior to that I didn't know you could do this as a job, but through my degree I fell in love with this career.
How did you hear about SWEF and what led you to apply for a grant?
I saw SWEF grants mentioned on Facebook by one of the local arts organisations. Funding for new businesses in Dorset is quite rare, so I was excited to see it. I was hesitant to apply at first because my business is not a typical business. Being self-employed my income fluctuates, but I decided to give it a go. I'm a disabled artist - I have colitis - and that makes it harder for me to travel on public transport. I decided to apply and see if I could get a grant for some money towards a car. Firstly, a vehicle is necessary to meet the people I collaborate and work with, as they are based all around Dorset. Secondly, it is a necessary tool for delivering my work; some of it can be quite large, such as the puppets or set designs.
How did the grant help you develop your business?
I was forever having to ask friends with larger cars to help me deliver large puppets, or set pieces, or props to various locations throughout rural Dorset. It was becoming logistically too much effort as well as being financially unsustainable, as I was paying friends more in delivery costs than the money I earned from the work. The grants funds for a car enabled me to keep getting the work but also keep costs down. The further I can travel, the more jobs I can take and the bigger my business can grow.
How have you seen your finances change since you received the grant?
Having a vehicle of my own means I can now say 'yes' more, so there have been more jobs that I can take on. For example, in the coming month I'm hoping to tour a Christmas show - and I wouldn't have been able to do that before as I wouldn't have been able to transport the props around. I've therefore seen my business grow, and I'm hoping the more I tour - reaching a wider audience - it will keep building and building.
Do you receive any government benefits?
Where do you see your business in a years time?
I'm hoping to start my own theatre company. Instead of being self-employed, I'm hoping that the more I tour - thanks to the car - the more I can bring projects together under the name of my own theatre company. Then I can employ others locally if needed for a project and it will all come under the banner of that theatre company.
Anything else you want to share?
The application process was easy, and I was grateful to SWEF for considering my application. I really enjoyed the business forum that I attended along with other recipients of the grant. It was interesting to meet those people, some of whom I'll be in touch with as I will hopefully be able to use their services for future productions. It was useful for networking.
I think it is good that SWEF offers applicants the chance to chat before applying. That made the process seem a little bit more informal and welcoming.
Where can we find out more?
You can find out more about what I'm doing if you follow me on Instagram.