Feature: Stitching a path with Alexandra of Bagel Face

Alexandra had a series of potential career paths open to her as she left University in 2015. It seems like the perfect position, how can having so many career paths possibly be a bad thing? There are people out there who by 21 still have no idea what path they’d like to take or could possibly have as an option. Alexandra was lucky, with a degree in 3D design behind her, and a specialist focus of interior design it seemed a clear path. However, Alexandra had always loved to be creative, whether drawing, painting or making things she was happy.

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With the passion and qualifications she held for interior design, this is the path Alexandra found herself taking to begin with. Under 1-month contracts, Alexandra worked on set design at a huge cultural festival in Abu dhabi for 2 years.

Having had a love of crochet since she was first taught, while studying at University Alexandra started crocheting, designing and making items such as crop tops, bralets and bikinis to sell online. These quickly became very popular, and so the range expanded! Adding baby accessories and clothing, blankets, cushions and more to the range, the popularity of Alexandra’s goods only grew.

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While Alexandra loved the interior design world, from her studies to the jobs in Abu dhabi, her real love was working hands on. The designing and making was where Alexandra found her real interest lay, and while making props in Abu dhabi was hands on as a prop stylist, most interior design work is drawing and computer aided design visuals. Crochet allowed Alexandra to be creative in a hands-on manner while producing something unique that people loved. Having noticed that most crochet makes tend to follow the traditional, old-fashioned style; the sort that your grandma would make for you as a child, Alexandra had also found a gap in the market using this old fashioned technique to create modern style goods.

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Having spent time juggling part time work in retail, internships, freelance jobs such as the Abu dhabi job and a Selfridges campaign, while also crocheting Alexandra finally decided ‘I had nothing to lose in starting up my own business!’ Months were spent researching, making different products and trying new techniques. Starting with making lots of gifts for friends and family, Alexandra spent time testing the market and trialling designs before officially going to market. Once comfortable with the products and the level of feedback being received Alexandra took to Social media, opening up an Etsy, Facebook, Instagram and Depop (which is where she began selling during university). Now with some stock in a small shop in Runcorn, while in discussions with other potential stockists, Bagel Face is swiftly expanding.

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Alexandra left her retail position last year after having worked there for 3 years through uni. Excited at the prospect of being able to leave retail and work full time at Bagel Face, Alexandra skipped out of there on her final day!

 

Alexandra was faced with a series of career path options as she graduated from University. Faced with so many options it can be difficult to decide what should be the correct path to take. Alexandra has found her passion and created a wonderful career, which allows her to incorporate her various loves through freelance work alongside the business. If you look hard enough and are willing to work for your passion, it is possible to create a career you love and allows you to work within all your aspirations.

 

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Find Bagel Face on Facebook  ,  Instagram or Etsy

 

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Wondering where the name Bagel Face came from? So was I so don’t worry…I asked for you!

“Bagel is my nickname a lot of family members call me that and have done for years, I get bagel/little bagel/bagel brain/bagel face.. If just seemed appropriate and like you say it’s pretty unique!”

But why that nickname?

“To be honest I’m not really sure! There’s a group of us that are a similar age so we all have quite funky nicknames for each other!”

 

How fantastic is that! We love a business with such a wonderfully fun and unique name, and the explanation behind it is just even better!

 

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Feature: One Step at a Time with Bee My Memory’s Bianca Crofts

 

Bianca Crofts was born in Walsrode, Hannover. Having met her British army ex Husband, based in a camp near her parent’s home in Germany at age 17, they were married a year later. Bianca had her daughter, Victoria shortly after, then a son named Benjamin 2 years later. The family moved together and over the years and had many different postings from London, Northern Ireland, Germany, Cyprus and Germany again. Eventually they settled in Lincoln where they bought a house. Bianca has since lost a husband but gained a wonderful granddaughter.

 

Like many of the crafter businesses we speak to, for many years Bianca had never done more craft work than the standard knitting and crochet lessons at school. In 2001, Bianca met the woman who would introduce her to the craft that would become her life. Daniela, who lived next door and was also German, had been doing traditional patchwork for many years. Convincing Bianca to try, Daniela lent her sewing machine, cutter and ruler to her new neighbour. With no jobs around, Bianca was home most of the day, so as Daniela showed her the basics, Patchwork quickly became her hobby.

 

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The problem with a hobby such as this is no one realises the expense. The fabrics required to make just one quilt were exceptionally expensive. However, Bianca loved her new hobby. The highlight of her month became the fabric-shopping trip in Limassol, the only fabric shop in Cyprus at the time, an hour away from their home. Bianca made her first bed sized quilt for her daughter as a surprise Christmas present in 2002, having worked on the gift while Victoria was at school. Now 25 years old, Victoria is still using her quilt in her own home.

 

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As the family moved back to Germany, Bianca continued her hobby for a short while. Now having to return to work, while also caring for her two children, there was no longer the time to patchwork. Having only made the odd quilt, tablecloth and wall hangings during this time. Bianca didn’t begin quilting again until she got her own office/sewing room when they moved into their house in Lincoln.

 

In 2014 Bianca decided she liked the idea of baby keepsake blankets, made out of babies outgrown first clothes. With this idea, Bianca thought she may be able to start a business for the very first time. Approaching local information pages, Bianca began to ask whether anyone would be willing to trust her with their child’s precious clothing to make a keepsake quilt. Offering the service at just material cost, which at the time was around £20, Bianca received a lot of offers. Selecting the first lady who had commented, Bianca made her very first ‘Bee my memory’ keepsake quilt. Little Zak’s mum loved it!
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The Facebook page was set up, just for fun at the time. With friends calling Bianca ‘B’ or ‘Bee’, Bee my memory was born. Making another quilt, this time for a little girl at cost price through the local information page again, Bianca had 2 examples to start. Finding a lack of interest when the page opened, Bianca noticed people were not willing to pay the price she believed they were worth.

 

Taking around 10-12 hours to complete a large cot size blanket, and cost prices of around £25 materials per blanket, the products were high cost. Losing a bit of faith in the business, Bianca stopped again until September 2016. When visiting her daughter Victoria and granddaughter Lillie, Victoria showed her mum another facebook page. The woman Victoria found also made memory blankets, she had not been doing it for long but the business was doing fantastic. Victoria reassured her mum; “yours are far far better than hers and you can tell yours are better made too, give it another shot, I believe you can make this work”. This time when Bianca started again she had the confidence in her work that she needed. Having the choice between making blankets as quick and cheap as possible, with a low quality end product, or sticking to what she believed in, Bianca knew what to do. As she began promoting on Facebook and building a portfolio of work though a few giveaway competitions Bianca’s page came a long way. As Bee my memory was beginning to pick up, it also began to receive a lot of good reviews and compliments.

 

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In January, Bianca had an awful fall when slipping on ice, breaking her leg in three places. As she wasn’t able to work for 9 weeks, suddenly Bianca had lots of time to start networking, making connections and promoting her business. This time made a huge difference to Bee my memory. With a few orders as Bianca came out of the hospital, her partner Rick set up the sewing machine in the lounge. Having to train her left leg to work the sewing machine pedal, the project was hard work and took three times as long to complete. However Bianca managed to complete the orders.

 

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Bianca took a slow and steady approach to her business, having taken things step by step from learning the craft, to testing the product and building an audience. Sometimes even taking a step backwards, by taking things one step at a time Bianca now has an incredible business that not only her customers believe in, but she also believes in. Sometimes to succeed it’s not only about reaching the top and hitting your goals. Sometimes it’s about taking things one step at a time, learning as you go and building slowly, and sometimes it’s about being able to step back, review and see yourself and your business honestly. To step back, and see yourself honestly, to admit the mistakes you see and to believe in the potential you see, you will know your strengths and weaknesses. By stepping back and taking some time, Bianca now believes in herself and her work, valuing it as she should. If you don’t value yourself and believe in yourself, your customers never will. Now, Bee my memory has over 1000 likes and every one of her 16 reviews is 5* on Facebook. Bianca has seen great business growth within her hobby turned business, and we expect to continue to see incredible things from them.

Feature: New Aspirations with James Welsh

 

We all grew up with dreams and aspirations, wanting to be firemen, nurses, ballerinas and footballers. By the time we hit secondary school the lucky few of us who’ve found our calling start working to achieve our career goals. James was one of these lucky few. Having fallen in love with football at an early age as many children in Britain do, James had the opportunity to start making this dream a reality. From the ages of 12-18 James was signed to a professional football club and played as a pro for 2 years before his dreams came crashing down when injury struck.

Having to form a new career plan at just 18, James enrolled onto the business studies and marketing course at Southampton Solent University. Shortly after graduating in 2014, James landed himself his first sales job, staying for only 6 short weeks.

 

Blog- James Welsh quote firstDespite being unable to play, James’s love for football had not faded and he found himself taking on a position as an area organiser for a local sports coaching company. As one of only 7 employees at the time, James worked his way up to become the Director of Coaching within three and a half years. With the company turning over £300k as he joined and an incredible £1.2million now, you would think the role James had achieved would be a great career achievement alone, but it wasn’t all to come.

Feeling as though a change was due, James moved on to work with other professional clubs before becoming the Assistant Academy Director at AFC Bournemouth. With over 2 years at Bournemouth, James continued to work with various clubs in both their academies as well as scouting in the Football League and Premier League. Despite loving the job itself, James became discontent with the football industry and realised he was never really happy.

 

Blog- James Welsh quote middleAs James began his new venture, luckily with an old contact from his football days that he trusted greatly, they figured it out and created a franchise still profitable to this day. With his partner’s contacts and knowledge they were able to create a great franchise, which now takes up about 4 hours a week of work and provides a weekly income every Friday.

At this point James realised how much more there was to work than just becoming a face within many, moving from city to city as he had in the football industry. No longer putting his trust in the industry, James moved on to bigger and better things, deciding then to take on a role within a training company in Sussex working with young people no longer in education, employment or training, through sport. Having worked for them for just over a year, only 3 weeks into the academic term of his second year with the company, James was informed over the telephone that the company had been liquidated overnight. With no prior knowledge of the company’s poor financial state, James found himself no longer employed as of the next day.

 

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While for many this would be a shock and make many people panic or question their options, James saw this as an opportunity. While the experience was an awful one, it did lead James to realise the potential. Knowing that he could succeed where that company had failed, My-Coaching was formed. Having started as his first full time business in February 2013, by December that year the business was incorporated and the limited company My Coaching Education Ltd was formed. The business did not begin as many start-ups’ do. With three employees working for the company and only a £4,000 turn over it wasn’t an easy start. With an investment of £10,000 personal money, the company still needed a £8,000 turnover to break even.

With the financial problems and stresses, James started keeping secrets from his family and employees. Beating staff into work every morning to check the bank account to prioritise what could be paid that day and what could be delayed just to be able to ensure his employees pay cheques at the end of the month. James hated this period and began to examine himself, and the business, in order to better run the company. In August of the first trading year, James found the Entrepreneurial Circle. By joining, James began to grow as a businessperson and notice the negative daily actions causing problems within the company. Eventually realising things needed to change to stay afloat, small positives began to be seen in the company, despite things having not gotten easier.

 

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One night on the way home, James was informed that a college client had not paid a vital invoice. Without this money there was no way to meet payroll and monthly bill payments. Despite days and days of promising the invoice would be paid, the client failed to make the payment. Stopping in the services for a coffee on his way back, James checked the bank account. Seeing the payment was not there was all too much, James started to cry knowing at that point it would mean the business was over. With the situation too dire to ignore anymore, James finally opened up to his family sharing the secrets he’d hidden for a long time. Luckily his family were supportive about the issues and James’s sister agreed to help recover the money due. As a finance director of a large company, she knew what to do and how, quickly recovering the money from the college client within just three days. With the success of this, James’s sister joined the team on a permanent basis, taking over the finances as Financial Director.

 

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This was a turning point for My Coaching Education Ltd. Realising the importance of hiring in the areas that aren’t your strengths is so vital to the success of a business, especially in the important aspects such as finance. With stable finance management and the support of businessperson development with EC it’s been an upward journey since! They began to land big contracts with national partners and large corporations, became a recognised training provider for 5 city councils and 6 county councils supporting schools and education for 16-24 year olds, as well as providing apprenticeships.

 

Blog- James Welsh quote lastFinding a point where their expansion meant their brand no longer matched their services, 18 months ago the brands were split to reflect each business component. Now with three businesses to focus on, while looking for further regional expansion, James has found his stride. The My Coaching Education Ltd story has been featured in the Entrepreneurs Circular magazine in February, and James has been made a associate fellow at Southampton Solent University this March.

 

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If you had asked James at 16 what he thought his career would have been, he’d have believed pro football was his path, at 19, or even 5 years ago, I am sure he would never have guessed where he would be now. With a completely different career plan and dream that had to be rethought and re-planned, James has moved between some amazing opportunities and jobs over the years. With such an incredible business now, it really couldn’t have worked out better in the end. There’s always going to be difficulties and set backs in life and in career, and James has had more than his fair share. But despite these set backs this story just proves that if you keep moving forward, keep giving your all, you can get there in the end and have some amazing experiences on the way. It’s easy to get set on one dream, but maybe there’s a better dream out there. The only way you’ll know is if you keep moving forward and keep learning.

 

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To find out more about My Coaching, or to get in touch check out their website here

Feature: Live your life doing what you enjoy with Rothbury Creates

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The turning point in life is realising that it is ‘not worth spending your life doing something you can’t enjoy.’

Having grown up in Lesotho, South Africa after her two British, trained potter parents moved there to run a pottery studio for 10 years before Sarah was born, she spent her childhood until the age of 17 in South Africa. With wonderful early memories of playing in the grounds of the pottery studio, surrounded by people working with clay every day (that she ensures me the workers must think less fondly on than she as her and her sister spent their days pestering and getting in the way while they made beautiful things!) her childhood was filled with creativity.

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When Sarah grew up (or at least tried! as she likes to say), she began working as a Design Technology teacher in Blackburn. While Sarah loved teaching the kids, she found the bureaucracy of the job was stifling both their creativity and her own. With the arrival of her own child these feelings were amplified and Sarah found herself realising there is no point spending your life doing something you don’t enjoy. This is such a crucial point to become aware of, that moment when you realise there is no point going through life unhappy. We give up so much of our time to work; it’s a necessity so most of us just do what we have to do. We spend most of our week traveling to, and being at work; leaving our partners, our kids, our friends and family to be at work. While working is a necessity for most of us that doesn’t mean that we should be giving up such a large part of our lives to spend every day hating our jobs, unhappy and stressed. By finding your place and your passion, you’re no longer sacrificing every day. You go to work for yourself, not for necessity- because you love what you do, not just because of the money. Of course financial stability is vital and does have to be taken into consideration, but we also have to remember it’s not all about making the most money. Find your passion and find a way to do what you love. Whether that’s working for yourself or working for someone else, there’s always a way of finding your passion and working in something you enjoy.

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When Sarah had this realisation, she approached her parents to explain how much she was struggling in this system that did not put the kids first. Sarah’s dad, Graham Taylor (As seen in the first series of the BBC Great British Throw Down and other TV programs) runs the very successful ceramic replica business: Potted History. As Sarah explained her concerns, she joked about becoming her father’s apprentice. He needed the help due to the success of the business and Sarah needed a new job, she quit teaching and never looked back having made what Sarah refers to as the ‘best decision EVER!’

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Sarah left her job, moved the family to Northumberland and began learning everything she could from her dad. By joining her father and learning his skills, Sarah was able to add the pottery classes that Graham had always wanted to be able to offer to the business. Now responsible for creating some replicas sold in museums, shops and private individuals across the world and running the workshops, Sarah’s clearly come such a long way.

The most incredible part of Sarah’s work is her approach to the workshops. They do not run classes on a strict curriculum of teaching the way many classes do, but focus on the freedom to create. After teaching the basic skills of hand building and wheel throwing, they then work individually with the students to help them produce something they can be personally proud of. Sarah explained to me that this way of teaching requires far more work for the studio, as projects can range so vastly. Her example: that projects could range from ‘a tea set for a teddy bears picnic, to a memorial plaque for a loved one lost, to a green man water fountain’ shows there really are no limits. At Rothbury Creates, it’s clear they place the importance on their customers and their individual needs. The concept that someone who has never made ceramics before can go learn the basics and make something so personal to them is wonderful. Imagine wanting a bespoke memorial plaque for a lost loved one, that rather than commissioning to have done by another creative individual or mass company, you made it with your very own hands.

They have such a wonderful outlook on creativity at Rothbury creates, truly believing that everyone can create when given the freedom and encouragement for ‘pure creativity’. Sarah says ‘We love people of all ages in the workshop, it is brilliant to have a family were 3 generations can all sit around a table and all create together. Playing with clay really is fun for all ages.’

If you’d like more information about this wonderfully creative and passionate ceramics company then check out their website https://rothburycreates.co.uk/ or facebook page https://www.facebook.com/RothburyCreates/