Steph Cronin (right) at the first Crafty Biz event, Oct 2014. Image by Amy Law.

Steph Cronin (right) at the first Crafty Biz event, Oct 2014. Image by Amy Law.

As I write this, I am sat in the Oak Star Cafe at The Civic, Barnsley waiting for the January edition of the Barnsley Crafty Business Networking event to start. Sat around the tables are a number of local amateur and professional crafts makers and crafts business owners. Launched in late 2014 by Steph Cronin, a local graphic designer.
At each ‘Crafty Biz’ event, local crafts makers and business owners are invited to meet, greet, share ideas and listen to guest speakers. This evenings speaker is Keith Evans, Managing Director of Cidaco, a specialist training and consultancy company that help creative organisations achieve resilience and growth. Keith will be sharing his experience and knowledge of working in the creative sector and has kindly offered to answer questions in an open forum.

I spoke to organiser Steph Cronin about the Crafty Business Network and why start kick started that in Barnsley.

Why did you start Crafty Biz and what is your Crafty Biz?
I started the Crafty Business Network as I feel that some networking events can be intimidating and stressful.
I wanted to go to a group where you already have something in common (other than having your own business). I found the group in Sheffield and thought that it would work well in Barnsley’s creative community.

As well as my Graphic design, illustration and marketing work with businesses, I illustrate group ‘Quirky Portraits’ which are available to buy on Etsy. I also take commissions for paintings and other crafts.

As a Graphic Designer/Illustrator, working alone, I find networking is great for staying connected with the outside world. It is an opportunity to meet potential clients, collaborators, referral partners and friends. We all enjoy crafting so we automatically have something in common to talk about, which makes breaking the ice that bit easier.

Do you have a long term plan for Crafty Biz?
My long term plan for Crafty Business is to carry on having monthly meetings as long as people are benefitting from them. I would like to take every opportunity that comes our way. There are many avenues that we could go down – pop-up shops, our own craft fair, selling products collaboratively, workshops – who knows where it could lead!

You held a Craft-Biz pop-up shop at Christmas on the Arcade. Do you think that is something you’d like to do more of?
The Crafty Business pop up shop was a great success considering we’d not done anything like it before. It was a real learning curve but would certainly consider doing it again if the right opportunity came up.
I’d be happy to consider anything which would give the Crafty Business businesses exposure and could develop their businesses.

Why should someone come along to a Crafty Biz meet?
People should come to Crafty Business Networking if they would like to meet other people in order to grow their business, collaborate, support and learn from each other. It is essentially business networking, like other groups, but I feel there is the added bonus of support within the group and of course opportunities to do fun things like the pop up shops.

Not all members of the group run craft businesses. Some people come along to network while indulging in their crafty hobby. We welcome people from all businesses as we can collaborate. Craft businesses need accountants, coaches, IT support and web designers etc too, so what better way is there to meet like minded people who could potentially become clients, collaborators or referral partners?

The networking event starts a little after 6pm, at the Oak Star Cafe at The Civic. Sixteen individuals, including myself, sat around the table, all with interests in crafts and business. I’m not going to offer minutes of the event and go into details of what was said. I want to give you an example of the kinds of individuals that turn up to this event.

We start with introductions. First up is Crafty Business Network organiser Steph Cronin and myself. You already know us now, so we’ll skip our details.

SANDRA HILL – Sandra has two businesses. One is A Pawfect Fit, a company making and selling handmade animal fashion, specifically doggy outfits. Sandra also produces stained glass window crafts which is sold at craft fairs.

EVE LODGE – Eve is 16 years old!!! I was already aware of her business, Barmy Bunting. It is already well established locally. She initially started via the IKIC initiative, and makes bespoke bunting for events or for individual sale. She has already produced commissioned work for Coronation Street and is an award winner. Astoundingly, she fits this in around studying four A-Levels.
Eve’s grandma is also here too. Eve inspired her to get her sewing machine out for the first time in 40 years. She produced the flags for Eve’s bunting.

LIZ PATON – Liz works for a Barnsley based Animation Company called Tarnished Studios. They obviously produce animations, and also VFX and graphics for gaming.

AMY LAW PHOTOGRAPHY – Amy has a well established Barnsley based Studio photography business. She does bespoke, home photography, framed prints etc. She secialises in dogs and babies portraits.

SIGOURNEY ENGLISH – Sigourney is a 3rd year Interdisciplinary Art and Design student at UCB. She wants to become a freelance artist and is currently researching her business options.

LYNN BARKER – Lynn is also 3rd year Interdisciplinary Art and Design at UCB, alongside Signourney. Lynn has previosuly ran her own businesses. She is currently a practicing textile artist. However, she is currently also looking at conceptual art as a way forward and how to monetise that.

TRISH EVANS – Trish is business owner. She took over her daughters business and now runs it single-handedly. Spirit Original Designs specialises in fashion and jewellery and has been established for over three years old.

HANNAH ELIZABETH – Hannah’s business Hannah Elizabeth HE Fashion is already well established locally, especially amongst follows of vintage fairs. She is a dress-maker, who specialises in ladies-ware, bags, collars. Her work is stocked in local independent shops in Hoyland, Cudworth and in Sheffield.

JENNIFER ROSE – Alongside her husband, Jennifer, inspired by a Crystal Meditation Course now creates and sells crystal jewellery and crystal wrapping. She also makes rag rugs from fabric and textiles bought at charity shops.

PAMELA HOPKINSON – Pamela works for a company called Social Media Solutions UK Ltd. and she offers advice on social media for small companies and businesses.

JULIE PRATT – Julie is a silversmith and jewellery maker who has been selling her work locally since 1998. With prior work experience in jewellery retail and trade shows/fairs, and now with both of her children nearing in full-time education, she is looking to expand her business via social networking, and is looking at increasing direct sales to clients.

TRACEY MAWSON – Tracey is a ceramic artist whose work is inspire by nature, specifically the forest and the sea. She incorporates shells, ammonites, leaves and twigs into her work. Tracey is currently selling at The Cooper Gallery for the first time this month.

Later in the session, TRACEY JOHNSON of Enterprising Barnsley arrives to give her support. Enterprising Barnsley is an organisation that supports new businesses, entrepreneurs and business ideas, through advice, mentoring and tender. Find out more here

The Crafty Business Network holds monthly events and I highly recommend attending one or joining the facebook group if you already have a arts and/or crafts based business, whether just starting out or are already established, or even if you have yet to dip your toes in the water. The group is friendly and always share their business ideas, concerns and advice. Visit to be part of the group.

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