Updated January 2019
<This article has been updated to include some more accessible schemes and programmes not previously mentioned. It has also been added to the permanent Frequently Asked Questions section as FAQ 12.>
BBC Business News recently aired a segment on How Crafts Workers are Learning to Sell their Work. In the segment, both the mentors and the craftsmen highlighted the importance of learning business skills. The mentors also pointed out the balancing act required to stay a luxury manufacturer without devoting all your time on building the brand. While the examples provided were silversmithing and leatherwork, this is every bit as true for a new jewellery business.
Walpole’s Brands of Tomorrow mentoring scheme mentioned in the video is an interesting one for ambitious luxury craft designers, but highly competitive (as you can see from the description on their own site). Since not everyone is aiming for the top end luxury market, I think it’s worth sharing some of the other UK business training schemes and support out there for craftsmen and budding jewellery businesses.
Business Programs for New or Recent Jewellery Graduates
Understandably, the largest number of support schemes for craftsmen focuses on new and recent graduates.
1. The Goldsmiths Centre offers two excellent support schemes: Getting Started is aimed at recently graduated or newly started jewellers who know they need more jewellery business knowledge.
2. They also offer a post-graduate mentoring scheme called Setting Out, designed to both refine jewellery design and manufacturing skills, and also help the students find a commercial focus for their work.
3. IJL runs a scheme called Bright Young Gems, designed to help build the confidence of budding jewellery businesses and draw attention to their commercial work at the IJL trade show.
4. Deutsche Bank sponsors the DBACE Awards for newly graduated design talent across many categories, including jewellery.
Business Programs for Recently Started Businesses, Regardless of Age
In addition to Walpole’s Brands of Tomorrow scheme mentioned earlier, there are a few other schemes out there worth knowing about.
5. For fashion jewellers, the British Fashion Council and Stephen Webster run Rock Vault, a support and mentorship scheme for jewellers in business for 6 years or less.
6. Speaking of the BFC, they also run a program called NewGen, designed to help promote and showcase new fashion and accessory designers.
7. The NAJ runs a mentor-mentee matching service for professional jewellers through its membership, focusing on tailored advice for each jewellery business from seasoned industry veterans.
8. Fashioncapital offers a mentoring service for jewellery and accessory brands for its members.
9. There are similar schemes available elsewhere in the world for helping businesses, but there tend to be fewer of them. Most of these mentoring programs are sponsored by large-scale luxury brands or jewellery organisations, such as the new mentoring program LVMH has launched with Solar Impulse.
10. There is a East London based scheme called FashionEast designed to help emerging fashion and accessory designers launch their collections.
Other Funding Solutions
In addition to mentoring and support schemes like those mentioned above, there are other ways the concept of online crowdfunding has reached even the work of artists and craftsmen. For those who don’t feel savvy enough in business to use something like Kickstarter or Fundingcircle, there is a better service offered just for artists and craftsmen. It is called Patreon. Through this scheme, you can ask your fan base to contribute a regular monthly contribution to keeping your work going. This is especially applicable to performance artists, anyone who produces regular or continuous work can possibly thrive under this scheme. While it is not direct business advisory, at least it can buy you time.
Balancing Craftsmanship with Business
While it seems there have always been government programmes around to help new artists and craftsmen grow their businesses, right now there seems to be a growing trend of luxury brand giants sponsoring or supporting mentoring schemes. I suppose this is a side-effect of austerity across the developed world combined with a thriving luxury market. But at least it’s reassuring to know that businesses of all sizes still understand the need to ensure the next generation get the support they need to grow and thrive in business.