Make Creativity Your Business – Sally Charles

There are over four million self-employed people in the UK who contribute £125billion to the economy, so these ‘lifestyle businesses’ matter to us all, especially in the current economic climate.

Many people start a business out of necessity because family commitments to children, parents, or other family members can make it difficult to find another job. This type of “lifestyle choice” contributes greatly to the well-being of the nation because of the care provided as well as to the wealth of the nation because this care is unpaid.

Whether self-employment is full-time or part-time, we should elevate its status so that it is seen as real and important work that contributes to the nation’s economy, prosperity and well-being.

Andrea Chappell, left, and Jane Porter in the award-winning Still Garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show

In the creative industries, 32% of jobs are self-employed (Easton & Beckett, 2021). That’s nearly a third of a sector worth £115.9bn to the UK economy and one of the fastest growing sectors.

Robert Gordon University is home to Gray’s School of Art, so I worked closely with the industry. Since 2019, I have been collaborating with Gray’s creative unit, Look Again, to create a course adapted to micro-enterprises in the creative industries: Creative Entrepreneurship.

Since 2020, we have attracted over 120 small businesses to RGU’s Creative Entrepreneurship short course, which provides entrepreneurship training to creative practitioners from all walks of life, including artisan potters, digital designers , upholsterers, bookbinders, illustrators and fashion and textile designers. The places are fully funded by the Scottish Funding Council’s Skills Enhancement Fund, which enables these businesses to take part in this crucial training. We think it’s important that the people running these businesses see themselves as true entrepreneurs who have the knowledge and skills to run effective and successful businesses that allow them to share the benefits of their creative skills with others. .

A recent success story of the Creative Entrepreneurship Short Course is an alumnus, Andrea Chappell of Moray-based Atelier Acme, who champions the heritage craft of kilt-making, but often with a twist to incorporate meaning special for the wearer. Andrea’s business is growing steadily, and she recently made a bespoke memorial kilt, The Still Garden Kilt, for RHS Gold Medal winner Jane Porter, which was featured at the Chelsea Flower Show . Another creative entrepreneur, Alison Shearer of Mint Lino Prints, works full-time as a senior engineer in the oil and gas industry, but with the support and encouragement of the Creative Entrepreneur short course, she has set up a unique collaborative platform called ‘Shop Small Aberdeen’ as an alternative way for creative businesses to collaborate and sell handcrafted products.

Sally Charles, Head of Innovation for Robert Gordon University’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group.

With today’s cost of living challenges and the prospect of a deepening crisis, having the knowledge to run a business effectively is essential to ensure businesses don’t fail and people retain their livelihoods. We need to support these businesses with the development of skills and knowledge that every business needs.

Many people work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Adding self-employment as a legitimate employment path, what has become known as the “side-hustle” is something more people may consider in the coming months. Ensuring that high quality support and training is available to them will increase their chances of succeeding in their endeavors and help turn around both their own situation and that of the economy and the country.

Apply for RGU’s next Creative Entrepreneurship course.

Sally Charles, Head of Innovation for Robert Gordon University’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group.

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