What I learned from starting a creative business

 29 June 2014

What should you know before you start a creative business? Award-winning jewellery designer Harriet Kelsall gives eight things that she learned about starting and growing a successful new venture.

Don’t just do what somebody else does slightly differently. Find a real ‘gap’ in what you do and in how you approach the market.
Don’t just do what somebody else does slightly differently. Find a real ‘gap’ in what you do and in how you approach the market.

I started my business specialising in bespoke jewellery in 1998. Fast forward 13 years and I had a thriving business, getting enough notice for me to win the Everywoman in Retail 'Woman of the Year' award.

A year later they invited me back to give a talk. Karren Brady from 'The Apprentice' was also speaking and she told her own inspiring story. She said that a major reason for her success was that somebody opened a door for her in her career, urging us all to remember to leave a door open for someone else.

Nobody really opened any doors for me. It was a long, hard struggle. 

But thinking about it, nobody really opened any doors for me. It was a long, hard struggle. So her advice feels even more important to me personally: to try and help others where I can. 

So here are my top tips that I’ve learned about starting and growing a successful creative business. 

1. Find a gap in the creative market

For a creative business, simply making things in your own style may mean you are a good artisit, but it's rarely enough for you to be able to actually make a living. 

You need to find more of a market ‘gap’ than just using your own unique creative style if you want to have a successful business.

2. Keep your customer in mind

Don’t just do what somebody else does slightly differently. Find a real ‘gap’ both in what you do and also by finding a new way to approach the market with it. 

Think about your customer first and then create your business around what they want: not the other way around.

3. Pilot running a small business first

If you are thinking of starting a business, make sure you can run a small version of it in your spare time as well working hard in your full-time job.

When you start a new venture properly, you will be working far longer hours than both of these jobs combined. You have to be able to cope with this to succeed.

4. Build your confidence

Run a small version of your business in your spare time.

Small steps are still worth taking. They can still get you somewhere, so you don’t have to rush. It's okay to try things out gradually until your confidence grows.

Think of a tiny way to chip at the seemingly immovable barrier, which you will find it will melt away in time.  

5. Take the risk of success

At some point, you have to take a risk to succeed and get out of your comfort zone. You can minimise the risk but as with many things, if you don’t try it you’ll never know. 

Actually, you’ll learn more from your mistakes than your successes. So don’t be too afraid, and keep thinking positively.

6. Know your business best

Don’t always trust the ‘expert’ consultants that offer you their services as your business grows. They don’t know your business like you do you.

7. Don't even think about 'can't'

You can do anything if you want it enough. I never consider that I can’t do something: this concept just isn’t in my mindset. 

I’ve had to overcome all sorts of things that could be seen as obstacles. For example: I’m dyslexic, I’ve had two kids while running my business and I had open heart surgery! But I still imagine that I can do anything. 

It's okay to try things out gradually until your confidence grows.

There isn’t anything particularly great about me, so I know that you can do anything too. 

Self doubt will only hold you back, but inability probably won't. Just take it one small step at a time. 

8. Get talking 

Lastly: talk to people. All kinds of people. And really listen and engage with them. Make bridges, make connections and keep smiling. 

Find out more about Harriet's work at Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery.