Growing a micro-business with a paid intern

 13 February 2015

Hannah Sedgwick is the owner of Penryn Violins, a micro-business in Cornwall that designs, makes and restores instruments of the violin family and early woodwind instruments. Hannah successfully applied to the Creative Employment Programme for funding to create a paid internship as she needed a new member of staff to help expand.

"Hannah felt she needed a second person to join the company in order to increase her opening hours to meet the demand."

Hannah has been working as a self-employed violin maker and restorer since 2002 having graduated from London Guildhall University with a degree in Musical Instrument Technology.

She moved to Cornwall and set up a workshop alongside two friends, but both of them later gave up instrument making. 

Hannah slowly continued to build up the business whilst supplementing her income with various other part time jobs until she had enough instrument making and restoration work to dedicate her time fully to Penryn Violins.

The business is now gaining regular trade and, due to further promotion and advertising, the workload has grown beyond that of one person.

A growing demand for staff

With a family to take care of as well as the business to run, Hannah felt she needed a second person to join the company in order to increase her opening hours to meet the demand. Hannah states:

"I needed a second person to work alongside me but I didn't have the financial resources to undertake training them with the very specific skills I needed them to have. I therefore applied to the Creative Employment Programme which I had heard about via my local Jobcentre.

I have never applied for a grant of this kind before, but it was not as complicated as I expected.

"It was very straightforward applying to the Creative Employment Programme and everyone I spoke to was very helpful and offered straightforward answers and advice.

"I have never applied for a grant of this kind before, but it was not as complicated as I expected. I used some of my own savings to cover the other part of their wages and another grant which was available (at the time) from Jobcentre Plus."

Recruiting an intern through the Jobcentre

Hannah advertised the post through her local Jobcentre and placed an advert in her workshop window. She received an application from Alfie Gidley, 22, a recent music graduate from Falmouth University.

Although a fantastic musician, Alfie had limited work experience and didn’t have any relevant woodworking experience. However, Hannah could see he had a genuine interest in her work and felt Alfie’s different skill set could really complement her own.

Following a basic practical skill assessment Alfie was offered a few weeks' work experience as a work trial, which proved a success. He started the full paid internship in April 2014. Having an extra person in the team has allowed Hannah to open the workshop up at times that better suit musicians, and frees her up to take on new orders.

From intern to business partner

Over the next six months Alfie also worked on marketing the business to new customers, helping to design and build their website, Facebook page and business cards. Hannah commented:

"I have now virtually trained up a business partner who had no previous instrument making or woodworking experience. He has helped me with his knowledge of IT and skills as a musician, as well as having a fresh set of ideas and enthusiasm and is a great asset to my business. More people are finding out about us through the website and people have been impressed with his work."

Minimising the risk of taking people on

Shifting from being a sole trader to a company that employs staff wasn’t all plain sailing for Hannah but she believes it was a necessary step forward in developing her business:

By taking on a new member of staff and passing on my skills I’ve been able to help someone start their own career 

"One of the challenges I wasn’t expecting was the cost of changing my insurance so that I could employ another member of staff, and all the paperwork required by the Inland Revenue. However, the Creative Employment Programme funding really minimised the risk of taking on a new worker and training them up. Without this, as a sole trader, there would have been no way for me to train and pay a second person without jeopardising my business.

"For anyone in a similar situation I’d recommend looking at how the Creative Employment Programme could help. With careful recruitment it can work really well. Following his six month internship Alfie is now working alongside me and I am passing jobs onto him while he is also getting his own work independently.

"I’m really pleased that by taking on a new member of staff and passing on my skills I’ve been able to help someone start their own career in such a specialist industry."

Details of grant awarded

Funding awarded: £2500
Size of company: Sole trader
Location: Cornwall
Art Form: Violin making


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