Business support for makers

 31 March 2011

How can mid-career artists move forward? Cockpit Arts helps designer-makers get their businesses off the ground by providing them with affordable workspaces and support.

A creative space for designer-makers

Ellen O'Hara, Head of Business Development

"Cockpit Arts is a creative business incubator for designer-makers. We're the only one that solely looks after designer-makers in the UK.

"Businesses are growing, they're paying taxes, they're contributing economically to the area."

"We provide a raft of services that are all in-house, based in our two buildings which are here in Holborn and down in Deptford in Southeast London.

"We're in the process of becoming a social enterprise. The aim is for us to generate the vast majority of our income through license fees, so that we're not having to fundraise to plug that gap. We're set to make a profit, our first surplus next year, which is really exciting."

Support for creative businesses

"Business incubation involves providing a series of support services to the makers here, and there are three core strands:

  • Managed workspace – a place to work, office facilities, storage space and meeting rooms
  • Marketing and selling opportunities – Open Studios take place twice a year
  • Business development support – onsite coaches that provide one-to-one support to all of the makers, a series of training workshops, and a business growth loan scheme for the more established makers

"Because we work so closely with our clients and we gather data on them and their business performance, we have a lot of hard evidence to show that they are viable businesses.

"They're growing, they're paying taxes, they're contributing economically to the area, For that reason, we're really valuable to the local authorities and the government agenda in general."

Being a designer-maker

Angie Boothroyd, jewellery designer

"I had a little jewellery bench set up in my kitchen while I was at college, so I got away with doing bits and pieces at home. But I couldn't imagine running a business from my kitchen table.

"Here, you've instantly got two retail selling exhibitions a year that you don't have to apply to. They take care of the PR and the organisation.

"You get that as part of being at Cockpit. To me, that was hugely important."

Support for mid-career artists

"It's quite easy these days to find seminars and talks that are geared towards people that are just starting out, but for mid-career makers there's hardly anything.

"I couldn't imagine running a business from my kitchen table"

"It's always like 'Introduction to how to write a press release' and I've been to loads of those now. But Ellen just started a coffee morning recently where about five of us get together, and we're all about the same stage in our career.

"We discuss certain specific topics that affect us as mid-career makers, like maybe you start outsourcing things. So that's been excellent."

The benefits of a creative space

"It's quite easy to forget how lucky I am to be here. Because you talk to other people who don't have something like this in the city where they live and they say, 'Oh no, where am I going to set up?'

"They really struggle to network and find people who are like them. You almost take it for granted that you're surrounded by like-minded people at Cockpit and that's what keeps you sane. It's really good."


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