Two friends with a dream of running their own art business have made it their reality thanks to help from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.
Alexia Deaville and Nessa Grimes founded ceramic business Fire Formed, which sells a variety of functional and ornamental pieces, after being offered studio space at Eaton House in Coventry through the Coventry-based charity Artspace Coventry.
And, thanks to support from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, the pair have managed to create solid business plans and find grants to bolster the business’s finances through the pandemic.
The pair met in 2019 when they both enrolled as mature students onto a Foundation Art and Design course at Coventry University after separately deciding the time was right to leave their current jobs and pursue their dreams.
Alexia said: “We had never met each other before the course, but we got on almost immediately and had similar reasons for taking the course.
“We both wanted to start some sort of creative venture, but during the course we both fell in love with designing and creating ceramics, and we agreed we’d start a ceramics business soon after graduation.
“Once we had completed our course, Fire Formed was born. We developed our studio space at Eaton House by Coventry railway station, converting it into a pottery studio over the course of a few days.”
Fire Formed sells a variety of ceramics, including homeware such as mugs and bowls, small sculptures, and can even be commissioned to create bespoke pieces.
Alexia mainly focuses on ‘slip casting’ ceramics, which can be almost any shape, while Nessa’s ceramics tend to be designs that can be turned on a potter’s wheel, such as bowls and plates.
The ceramics are initially made either in the studio or at a shed in Alexia’s Coventry home, then fired in a kiln at Nessa’s home in Birmingham. The creations are then glazed to add colour and shine, and fired in the kiln for a second time to finish.
While the women have always been strong at the creative side, neither had extensive backgrounds in running a business.
Alexia and Nessa contacted the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s Start Up service to get advice on how best to move their business forward. The service is part of the Coventry & Warwickshire Business Support Programme, which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
They were provided with a range of help and advice on all sorts of matters, such as the creation of a viable business plan, advice on how to promote themselves once things open up after lockdown, and how to apply for a range of grants to support their business.
Alexia added: “The support from the Chamber – and especially our mentor Wendy Brown – has been so important to keep Fire Formed going. It’s quite easy to get lost in the creative side of things, but the Chamber has enabled us to stay focused on the business side.
“We’re doing fairly well at the moment, but our long-term goal is to earn the bulk of our income through delivering courses to people who want to learn ceramic-making themselves, and devote a bit more of our energy to developing larger pieces of work which take more time.
“Thanks to the Chamber’s support, we’re in a strong position to get to where we want to be over the coming months and years, and we’re also looking forward to seeing what opportunities come out of Coventry being City of Culture this year.”
Hardeep Sandhu, at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s fantastic to hear Alexia and Nessa are making a success of following their dreams to run their own ceramic business.
“It can be daunting to make the move from employment to starting your own business, so we’re always on hand to offer advice and support to anyone starting up in Coventry and Warwickshire.
“With Coventry being City of Culture in 2021, it’s brilliant that an artistic business is doing so well in the city and it would be great to see more creative businesses being established during the year.”
Martin Sutherland, Chief Executive of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “It is clear that City of Culture can inspire new start-up businesses across Coventry & Warwickshire, and for those businesses to be part of the economic legacy of 2021. If individuals have an idea that they want to explore, it is great that there is support available to them, from the Chamber and others, to turn it into a reality.”
The Chamber has a range for support for start-up businesses, whether you want to make your business idea a reality, or require advice on how to build your new businesses.