The Ballymena Bear is undoubtedly the star of Christmas 2015, now meet its creator, local business woman Michelle Lowry.
With small business Saturday being held in Ballymena Business Centre this weekend, Michelle talks about her small craft business Penny & Rose.
How Ballymena Business centre has helped her get this business off the ground and how she was approached to use her skills to create the popular Ballymena Bear.
“I worked within the banking industry which I left once I had my 3 daughters. I’ve been a housewife for 13 years and I have a passion and enthusiasm for sewing.”
Short business profile including total number of employees:
“It’s just me.”
When did you start your business?
“I didn’t deliberately set out to start a business but rather my hobby has grown into a ‘micro’ business.”
What made you start up your own business?
“It all started when a local shop asked me to make gifts for their tearoom. Then I was signposted, by a friend, to Ballymena Business Centre. At the Business Centre they offered me the opportunity to take part in their craft start up programme designed to support individuals from the arts and craft sector. This has been invaluable in helping me to develop my hobby into a business.”
What support/ services did Ballymena Business Centre provide?
“Through the craft start up programme, I was shown the range of support available and importantly I was given lots of advice and support along the way. Ballymena Business Centre has also given me a unique opportunity to test market my handmade gifts in their Retail Incubation Hub located in Ballymena Town Centre. This has helped me showcase my products and I have now been approached by buyers to sell in their retail outlets after seeing my product in the Retail Incubation Hub.”
What vision/ aspiration do you have for your business?
“I hope to expand my handmade gift range by developing new products. I also hope to sell my soft furnishings through more local shops. I am also currently focusing on setting up a website to sell my products online. There is a whole new market waiting to see my products which I believe are desirable!”
What have been your key highlights to date?
“With the advice from Business Advisors at Ballymena Business Centre I changed my branding and business name from Just Sew by Michele (which sounded like an alteration service) to Penny & Rose, which are my daughter’s middle names. Working with the Ballymena Business Centre has opened up my business to so many opportunities. For example, I was recently approached by Ballymena BID (Business Improvements District) who saw my memory bears at the Town Centre business premises. They asked me to create a bear for their Ballymena Bear campaign, which is a social media campaign to promote Ballymena Town Centre businesses at Christmas. I understand the video made for the campaign has gone viral! I’m very proud to be a part of this campaign. It’s essential that businesses support each other as much as possible.”
What have been your key challenges to date and how have you overcome these?
“It’s hard to juggle everything at the same time such as making stock, creating new lines, sorting out appropriate packaging, pricing correctly and of course marketing and getting online!. I tend to just keep creating and forget the rest needs done too!”
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting a business?
“Without a doubt get the professional help of Ballymena Business Centre. They have provided me with so much support and advice that it has really boosted my business confidence. Anything is achievable with their help!”