Thursday 16th July
The GBSLEP Growth Hub assisted a jewellery company to receive funding to help them grow. Ashes Memorial Jewellery, based in Burton-On-Trent in Staffordshire, is a memorial jewellers that use ashes and hair of deceased loved ones and pets, to make jewellery.
Julia Bochenski, Managing Director, said “we were one of the unfortunate businesses that was not eligible for government funding and I wanted to grow the business even during COVID-19 times. I needed to look for funding for equipment, for ways on upskilling members of staff, and ideally for funding to try and place a graduate”. Ashes Memorial Jewellery work closely with the School of Jewellery, Julia is an alumnus of the school and all her employees were trained there, thus, she wanted to recruit a graduate from there.
However, it was difficult for the small business to offer their graduate a salary because of the challenging times that we are currently in. “Like every small business, we had a very hard March and April which dented our cash flow”, Julia explained, “it was a big risk for me to go and take the graduate on”.
Despite the obstacle in finding funding, Julia was still keen to grow the business and the next step was to explore all options. She Google searched for a specific grant and the Growth Hub came up and so she initially put in an application to speak to someone. Julia went on to say that her friend also referred her to the GBSLEP Growth Hub, “in the interim, I have a friend that works at Derby University and she said ‘I think these are the guys that are going to be able to really help you’”, and her friend was absolutely right.
Julia (Managing Director, Ashes Memorial Jewellery) was put in touch with Richard Beason, the Growth Hub’s Account Manager for Creative & Cultural businesses, who was able to introduce her to the Manufacturing Growth programme that Ashes Memorial Jewellery would use for e-commerce work. Julia will be receiving the grant and “we’ll get 43% of that to go towards digital marketing”. She is hopeful that “in the next round of funding, that there is the opportunity for an equipment grant because obviously we are UK manufacturers, we think we will be able to get some funding for new equipment which is brilliant”.
For the growth funding that they will receive, Julia is eager to put it towards digital marketing as they “spend a lot on our brand awareness and we spend a lot on getting in front of our customers. So, for us to be able to really use the grant, it will make a big difference to us.”
Not only did the Growth Hub services help with funding, Richard was also able to introduce Julia to STEAMhouse, where she has now been accepted as a member, Julia said “that was fantastic and will be absolutely excellent for my girls.” She further explained that because Ashes Memorial Jewellery frequently innovate, they are “constantly looking for new products and new ideas for how we can make very exciting and comforting memorial jewellery. This takes a lot of R&D and a lot of time and money. For us to prototype things is needed, our aim is to be able to work with STEAMhouse to create some 3D printed jewellery which is very exciting.” This collaboration will assist the memorial jewellers to develop brand new products. The icing on the cake was when the Chancellor announced the new “Kickstart scheme” for young people which may be an extra incentive to take on the graduate that she had in mind.
“The dedication and the way they listen to the requirements very carefully” is something that Julia was specifically impressed with when talking about the Growth Hub's services. She went on to say “as a small business you cannot look for grants, you have no idea what you are eligible for. With their expertise and strong network, they made it so easy. I’ve spent months trying to find ways to get business funding that I knew we should be eligible for because we ticked so many boxes, but I was just coming up against so many hurdles.” Richard confidently and quickly crossed these hurdles “and it was just awesome, I can’t really speak any more highly of it to be honest.”
After initially believing that there was not a lot of support for smaller businesses and that companies with less than 25 members of staff “get a bit lost and fall under the radar”, Julia explained that “Richard opened my eyes to realise that there is actually a lot of help out there for small businesses but it is a maze. He was there to get you through that, so for me, the level of support that you offer for small businesses is really good.”
Julia went on to say that “this has been a really difficult time and during COVID-19, like all business owners, you are frantically working incredibly hard and are constantly worried about all aspects of the business. To have this taken off me and to be able to get that funding at a difficult time, really has been massively helpful for us. It’s just been brilliant so thank you!”
Her faith in small business guidance was renewed as she further stated, “the real benefit for me as a small business owner is knowing that there are people and organisations like yourselves that do genuinely support small businesses.” The Growth Hub enables businesses of all sizes to get the right advice at the right time. Whether it is COVID-19 business support, funding, or helping your business grow, our expert services will help you achieve your goals.