Cumbria is a magnet for creative types. Perhaps it’s our stunning natural environment that provides inspiration.
It certainly inspired Amy Whelan, originally from Buxton in Derbyshire, who moved to Cumbria four years ago and is now based in Ulverston.
She said: “I graduated in illustration from Loughborough University and decided to start to my own greeting cards business.
“That was five years ago. It took a long time to build up and in the early years I had to do part-time work in bars, hotels and schools to supplement my income.
“But for the last 18 months I’ve worked in the business full time, which has made a big difference.”
She creates her work on an Apple Mac using an electronic pen. The cards are printed in Yorkshire and by Badger Press in Windermere. The business trades as Amy Whelan Art.
The range of more than 80 cards features light-hearted rural themes, often with farmyard animals, and local landmarks such as Windermere steamers and steam trains on the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway.
Amy, 29, has also won the commission to design the cover of the Lake District Events Guide for the last two years.
She said: “I sell the cards through retailers in Cumbria and in Derbyshire, where I’m from originally and still have contacts, but I’m ready to take the business to the next stage and look for national distributors.”
She is exhibiting at Progressive Greeting Cards Live in London in June.
The two-day trade show is billed as “the greatest collection of greeting cards in the world” and is attended by buyers from major card retailers such as Clinton Cards, Scribbler, Cards Galore, the National Trust and the supermarkets.
Soon after she moved to Cumbria, Amy joined Made in Cumbria, the business support initiative run by Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, which helps artisan Cumbrian businesses grow and find new routes to market.
She said: “I joined primarily because the membership package included public liability insurance but having that network and support has been a big help.
“The Chamber’s Growth Hub runs a scheme for start-ups, Business Start-Up Support (BSUS), which I wish had been around when I started.
“I had trained as an illustrator but didn’t know much about running a business and it was very much trial and error. For example, I printed too many of the first designs and it took a long time to sell them.
“My advice to anyone starting out is make a financial plan for your first year and build in a margin for error – everything costs more than you think.”
She is working on a new collection, Happy Days, to be launched at Progressive Greetings Live. The cards depict classic British feel-good scenes from partying at festivals to eating ice cream on the beach.
If the trade show brings the anticipated influx of orders, Amy has a plan to cope. Because the business is, in effect, her creative talents, she doesn’t want to employ anyone else to design the cards.
“At the moment the company that prints them ships them to me and I supply them to the retailers,” she said.
“If it gets to the point where I can’t cope, they will pack and send the cards so that I can concentrate on design.”
An exhibition of Amy’s work is running at the Coach House Cafe, Ford Park, Ulverston, until the end of June.
To find out more about Made in Cumbria, call 01539 735891 or email email@example.com
And to find out how Cumbia Business Growth Hub can help your business, click here or call us today on 0844 257 84 50.
The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Allerdale Borough Council (Sellafield Ltd’s Allerdale SIIF, distributed by Allerdale Borough Council), Barrow Borough Council (FEDF Coastal Communities Fund Supply Chain Initiative, the Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estates marine assets; it is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government), Carlisle City Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria LEP.
The BSUS project is receiving up to £1,112,686 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.
© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce