• Chamber's Launchpad programme supports eco-friendly entrepreneur

    A crafty former library assistant has found a new outlet for her creative talents, after teaming up with a number of like-minded entrepreneurs to pioneer Doncaster’s first eco-friendly shop.  

    Based in Doncaster’s recently renovated Woolmarket, Artisan and Eco offers a range of plastic-free products, ranging from bamboo toothbrushes, hand crafted fairies, traditional peg dolls and even cling film substitutes made out of beeswax covered cotton. The shop was created by entrepreneurs, Jill Brooksbank and Nikki Gaylor-Brookes to offer a permanent home for Doncaster’s eco and craft community. 

    The opening of the shop was the culmination of a roller-coaster first six months of self-employment for Jill Brooksbank, which saw her experience both the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. 

    Throughout much of her adult life Jill has devoted her evenings and weekends to her love of the arts, channelling her energies into a number of creative pastimes including cake decorating, crafts and acting. Jill has even successfully penned a number of children’s books which she self-published, but little did she know that her love of all things creative would prove to be inspiration for a brand new business. 

    During her final day of work a chance conversation led Jill to making contact with Handmade in Doncaster – an initiative designed to support the borough’s artists, cooks and creatives to support new and existing businesses. 

    Learning about the practical support and advice available on her doorstep through the Sheffield City Region Launchpad programme, a unique ERDF funded initiative aimed at giving new entrepreneurs the best possible start in business, Jill decided to put her own business ideas into practice, hitting on the idea of developing towel cakes – an idea popular in the US, but a relatively new concept in the UK. 

    Working with a Launchpad advisor, Jill took part in a number of free-to-attend workshops through the programme, helping her learn how to run a business. Despite her best efforts, Jill realised the demand for her custom towel cakes was not as high as she had originally anticipated and she began to re-evaluate her business model. 

    Keeping a close eye on the products she was selling, Jill realised that some of her other creative designs were attracting a great deal of attention – particularly her needle felt dolls, novelty frames and traditional peg dolls. 

    Recognising the potential in these designs, Jill decided to drop her towel range, reassess her original business model and rename the business Forever Enchanted Gifts, which she felt reflected her popular range of dolls, fairies and novelty gifts. As her business evolved, Jill continued to take part in a range of Launchpad courses, helping her to reach new audiences for her products through social media marketing and with the support of an experienced business mentor, her business began to grow. 

    Her experiences with Hand Made Doncaster and the Launchpad programme helped Jill to realise she wasn’t alone – and with demand for her products growing, she decided to collaborate with fellow creative Nikki to pioneer a permanent home for Doncaster’s 
     eco and craft community.

    Today, Artisan & Eco, provides an outlet for a number of creatives – all of whom share the same commitment towards embracing creativity whilst also playing their own part in reducing plastic consumption. The shop currently sells a diverse range of products including upcycled furniture, beeswax wraps – a traditional alternative to cling film, re-usable wipes and bamboo toothbrushes.

    Jill Brooksbank, founder, Forever Enchanted Gifts said:

    “Creativity has always been an important part of my life, but I quickly realised that running a business was very different to selling the gifts I had produced for friends and family. After all, how do you know what to ask when you don't know the question? Launchpad has helped me to understand the very different challenges associated with running a business and having a mentor who’s been there and done it proved to be invaluable. 

    “There’s an old saying that as one door closes, another opens and that was certainly true in my case and I’ve realised that in business it’s important not to give up. Although my original idea for towel cakes wasn’t quite as successful as I had hoped, I realised that some of my work was in high demand. If it wasn’t for the support of others I suspect I would have given up on my ideas at that time. 

    “Signing up to the Launchpad programme helped me to develop the skills I needed to make my business a success. Working with my mentor taught me resilience, but perhaps most importantly of all, attending the workshops helped me to connect with some like-minded people. This ultimately resulted in the opening of our new shop, something which isn’t only helping my business, but now provides an outlet for other creative minds in the town to showcase their goods.”

    Caroline Bond, Business Advisor, Sheffield City Region Launchpad programme said:

    “Jill was quick to realise that her original business idea was not performing in line with her expectations. Like every successful entrepreneur, she saw opportunity in adversity, adapting her business in response to customer demands. As a result she’s successfully developed a growing customer base for her handmade dolls and giftware.

    “In addition to taking part in the Launchpad workshops, Jill benefited from the Launchpad mentoring programme, where she worked alongside an established entrepreneur to overcome the challenges she was facing in her business.  Through the connections she made during her time working with the Launchpad programme Jill was able to build a network of like-minded people around her, resulting in the creation of a very special shop in the Woolmarket.”

    Launchpad is the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub’s key business support programme for new business. Financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by local authorities within the Sheffield City Region and the Prince’s Trust, the programme provides free help and support to budding entrepreneurs in the City Region. If you are thinking of starting your own business,  or have started trading within the last three years, contact Launchpad today.

    Find out morehttps://www.doncaster-chamber.co.uk/launchpad

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