Jewellery maker Michelle Williams established her own successful business and later expanded into teaching others the skills and knowledge necessary for them to set up their own business. Now she has gone one step further and created an innovative way to teach those who are unable to travel to her studio for courses.
Jewellery maker Michelle Williams established her own successful business and later expanded into teaching others the skills and knowledge necessary for them to set up their own business. Now she has gone one step further and created an innovative ‘ecourse’ to teach those who are unable to travel to her studio for courses.
The road from fledgling business to in-demand teacher
Single mum-of-two Michelle Williams runs www.thecraftecademy and has come a long way since the early days when she decided she no longer wanted to stick at an IT job which she didn’t like. She had spent 15 years in a career for which she says she had ”no passion”. Following the birth of her youngest son, Elliott, in 2001 she was determined to find a flexible occupation to allow her to put her children first.
Michelle set up a local business making hand prints in clay for parents whose youngsters were at nearby nursery schools. ”I was self-taught,” she says, ” and it took me about two years before I had a finished product of high marketable quality that I was happy with. I tried to find somebody who could teach me, but there was nobody.”
Michelle ran her business for three years, impressing customers with clay impressions, fingerprint jewellery, artwork jewellery, life-casting, pottery and ceramics. But she realised there was a big demand for her skills from others who also wanted to start their own businesses creating similar hand-crafted goods. So in 2007 she started training courses to pass on her craft skills and business know-how. ”Now my work is completely given over to training,” she says. ”I don’t have the time to make the products – I’m totally focussed on training. It’s very satisfying to be able to help other people to start their own flexible business so they can work around their families.”
At first, Michelle held a series of successful training courses at her studio in Hampshire. Each course lasts for a day from 10am – 4pm. ”My studio courses have proved very popular over the last two years,” says Michelle, 42. ”But I started getting lots of inquiries from people all over the world and different areas of the country who wanted to learn how to do life casting and make jewellery, but couldn’t travel to my studio. Others had issues with childcare or transport costs which made it difficult for them to travel too.”
Michelle’s answer was to set up an ‘ecourse’ – an online training video.
She paid a company to film her doing each of the courses. ”It was quite a time-consuming and costly project,” explains Michelle. ”I had to have a specialised website developed so the courses could be streamed securely from within my own website. I don’t want them to be copied and end up on You Tube, so I had to invest in the appropriate technology.”
Her first ecourse in fingerprint jewellery was launched in November – artwork jewellery will be the next ecourse available. Michelle then plans to roll out all five of her ecourses over the next few weeks.
Any customer wanting to enrol on one of Michelle’s courses has to set up an account with the Craft Ecademy and add their chosen ecourse to their basket. They can then view the ecourse as many times as they wish during their one-month subscription, which includes a complete support package. Michelle says that one month should be plenty of time to pick up all of the techniques and skills necessary for each course, but there is the option of extending your viewing and support subscription period if required.
”Each ecourse is filmed up-close from different angles so the demonsttrations are very clear,” says Michelle. ”You get to view things in far greater detail than you are able to in traditional studio courses and you can rewind and revisit as many times as you wish. So far, we’ve had tremendous feedback on the first ecourse. We’ve got people logging in and viewing from all over the world.”
Michelle can supply all of the tools and equipment necessary for starting a craft business via her eshop. This includes a wide selection of tools, supplies, kilns and equipment essential for making any of the products shown on her courses. Customers would need to spend around £715 to establish their own fingerprint jewellery business, which would include the ecourse, starter-kit and the kiln. She reckons a new business starter would begin to see a return on their initial investment after about 14-15 commissions.
Once customers have bought an ecourse they are not left on their own to struggle. Michelle offers a support package, which includes access to her online help desk, user forum and online library from where delegates can download useful documents relating to starting their business. This included business start-up manuals and marketing guides, with information on how to deal with tax and public liability insurance, etc.
Michelle’s business fits in with her determined attitude to fit her work around her children and she is keen to help women who feel the same. She is a single mum to Harvey, 13, and Elliott, nine,. ‘I want to let other women know that running your own business is a great way to work flexibly around your family. My career is very fulfilling yet I can put my family first.”