Ill health left Fay Martin out of work, but it was help from The Prince's Trust that enabled the young Gloucestershire-based card designer and maker to launch her highly successful handmade greetings card business Fay's Studio.
"I started my business in 2009. The idea was to serve the demand for high quality, design-led, environmentally minded greetings cards.
"My business offers original and unique, modern and traditional, eco-friendly greeting cards for any occasion. I use high quality printers, sustainable FSC card and biodegradable packaging to create products that are inspiring, exciting and good value for money. The whole range is designed by hand, printed and hand-packaged in the UK.
"My business is based in Cam, Gloucestershire, where I began to sell my products locally not long after I started my business. Now I supply independent retailers across Europe, including high-street chain Paperchase. I also export my products to New Zealand."
Bachelor of Arts
"Previously, I'd completed an arts foundation course at the Falmouth College of Art and Design and then graduated from the Arts Institute in Bournemouth with a BA Hons in Illustration in 2005.
"Prior to starting my business, unfortunately, I had spells of bad health which left me unemployed for six months in 2008. Then I discovered The Prince's Trust supported young people and helped them get back into work – including self-employment – which was when I realised this was an ideal opportunity to use my illustration and product-design skills. 'It's now or never', I thought.
"I approached The Prince's Trust because I knew of no other way to get the support I needed to help me start my business. The fact that I could also get a grant and loan certainly helped."
Prince's Trust grant
"I had to go in front of a Dragons' Den-style panel with my business plan, and the panel members interviewed me about my business ideas. Later, I was awarded a grant and loan to help pay for initial business start-up tasks such as developing a website and exhibiting at my first trade show.
"Early on, I attended The Prince's Trust's four-day business enterprise start-up course in Bristol, which looked at marketing and finance, sales and cash flow forecasting, and the legal aspects of running a business.
"I was then allocated a business mentor, Bob Train, who helped me to improve on my weaknesses. He has also taught me a lot about selling, how to be an all-round businesswoman and get the most out of trade shows. Being able to exhibit at trade shows helped me to meet some really important industry buyers and designers. For example, I've just completed four greeting card designs for Next.
"I met with Bob every two weeks when I was starting my business, and could contact him via email and telephone if necessary. We discussed cash flow many times, to check if my business was meeting its targets. We worked out how many sales I would need to achieve and how much freelance work I needed to do to keep my business afloat."
"For some time I've been a Young Ambassador for The Prince's Trust. I'm delighted to be able to give something back. I've been asked to talk to many people about how the Trust helped me. The most inspiring talks I've given have been to young school pupils who wanted to learn more about self-employment. I even got to take a school class during a careers convention at a high school in Bristol. I've also been a guest speaker at Prince's Trust events.
"My first two years in business have been very busy, but I have been helped greatly by the support I have received from The Prince's Trust."
Fay's three key lessons
- "If you really believe in your business idea, can see a niche for your product or service and can turn your idea into a competent business plan, just go for it."
- "Be patient. A business won't spring up overnight, but if you work hard, and utilise all of the tools offered to you by The Prince's Trust, such as the dedicated business mentor, you can go far."
- Make the most of every opportunity The Prince's Trust offers. I have been a Young Ambassador for The Prince's Trust for the past year and I have used this opportunity to develop my public speaking skills. I have presented to crowds of solicitors, school children, trustees, etc, and it has all been a character-building exercise, as I forced myself to face my demons."
The Prince's Trust Enterprise Programme helps unemployed young people aged 18-30 to work out if their business ideas are viable and whether self-employment is right for them. Find out more.