A young and innovative Co. Antrim entrepreneur, Natasha Swan is working to bring back old forms of craft by launching her own handcrafted pottery business thanks to the Go For It Programme, in association with Mid & East Antrim Borough Council.
Based in the rural sea-side village of Islandmagee, Natasha Swan Ceramics creates handmade, functional tableware and homeware, inspired by owner Natasha’s love for the Northern Ireland countryside.
Natasha’s workshop is open by appointment only and she specialises in contemporary tableware made using stoneware porcelain. Designed with functionality in mind, her pieces are inspired by the colours and patterns found in nature, bringing the joy of the outdoors into the home.
She also runs specialist one-to-one and group based workshops for pottery enthusiasts wanting to try their hand at the age-old craft.
Natasha, insert age, said: “Growing up, I always wanted to work in a creative industry. I also love the outdoors and have always been inspired by nature. When I first worked with clay at university, I truly discovered my love for ceramics and really wanted to learn more.
“I spent some time training in Kilkenny with the Design and Craft Council of Ireland, and it was here that I developed my unique style, inspired by the beautiful surroundings of Northern Ireland.
“I always planned on moving back home and once I had built up enough experience in honing my craft, I started to look for the right job opportunity.”
Fully qualified as a trained potter and realising the lack of employment opportunity, Natasha looked to self-employment and starting her own handcrafted pottery business as a natural response. It was at this stage that Natasha turned to the Go For It Programme for advice and support throughout the start-up stage of her business.
“Nervous, fearful, but incredibly excited! That’s how I felt when I made the decision to start my own, self-titled brand. I had a really clear vision of the types of products I wanted to create, but really lacked the understanding of how I would develop, finance and grow my business. I found out about the free support offered through the Go For It Programme and I immediately got in touch” added Natasha.
“My business advisor helped to put together a really comprehensive business plan, which also included financial forecasting for the first two years of trading. Their guidance was essential and helped me to iron out all the finer details which were bespoke to my business."
The Go For It programme is available throughout Northern Ireland in each council area and delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors through Northern Ireland’s wide network of enterprise agencies. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise.
Natasha said: “The Go For It Programme was all really quick after I filled in the enquiry form. My business advisor at Carrickfergus Enterprise was fantastic and ensured that I needed the skills to make a success of my start-up. The environment was so supportive, and I felt totally at ease, which was very important to me, especially when I had questions relating to finance, legislation, and marketing. “
“My business advisor helped to put together a really comprehensive business plan, which also included financial forecasting for the first two years of trading. Their guidance was essential and helped me to iron out all the finer details which were bespoke to my business.”
“Thanks to the business plan I received though the Go For It Programme, I was eligible to apply for funding through the Rural Development Programme to launch my business. I wouldn’t have known about the RDP if it wasn’t for the team at Carrickfergus Enterprise, the support I received was second to none.
Alan Hamilton, Business Advisor at Carrickfergus Enterprise, said; “It is a real pleasure to be able to assist anyone in their start up journey, especially young entrepreneurs like Natasha. Natasha has a real passion for her craft, which is clear to see through her handmade pieces. She has an exceptional talent and a real opportunity for a unique business.”
“We assisted Natasha in the development of her business plan, including the initial planning of her product range, where she might sell her products and how she might grow her workshops. We also completed a full financial forecast, which allowed us to determine the viability and growth potential of the business.
“Once the business plan was completed and the real potential of Natasha Swan Ceramics was documented, we also assisted Natasha with the completion of the Rural Development Programme application. The funding we helped her to secure allowed Natasha to buy the equipment necessary to get her business up and running.
“I am delighted to see that Natasha Swan Ceramics started trading this year and that Natasha’s workshops are doing so well. It is fantastic to see such young talent have the courage to go into business and with Natasha’s determination, I’m excited to see what the future holds.”
The Go For It Programme is part-funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.
If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go For It Programme for a free meeting on 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com.