Introducing Allison Franks
Designer/maker of bespoke fused glass and tutor. Established 2009
The Boss from Hell
“The last parting words from my boss were “you can now go and find a job which you’re actually qualified for.”
At 40, as it turned out, these words spurred Allison on from being in a bad place where she was bullied at work to starting in business.
Allison says “I had two options, believe that I was completely useless or I could look at the positives I had to offer. I decided to look at my qualities, I love working with people, I am creative and missed the time I had spent in higher education getting my BA Hons. So I combined those qualities together and decided to set up an arts business, designing and making bespoke kiln cast and fused glass while also delivering creative workshops within my local community and schools”.
At this time, Allison was asked back to a previous position. “It was on a part time/temporary basis which was perfect and it gave me a boost personally. I was working with colleagues who knew me and knew what I had been through, I also had an income!”
Working part time, Allison started to develop her business plan with help from a local support agency SWEDA which helped when asking the bank for a business start-up loan.
Allison continues “within weeks I had my first workshop booking and I will be celebrating three years in business this May”.
So just how did Allison find her very first customer?
“My first workshop booking was for West Bromwich Learning Co-OP, through my links in the community I had a connection who worked in Adult Learning”. Allison called her contact was surprised to be asked in for a meeting which lead to her being asked to deliver some creative workshops during the School Summer Holidays. “It was fate and pure luck that everything fell into place and that’s where it all started”.
Allison’s previous career helps in her growing business too: “I have worked and volunteered within my local community for more than 16 years. This has given me experience of working with people from different back grounds and of abilities which is part of my work which I love.” Clearly Allison has also developed great links within the community.
Allison returned to higher education as a mature student in 2000 and graduated from Wolverhampton University with a 2:1 BA Hons degree specialising in Glass in 2003. “Upon graduation I was awarded a Studio Bursary which included studio space, use of the universities facilities to develop my making skills and an NVQ in Business start-up in the creative industries”.
One of the hardest habits to deal with when self employed is when to focus on work and when to switch off and refresh. Allison agrees, “I have tried working to regular hours but find it impossible; I’m either really busy or quiet depending on the school holidays and seasons. During the summer I seem to have more bookings than the winter, so I have to be flexible in my working.
Allison has some advice those wishing leave the corporate world. “Anyone who is thinking of becoming self-employed, should go into it expecting to put in lots of hours, you have to be able to adapt to situations and job roles. If you work as a sole-trader you are reliant on yourself for everything from administration to book-keeping. It is a massive learning curve and you have to learn to do a little bit of everything, but it’s also very rewarding, you learn something new every day!
If you could look back, Allison and give one piece of advice to yourself before you launched, what is it? Believe in yourself!!!! I am my own worst enemy when it comes to doubting myself. I should also trust more in my instincts, they are normally right. I recently made contact with a supplier in the US who was interested in what I do and my design work, he told me “You hold your own destiny” now when I start to doubt myself I just remember what he said.
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