As the Small Business Saturday campaign prepares to mark its ten-year anniversary on December 3, SME Magazine is profiling some of the 100 small businesses in this year’s SmallBiz100 line-up. As Michelle Ovens CBE, Director of Small Business Saturday UK, says: “The fantastic small businesses featured in this year’s SmallBiz100 sum up the extraordinary contribution that small firms make to our economy and local areas.”
Here, we talk to Marie Cavanagh, founder and owner of Fired Works, a fused-glass art gallery and studio where she creates beautiful glass artwork alongside functional items.
Marie, tell us about your business?
I make fused glass, which in its simplest form is cutting and decorating glass sheets and then firing in a kiln. My gallery is stocked full of my creations, ranging from large pieces of wall art to tiny earrings. I also make items to commission, which are often sentimental and personal, for example fusing a loved one’s ashes into glass landscapes or jewellery. I run workshops for children, adults and family groups to make their own glass work, for which I have received several Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards. I have taught clients with dementia and children with autism, all of whom have had a very positive experience and made beautiful items to treasure.
Have you always known you wanted to do something artistic?
Before Fired Works was born I spent almost 20 years working in the IT industry. However, I have always had a creative streak, and eventually decided it was now or never to do something that I loved. I found a rundown property in the beautiful village of Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire and made an offer. Fired Works opened 18 months later, in November 2014. Not a day went by that I didn’t think I’d made a big mistake! But I persevered and eventually opened, not having much of a clue what I was doing. I quickly immersed myself in the community, engaging with schools and other groups, running workshops for various groups such as Brownies, U3A, etc.
Tell us about your shop and how you engage customers?
My shop is on the high street, the studio at the back and the gallery at the front, so passers-by can see what I am working on and my latest projects or commissions and often come in to see what I’m working on. My window display is always a talking point and I always put on a new and interesting display, matching the seasons or local or national events. I am very active on social media and update with new products and information. I also do regular leaflet drops, but most of my business comes from being active in the community and through word of mouth.
What impact does Small Business Saturday make for you?
I love taking part in the small Business Saturday campaign and it’s been a huge boost for my business to be selected as part of this year’s SmallBiz100 by the campaign. My American Express ‘Shop Small’ signage also attracts customers to the store. I’ve gained many new customers by being part of this campaign and existing customers are always delighted that I take part.
I always look forward to Small Business Saturday and Shop Small. It’s such a huge support for me as a small business, encouraging people to shop small and locally.