The British crafts industry is bigger than you might think. According to a 2020 report by Crafts Council UK, the industry’s contribution to the economy exceeded £3 billion last year. This year alone, 31.6 million people bought crafts, compared to 6.9 million in 2006. And now it’s facing disruption.
The coronavirus pandemic has prevented many artisan crafts makers from selling through their usual physical distribution channels, leaving many with a backlog of stock and an inability to pay suppliers. But lack of distribution isn’t the only problem they face. When selling online, crafts makers can face exploitation from third party sales platforms including unclear charges and, according to some makers, intellectual rights issues.
With international demand for quality British products rising exponentially in recent years, Edinburgh-based craft maker platform and social enterprise, Artisanry Co., is out to make sure that makers do not get sold short.
Started by husband-and-wife team, Bhawna Sarin, an ex-Senior Analyst at RBS, and UK pensions and investments specialist, Peter Dorward, Artisanry promises to “take care of the business side of the creative process,” for British crafts makers. This includes helping them with their “specific distribution needs” through a “transparent charging structure,” says Sarin, who is the company founder.
By positioning craft products as “bespoke purchases” to consumers, they also give crafts makers “control over their own pipeline to avoid the pressure on capital and cash flow.”
Ruth Hollick, silversmith and founder of Staffordshire based Mayflower Bespoke Jewellery has been impressed by the level of support she’s received from the platform since joining. “Artisanry feels like a supportive community, they are interested in promoting us as makers, it’s not just about the end product,” she says. “Their virtual coffee chats, which include advice from social media experts have also been helpful.”
Rachel Whitfield, founder of Yorkshire pottery brand, Rachel in the Dales Pottery says: “I’ve been really thankful to be part of the Artisanry community, they understand small makers and the small margins that we have. They are also keen to help in practical ways on the marketing side of things.”
Artisanry Co’s director, Peter Dorward says while the platform should remain a social enterprise, where a portion of profits go back into supporting the artisan community, it should also offer commercial returns for investors. “The kinds of investors we imagine being interested are social impact and sustainability aware investors that are keen to support the community, but not to the extent that there isn’t an expectation of return. Some social impact investments have little return, we’re not about that,” he says.
One way that Artisanry is hoping to generate incentives for investors is through the government-backed Social Investment Tax Relief, (SITR).
“Shareholders, bondholders and non-shareholders can invest and gain 5% tax relief (for basic rate taxpayers) for five years against any other tax liabilities they have, such as capital gains tax,” explains Dorward. “We are currently considering whether equity or bonds are more appealing in the market,” he adds.