Kelli Johnston of Lets Craft NI shares her enterprise journey so that others will be inspired to “Go For It!”

Newtownabbey woman Kelli Johnston has turned her dream into a reality with support from Mallusk Enterprise Park.

Did you always aspire to be self-employed?

I have around 35 years experience working within a range of jobs and industries. At various stages of my working life, I have thought about becoming self employed, but I never followed through as the timing just wasn’t right with family commitments etc. I’ve always been adaptable and enjoyed learning and being creative. Whilst working full-time for others, I’ve always found time for learning, even taking evening course in gardening & horticulture, furniture restoration & upholstery, and a range of arts and crafts. When I turned 50 I chose to prioritise my dreams and passion to become my own boss.

How long did you have your business idea before meeting with a Business Adviser to discuss?

I do have business planning skills and experience which I acquired through my working career. I had therefore already completed some initial research and piloted aspects of my business product/service before contacting the enterprise park.

What does your business do?

Let’s Craft NI offers both arts & crafts and gardening courses to specific groups of people. These include women’s groups, gardening clubs, youth organisations and private crafting parties. Our programmes encourage lifelong learning, social interaction, creativity, and enhanced health and wellbeing. Online courses are available for group bookings, using platforms like Zoom and Canva.

How long have you been trading?

I started my business in February 2020

Are you happy that you went into self-employment?

Yes, ‘m very happy to be self-employed. Although the timing (just before Covid and lockdown occurred) wasn’t great. I had already competed lots of preliminary work with clients and had secured a range of bookings from March 2020.   Unfortunately all of the face-to-face workshops and courses which I had lined up to deliver had to be either cancelled or postponed. It has been a extremely busy 7-8 months of adapting the business to work within the parameters of health and safety requirements as a result of the pandemic.

If you were to give one piece of advice to someone starting up what would it be?

Go for it.. If you have an idea that you’re passionate about, definitely give it a go. There is an abundance of high quality support and advice available through Mallusk Enterprise Park and their fellow agencies across NI who are delivering initiatives in partnership working with the local council.  Free mentoring is invaluable!  Take advantage of all mentoring and networking opportunities available.

Was the Go For It programme beneficial to you? If so, how?

Yes.  The Go For It programme was beneficial as it provided me with ‘thinking time’, which is invaluable. How many of us never seem to take time to think through things because we’re so busy?  The programme provided opportunities for me to consider and think about key business areas such as customer needs, demand for the products/services, marketing, branding, promotion, pricing, etc. Attending training with a group of other people who also wish to be self employed is fantastic as it provides a medium to share ideas and information with others.

Sandra Young Business Adviser (left) and Kelli Johnston of Lets Craft NI (right)

What was the best part of the programme?

Lots of useful information, resources, contacts, and networking. The best part, for me, was finding out about additional mentoring support I could avail of.

How did you finance your business?

I have self-financed my business.

Where do you see your business in 5 years time?

In 5 years time I see the business growing, offering more services to a wider geographic area through both face-to-face and online training and courses. I envision hiring additional staff to deliver programmes and services throughout Northern Ireland.  In the longer term I envisage a range of online courses offered through global platforms.

Are you motivated by Kelli’s start-up story?  Then get in touch!! If you are interested in turning your idea into a reality, just like Kelli did, then simply contact us now and a member of our team will be in touch

Our team will work flexibly to suit you.  Meetings can be conducted either virtually or face to face. During the day or in the evening. Its entirely up to you!

Sandra Young, Business Adviser with a hand crafted bird box. The type of item you can expect to create during a Lets Craft NI workshop.