My experience so far with the STEAMhouse Create Programme
What could be better than getting tailored business advice for free?
The STEAMhouse Create Programme is designed to help SME artist makers build their businesses. They are associated with Eastside Projects, Birmingham City University and the European Regional Development fund. After hearing about the opportunity via EOP, I read up on the programme and booked onto a general tour.
The facilities on offer at STEAMhouse are incredible. It’s in an easy to reach location, close to Millennium Point, Birmingham. Everything within this amazing building is designed with serendipitous collaboration in mind. There are open spaces as well as meeting pods and break away rooms. The production space is outstanding with 3D printing, laser cutting and various other machines that look awesome.
The Decision To Apply
As a time-poor artist I wanted to be sure that applying was a good decision. There were a lot of other entrepreneurs with innovative ideas which crystalized the decision for me.
The Application Process*
The best advice I can give you is this: it’s amazing how long it takes to be succinct. Set aside extra time for the application. The first step in the application process is to read the info pack. Then join a pre-application workshop.
Before taking the pre-application workshop take a look at the application form, particularly the statement section. Read up on the different programmes on offer and make a list of any questions you want to ask.
If, like me, you juggle your practice with a day job, here’s a warning for you. This is an interactive workshop. There’s an ‘introduce yourself’ round so prepare to have the camera on. Ideally, book the time off and find a quiet place to tune to really get the most out of it.
The application form requires basic info about your business and what you want to achieve. The tricky part is the 500-word proposal. The key point is clarifying what you want. Brainstorm what your goal is on a piece of paper if you need to.
The application process requires deep understanding of your business needs. For me this meant brainstorming and a SWOT analysis.
What is SWOT?
Think about your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Taking my business as an example:
The Strength is clear art product and design knowledge. The end product is going well.
The Weakness is a lack of technical production know-how to create scalability. The cost of production is currently too high verses realistic retail pricing.
The Opportunities are targeting new customers through a lower price point product, using technical specialist knowledge to lower the production costs and increase scalability.
The Threats are changes in consumer buying habits, increased costs.
A massive attraction of the Create Programme for me is the networking and collaboration opportunities. I really emphasised this in my application.
It can be a challenge to iterate what you want to achieve, but the best way to get what you want is to ask for it. Don’t get too stressed out by the process. The application process is a really helpful way to clarify your business goals, whether you end up joining Create or not.
Any opportunity is a two-way street, think about what you can offer STEAMhouse as well as what the Create Programme can offer you. Don’t let fear put you off applying! I nearly didn’t apply because of fear. Your art business can last a lifetime if you build it right so…
Go for it, take the risk!
The deadline for applications is 3pm on the last day of the month. You’ll hear back within 3 weeks of the next month whether the proposal has been accepted or not.
Acceptance to the Create Programme
My first reaction to getting accepted was that it must be a mistake. After checking that it wasn’t (thank you imposter syndrome) the excitement kicked in.
It feels like winning a reward!
Create is a chance to expand my skills and discover new business while creating an affordable, scalable art product.
Membership is until March 2023 and each month up to 20 applicants are selected. The next pre-application workshop is 11/10/22 with the deadline of 3pm on 30/10/22.
*This post is about my personal experience; it is in no way intended as a how to guide.
What is the STEAMhouse Create Programme?
STEAMhouse Create is a 12-month members-only ERDF funded programme for resource-poor businesses in the GBSLEP area to make their new product, project, or service ideas a reality.
It’s for SMEs, that’s sole traders, micro, small and medium sized enterprises. The business support programme allows learning, planning and networking as well as making. It is funded via Birmingham City University, ERDP and East Side Projects and lasts 12 months.
What is the GBSLEP region? Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership