Monday, 29 April 2013

Mentoring Series - Rachael Chambers of Ferrers Gallery

Having decided to write a blog series on Mentoring and the benefits I have reaped from having a Mentor I thought I would share mine and others experiences of being a mentee/mentor in the hope that this may inspire others to go and seek this kind of service to help boost their creative business.

In 2012 when I was preparing for my first trade fair I had heard about the Marketing for Makers Training Day run by Rachael Chambers of Ferrers Gallery and decided to give it a try. Having then realised I had missed the dates I scanned through the rest of the web page and discovered that Rachael ran a one-to-one Mentoring for Makers session. I thought I would really benefit from this and booked a session with a view to gaining as much information about Trade Fairs as possible. This session was invaluable (see my feedback below) and really helped me to focus on what I needed to do.

As Rachael has a lot of experience of being a mentor I thought I would ask her a few questions about it. This is what she had to say....

How long have you been mentoring?

I have been mentoring for over 5 years, although informally I could say I have been mentoring for over 10 years.

What made you decide to become a business mentor?

When I first had Ferrers Gallery over 10 years ago artists and designer-makers would approach me about selling their work in the gallery, I would often spend a long time explaining about pricing and labelling, mark ups, target markets and promotional ideas. My knowledge and experience in design, marketing and PR gained prior to owning the gallery along with my position as owner of Ferrers Gallery meant I was well placed to answer the questions posed.
After noticing a niche in the market it wasn't long before I started my 'Marketing for Makers' course; a one day course that looked at finding unique selling points, target markets and unique ways of promoting work to the trade and public. Then about five years ago I started an off shoot of this by introducing 1-1 mentoring sessions for those that wanted to discuss things individually.
I now mentor through my own 'Creative Directions' 1-1 sessions as well as delivering mentoring for Creative Leicestershire, Creative PIE and to colleges and universities through my work with craft&design magazine where I am Contemporary Craft Editor.

What kind of people do you usually work with and what kind of topics and issues do you cover in your mentoring sessions?

I work with creative individuals from jewellers and artists, to ceramicists and photographers and I tailor the session to the individual’s needs; which might be preparing for a trade show, looking at new markets, approaching galleries or devising a trade/retail pricing structure. I mentor people just about to finish a degree and individuals who want to turn a hobby into a full time business, as well as those that have been in the business a while but need a business boost.

How do you structure your mentoring sessions?

The sessions are structured around the individual and what they want to gain out of the session, most have specific subject matters they wish to discuss. The sessions are informal and often done at Ferrers Gallery so that I can show examples of good practice.

What kind of benefits could someone gain from having a mentor?

Mentoring is an opportunity to discuss ideas and options with someone who is impartial, someone who can question and encourage thinking in new ways. I find that most people leave with a boost in confidence and lots of fresh ideas.

What are the benefits/rewards of being a mentor?

I love being a mentor, I love to watch each individual leave the session with renewed vigour for their work and to see them a few months later having put their ideas into practise and reaping the rewards.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering working with a mentor?

Consider what you want to gain out of the session and look for a mentor that matches those needs. There are numerous mentors out there, all with different levels of skills, knowledge and understanding, so it’s important to find a reputable one that matches your requirements. Perhaps talk to a fellow creative who has been mentored themselves to see who they would recommend.

Rachael has also written the article ‘Mentoring – What is it and why would it help me?’ in the latest Issue of craft&design magazine – Issue 226 - March/April 2013.

Rachael offers a 2 hour mentoring session for £50+VAT and this is the package that I got last year. For more information on this please take a look here and here   You can also find Rachael Chambers on Linked In where you can view recommendations from some of those she has mentored.

'I found the Creative Direction session with Rachael Chambers to be absolutely invaluable, it was great to be able to get some constructive feedback on my work and products, and I found the advice I gained from the day priceless. It really helped me focus on what I needed to do for my upcoming first trade fair, how to present my work and I got some great ideas for displaying it too. I think if I hadn’t had this session my trade fair wouldn’t have been such a success, it helped me to be well prepared and also to gain a valuable insight into what my buyers would be looking for.' Sue Bulmer, artist & illustrator

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