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Q1. Tell us about yourself.
Prompts: Where did you go to school/college and/or University?
What did you study at college/University?
What were your career aspirations whilst at school/college/University?
I was born in Bournemouth,
a long time ago, and moved up here about 16 years ago to Llanylltyd to retire. I attended a college here for Art and Design and then about 11 years ago I started up self employed as a fine artist. ** Oh I wish I’d gone to university.**
I said that initially I had planned to go to Abertstwyth School of Art but for various reasons decided not to go.
Q2. Can you confirm your name; your company name and in 2 or 3 words the nature of your business
Sonja Benskin Mesher; operates her works under personal name; Fine Art and Illustration
Q3. Could you tell me about your business please?
Prompts: Who are your customers?
How long has it been established
I’ve got my own artwork practice where I draw and work to commission and do work for exhibitions. I do teaching and mentoring too. I have been a curator of exhibitions and
also work in a gallery
Section 2: Motivation to starting a business
Q4. What motivated you to start your own business?
Prompts: What did you do before setting up the business?
It’s quite difficult to get employment from other people as an artist. I think the only way you can do it is to set up your own practice.
Q5. What gave you the idea for your business?
I remember that when I was about ten or twelve I was doing botanical drawings
and I wanted to leave school at fifteen, which I could do in those days.
I said that I had to leave school at 15 but I had wanted
to go on to sixth form and then to Art School but it wasn’t possible so I got a job. It was only when I came here to Wales that I had the time and freedom to do it.
Section 3: The Business
Q5. Did you seek help to start up? If so, from who
I was offered help because when I left college I was signing on and they had incentives for people to become self employed and to have training. I got funding for training and I did a master class down in Pembrokeshire. I think during my first year I had some benefit towards self-employment. I also got a grant towards a website and a computer. My family were very supportive also.
Q6. How has the business developed with time?
Prompts: How many do you employ?
Expansion of business premises?
Target markets beyond Wales?
The other night Paul Smith, the designer was saying, “to keep the work you want to do pure, in his opinion, you have to do other work to support it.” I kind of get that. To keep my art work to the genres that I want it to be and not to be working in a manner where I’m being commercial to sell work that I don’t believe in (because I want to believe in my work) I do other things to help support that.
I have employment because I work for the WEA and the WDA. I also work with the WEA and the WDA
Q7. What do you enjoy the most / find most challenging about being your own boss?
Prompts: In hindsight, what do you wish you had known (skills/knowledge) when you started your business?
What was your biggest learning curve in setting up your business and growing your business
Taking a break when I want! The freedom of it and not having to answer to anyone except myself. When I achieve something I know that was down to me and it gives you a buzz. Everything is a challenge! Especially if I’m working for commission, I have to aim
to please the person who’s paying me. It’s also challenging to apply for exhibitions and galleries.
Q8. What major setbacks/barriers have you overcome in starting your business?
Personal difficulties and trying to keep working through that. And in the early days, because of the nature of the work you tend to get rejected quite a lot. I mean, you can’t get accepted for everything, I know that now but in the early days when you’re rejected it’s quite difficult to come to terms with it. But that’s the name of the game, once you’ve learnt that, you stop grumbling and get on with it!
Q9. Do you have any advice or tips for young people or for those thinking of starting a business?
Prompts: Did anyone inspire you?
On the whole I would suggest that they go for it. But to have the backing of your family and friends, to have people you can talk to about it,
particularly people like Business Eye, or for artists there’s Cultural Enterprise. #thingschange
If you can get a business mentor that’s good. Be realistic. Look at an idea objectively, do your research and talk it over with someone who isn’t directly involved.
Section 4: The Presentation
Q10. Could you tell me a little about the content of your presentation and the format of the sessions with young people?
Prompts: What style of presentation or format to the sessions do you normally use?
Does your style vary when working with young people from different ages (e.g year 9, A Level and colleges)?
I’d normally introduce myself, mentioning local places so that I can relate with them, but keeping it short because
young people do get bored quickly. I like them to ask questions and I usually do excercises like brainstorming in groups on ideas and work out how they would have more than one string to their bow.
Q11. If possible, could you please pass on a photograph of yourself along with a company logo please?
Q12. Can I check your contact details please?