Once I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the ‘Outlook Expeditions’ Madagascar trip, I realised that I needed to start thinking about how I would raise funds towards the cost of the expedition. Having no experience of previous fundraising, I started to brainstorm things I could do to raise the money (sponsorship, sell things, part time work etc). During discussions with my family, the subject of my GCSE Manchester Bee themed artwork came up. Many people had complimented me on this artwork and I wondered whether there would be an interest in people buying bee themed art prints.
I set about creating three pieces of bee artwork showing the bees from different angles. I also then thought about how I could connect it with the local Manchester theme. I decided to entitle my prints as ‘Bee Manchester’ and then thought how we could use the bee phrase for other inspirational slogans. Again, I brainstormed potential slogans such as ‘bee happy’, ‘bee strong’ and ‘bee united’.
I developed a spreadsheet so that I could understand the costs of each print, any profit I might make and also to track orders. In addition, I produced an order form so that people could choose which bee design, slogan and background colour they wanted. I had by this time, also developed a website - beemanchester.biz - which would allow people to buy the frames online.
I arranged for my three bee designs to be scanned and then produced in high-quality prints at a local printer. I bought some frames from IKEA and then some stamps with the chosen slogans. I then created various samples. This was the easy bit for me; the hard bit would be "how do I actually sell my Bee frames?!"
The first step was to book a stall at my school's Christmas fair. This was the first time I’d ever tried to sell anything. The Christmas fair went well and I sold around 10 frames at £20 each. On the back of this success, I then rented a stall at my local town's Christmas lights switch-on art fair. This time I was successful in selling around 20 frames. However, the real boost to orders came when Stockport Grammar School advertised my frames in the weekly newsletter. I was suddenly inundated with orders from pupils and parents, who saw these as ideal, unique Christmas gifts. As the orders flooded in, it became harder and harder to meet the demand and deliver the frames on time. However, I felt a great sense of achievement (and relief!!) when I managed to deliver all the frames before Christmas.
As part of the fundraising, I also decided that I wanted to donate to the Manchester Emergency Fund for the people who were injured in the Manchester Arena bombing (one of my friends was hurt during the attack). I decided that for every frame I sold, I would donate £1 to the fund. In total we sold over 150 frames and gave £160 to the Emergency fund. I also met my target of raising over half of the money required to fund my Madagascar expedition.
Although this venture took a lot of hard work and time, it was also a valuable lesson for me in how to set up a small business and I gained a lot from this experience. I feel very proud at having raised far more money than I ever imagined, but it is also amazing when I think that my artwork is now hanging on walls in lots of houses/businesses in Manchester!!
I now look forward to my Madagascar adventure and the further opportunities for learning and development!