Raising a cup to new business venture

Natasha Swan and Alan Hamilton, business advisor, Carrickfergus Enterprise.
Natasha Swan and Alan Hamilton, business advisor, Carrickfergus Enterprise.
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A Co. Antrim entrepreneur is working to bring back old forms of craft by launching her own handcrafted pottery business.

Based in Islandmagee, Natasha Swan Ceramics creates handmade, functional tableware and homeware, inspired by owner Natasha’s love for the Northern Ireland countryside.

The business was established with assistance from the Go For It Programme, in association with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Designed with functionality in mind, her pieces are inspired by the colours and patterns found in nature. She also runs specialist one-to-one and group based workshops for pottery enthusiasts wanting to try their hand at the craft.

Natasha said: “Growing up, I always wanted to work in a creative industry. I also love the outdoors and have always been inspired by nature. When I first worked with clay at university, I truly discovered my love for ceramics and really wanted to learn more.

“I spent some time training in Kilkenny with the Design and Craft Council of Ireland, and it was here that I developed my unique style.

Fully qualified as a trained potter and realising the lack of employment opportunity, Natasha looked to self-employment and starting her own handcrafted pottery business.

It was at this stage that she turned to the ‘Go For It Programme’ for advice and support.

“My business advisor at Carrickfergus Enterprise was fantastic and ensured that I needed the skills to make a success of my start-up. The environment was so supportive, and I felt totally at ease, which was very important to me, especially when I had questions relating to finance, legislation and marketing. Guidance was essential and helped me to iron out all the finer details bespoke to my business.

“Thanks to the business plan I received though the Go For It Programme, I was eligible to apply for funding through the Rural Development Programme to launch my business. I wouldn’t have known about the RDP if it wasn’t for the team at Carrickfergus Enterprise, the support I received was second to none.

Alan Hamilton, Business Advisor at Carrickfergus Enterprise, said; “It is a real pleasure to be able to assist anyone in their start up journey, especially young entrepreneurs like Natasha. Natasha has a real passion for her craft, which is clear to see through her handmade pieces. She has an exceptional talent and a real opportunity for a unique business

“We assisted Natasha in the development of her business plan, including the initial planning of her product range, where she might sell her products and how she might grow her workshops. We also completed a full financial forecast, which allowed us to determine the viability and growth potential of the business.

“Once the business plan was completed and the real potential of Natasha Swan Ceramics was documented, we also assisted Natasha with the completion of the Rural Development Programme application. The funding we helped her to secure allowed Natasha to buy the equipment necessary to get her business up and running.

“I am delighted to see that Natasha Swan Ceramics started trading this year and that Natasha’s workshops are doing so well. It is fantastic to see such young talent have the courage to go into business and with Natasha’s determination, I’m excited to see what the future holds.”