business or benevolent craftocracy?

Over here, Norma Smurfit is well known for her charity work, hosting events involving the great and the good for donkey’s years. I know that the whole area attracts bile and some fairly valid criticism by turns, but there is no denying that she is exceptionally good at what she does, and obviously feels passionately for the charities benefiting from her events.

Until today, I had no idea that she was involved with microfinancing. First Step does precisely that, offering loans between €5,000 and €25,000 to companies who have difficulties accessing conventional lines of business credit from banks. (And from what I’m hearing, that is a widespread problem lately.) Thank goodness for that, eh?

I looked at the application form, and in several ways I know that I would not be a right fit. Number of employees? One. Number of employees in twelve months? One. Yep, me. I do everything from tagging my bags to making the stuff to doing the promotion, and that’s how it will always be (barring some sort of major coup involving a crazed pack of celebs suddenly taking a liking to felted bags and crystal jewellery, that is).

So, I must ask the question (cue Carrie Bradshaw-esque voiceover and zoom into screen): Am I a crafter, or is this a business?

Perhaps this is a business for the following reasons:

– I act like a professional. I don’t dismiss my competition- I work to be as good and better. Instead of engaging in snarkfests or ‘borrowing’ other people’s ideas, I work hard to make my work distinctive and to come up with my own stuff.

– I have a big fancy shiny till and schtuff. (Joke. I have threatened to get one like this if I ever have a bricks and mortar shop, though, but that’s for another post.)

– I keep records and receipts for everything. It goes back quite a few years and includes entries like “tuppence ha’penny for receipt book and vegetable samosas for elevenses” ;).

But on meeting other crafters, I realise that they are just as professional as any business in the important things- serving customers, charging fair prices, keeping things professional, doing their absolute best. They (like me) just appreciate the flexibility of being able to work at their own times and at their own pace, from their kitchen table or a studio.

Like me, they are keenly aware of the best materials to use for x, what venues are the most suitable for selling, what particular types of goods sell better than others, their cashflow etc. They just feel that keeping things slightly less official (not illegal, mind you! We’re all tax compliant) is a better environment for their work to truly flourish.


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