IT’S FAIR to say that the world of fashion retail is awash with jewellery which is why it was so important for design graduate Elisa Etemad to find her own unique niche.
With a degree in textile crafts from Huddersfield University under her belt and an unusual line of quirky jewellery, she knew she wanted to be a designer but understood that it would be difficult to make a living.
What’s more, saddled with £30,000 worth of student debt and newly-graduated, she also knew that no bank would give her a loan.
Her solution to the problem was to apply for an activation grant from the Huddersfield University’s Enterprise Development team which provides mentoring and financial assistance to students and recent graduates who want to go it alone.
After facing a Dragon’s Den style selection process, 24-year-old Elisa secured £2,400.
Together with her bank overdraft facility and the remnants of her student loan she was able to open an outlet in Huddersfield’s Byram Arcade and stock not only her own designs but those of fellow graduates and current students.
“I was very lucky to get the grant,” said Elisa. “They were only making one business to consumer grant and without it I would have struggled.
“It is just about enough to cover the rent for the first year but didn’t cover any of the renovations that I had to do.”
In order to secure the grant she had to make a bid to a panel of business experts.
She said: “I had to write a plan of action and then give a presentation. It was very scary.”
Launched last September, Crafty Praxis (praxis means process) is now part of the Byram Arcade’s creative community.
Elisa began by stocking the work of 30 designers and craftspeople – the vast majority from Huddersfield – and now has more than 60 on board.
“Everything is handmade,” said Elisa. “I did a lot of networking to find suppliers and created a list of people I’d like to stock. Most of them are students or graduates.”
The jewellery is quirky, original and sells for ‘student prices’ – mostly between £5 and £25.
Elisa’s own designs vary from unusual ‘tea cup’, recycled zip and ‘plated cake’ rings to more sophisticated wire and yarn necklaces.
She describes herself as a textile jeweller and while studying at university won a Rowan Yarn competition with a necklace created from wool and silver plated wire. Her prize was £200 of Rowan yarns, which she is still using.
During her gap year in industry she worked with Huddersfield jewellery designer Maria Lau, who is now based in London and building a reputation for her textile-inspired pieces. Elisa also worked with a Manchester silversmith.
Originally from Stoke, Elisa enjoyed student life in Huddersfield so much that she decided to stay on in the town. She now lives in Lowerhouses.
Jewellery began to interest her after starting university.
She said: “I started my jewellery business in the holiday between my first and second year at university because I wanted to buy a lot more jewellery than I could afford, but I knew that I’d not be able to do that full-time – or I’d be working for minimum wages for someone else.”
She is delighted to have found a business ‘home’ in the Byram Arcade, which has a long tradition of housing creative and artistic people – including dress designers and tattoo artists.