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Entrepreneur finds mentors offer a crafty way to help

A Knitting and crafts shop in Swindon has expanded with the help of mentoring support from Business Mentors South West and Lloyds TSB Commercial.

Founded by entrepreneur Abby Evely, Crafty Yarn sells a wide range of knitting wool, patterns and accessories, and has recently branched out into supplying fabrics and haberdashery.

Having started out out in 2008 on a market stall in Wokingham, Crafty Yarn has since moved into its own premises in Studley Grange Craft Village just outside Swindon, and also has a thriving online sales presence.

In addition to the business, which she runs by herself, Abby also offers classes for customers in knitting and crochet, which are run by a self-employed friend and have been hugely popular and are often oversubscribed.

Having joined the Buiness Mentors South West mentoring scheme around nine months ago, Crafty Yarn’s involvement has included meeting up every couple of weeks with mentor Georgina Frost from Lloyds TSB Commercial, to discuss specific areas of business management and finance, and to float new ideas for growth.

Business Mentors South West carefully matches trained, volunteer Business Finance Taskforce (BFT) professionals with a wide range of experience to businesses looking for support to improve thier business performance. The BFT mentors come from many disciplines, such as marketing, finance and HR, but they all share one key quality - a passion for enterprise and passing on their expertise to support businesses.

Abby said: “Knitting is one of my passions so it’s great to be able to combine this with running my own business.

“Crafty Yarn has grown rapidly over the past four years and had developed a loyal customer base, but being very much a one-person company it helps to have an outside and objective viewpoint when exploring ways to improve how I do business.

“As an example, given the growing popularity of our website and the wide geographical spread of our customers, it’s conceivable that I may eventually move to trading solely online as a way of growing the company.

“Business mentors are able to stimulate discussion and act as a sounding board for new ideas and strategies. It’s really good to have someone to ask questions that may seem obvious or silly, but which require past experience to answer.”

Georgina Frost, Lloyds TSB Commercial, said: “Crafty Yarn is a great business that has successfully tapped into a niche market and grown steadily in new and interesting ways.

“As Abby doesn’t have a network of staff to discuss and analyse business progress with, having a business mentor can provide that opportunity to explore ways of getting new ideas off the ground or increasing the number of customers.

“Sometimes it’s helpful for companies to ask themselves the most basic questions on which the original business plan should have been based, including how much they are earning, if it is enough, and where they are going?

“Mentoring has provided me with a great opportunity to give back to the business community from the experience I’ve gained through my career in business banking.

“I am also able to draw upon the wider skills of my colleagues and professional contacts within the bank and the local business community, so I can put Abby in contact with someone who can help.”