Student awarded funding to help grow business

Categories: Salford Business School

Victoria Merness, MA Contemporary Fine Art student from the University of Salford, has been awarded £2000 funding from Santander Universities as part of Launch @SalfordUni to help grow her business, Little House of Victoria, which offers personalised embroidery kits and unique home and gift items. 

Self portrait of Victoria out of thread

Launch @SalfordUni is a business incubator which was set up in 2018 to offer support to help students’ and alumni start up their own business. Launch provides a 6-month programme that offers training from the Careers & Enterprise Team, academic colleagues at Salford Business School, GC Business Growth Hub and funding from Santander Universities.

It gives students the facilities to grow their ideas into a business venture with expert support and mentoring, spaces to hot desk and generate ideas, subject specific Q&A sessions facilitated by academic staff from Salford Business School, workshops, and networking showcase events. Launch also gives students access to funding made available through the University and partners Santander and is available to graduates of the University of Salford for life. 

In 2011, Victoria graduated from the University of Bolton with a degree in fine art, but she didn’t do anything creatively until 2017 when her mum became terminally ill.

“I decided to enrol at a night school to do a textile course to help me cope with my mum being ill. It was a stressful time and I was seeking comfort and therapy through artwork. I wanted something for my wellbeing which is how I got into embroidery and stitch and textiles,” she said.

Feeling uninspired from her office job, Victoria decided to pursue her love of art and joined the University of Salford in 2018 to undertake a part time MA Contemporary Fine Art with Industry Experience.

She said: “I knew Salford was the right place. I picked it specifically for the course title because I never got that industry experience opportunity with my undergraduate degree.” As part of her industry experience, Victoria volunteered at 'Start Inspiring Minds' in Salford, "I gained valuable experience that I wouldn’t have otherwise got," she said. 

Whilst at Salford, Victoria came across Launch @SalfordUni advertisement and decided to find out more information by looking on the website. “I thought well this is my chance. I had a seed in my mind that I wanted to be self-employed and I had an idea about what kind of business I wanted to create so I thought I’d sign up and give it a go,” she said.

Victoria pitched her idea of stitching for wellbeing workshops and was awarded £500 and accepted onto the Launch programme. “It’s been great. All the content they give you and the professional advice is amazing. All I had was an idea in my mind and then when I went to Launch, they helped me to think about my customer, the market, logo, everything you need! They help you to put in place all these building blocks to help you achieve it and do a good job,” she said.

However, like most businesses, Victoria was severely impacted by Covid-19. She said: “When I first started off the business idea with Launch, I was offering face to face stitching workshops so suddenly my business wasn’t viable, and I lost my part time job which was funding everything.”

Victoria then went for a second pitching opportunity and was awarded £1500 to help launch her business idea.  

“I have only been self-employed for just less than a year, so I wasn’t eligible for any kind of funding from the government which has meant I’ve not had any income since March. It’s been super stressful.

I was left with nothing until I got the funding from Launch so it’s meant that I can still get my business going. It’s been an absolute lifeline I don’t know what I would have done without the help and not just the funding but the moral and professional support. It’s made a massive difference,” she said.

Thanks to the funding from Launch, Victoria has been able to stock her website with her range of home and giftware alongside her personalised embroidery kits. She said: “It’s been brilliant because I just wouldn’t have been able to launch my business without this support, not only on a funding level but in professional support also.

It’s also meant that I can buy a tripod for my phone and lighting so I can video myself at home and photograph my artwork for the website.”

Find out more about Little House of Victoria.

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