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Craft makers and hobbyists in the Pilbara are turning their talents into viable small businesses, selling their wares across the state from Port Hedland to Perth.
The boost in business knowledge and know-how is thanks to an intensive creative business development series held in 2016 on topics such as product photography, social media marketing, brand management, visual merchandising and product diversification.
The creative business development series, which is part of a $1 million two-year partnership between the Pilbara Development Commission and arts consultancy FORM, is already bearing fruit for local businesses.
Talented illustrator, Shellie Blatch of Gypsy-Rose Designs, has been growing her Port Hedland-based business through the West End Markets over the last two years. Through her involvement with FORM’s business development mentoring and workshop, Ms Blatch was invited to participate in the renowned Fremantle Christmas Bazaar in Perth.
The trip was part of the Pilbara West End Market Collective which saw six creative businesses from the region selling to an audience of more than 9,000 people.
“It was a huge sense of achievement for me to take my products to Perth and sell alongside some of the most talented creatives in WA,” Ms Blatch said.
“Just a few years ago my illustrations were a hobby, I now have the confidence and tools to take my business to the next level. It’s great to have access to such high quality business development workshops available locally.”
Twenty one creative businesses participated in the three volume business development series during 2016.
Series participant and the creative behind dynamic business Paper Reign, Sarah Green said she was looking forward to the 2017 series.
“The facilitators are very helpful and don't hold back on advice or recommending people to help,” Ms Green said.
“They answer questions in great depth and have relevancy to people's business, I learned a lot during the workshop series and am excited to participate in this year’s business development program.”
Pilbara Development Commission Chief Executive Officer Terry Hill said small business was the backbone of any community.
“The creative industry in the Pilbara is thriving and shows no sign of slowing down. The decline in the cost of living and doing business is making way for new industries to flourish, which is creating new jobs and providing more choice for residents,” Mr Hill said.
“This series capitalises on the creative talent that already exists in the Pilbara, we hope it attracts more people to want to live and build a life here in the region.”
There has also been a noticeable increase in businesses at Port Hedland’s popular West End markets with a total of 78 stall holders participating in 2016.
FORM Executive Director Lynda Dorrington said the micro-businesses which had been initiated and grown over the last two years represented strong development in the town’s creative industries and a significant addition to the local small business community and economy in Port Hedland.
“It is through continuous support at all levels of development and the combining of craft and creative skills with business entrepreneurship that micro-businesses get off the ground,” Ms Dorrington said.
“In 2017 through initiatives like the creative business development series and the West End Markets, FORM will continue to develop the skills, marketplace and audience that will provide a foundation for new practices to emerge, conscious that they are integral to Port Hedland community life.”
“While many of those that go through FORM’s programs eventually transition to other communities around the country, talent moving on also builds the reputation of the Pilbara as a place for discovering your talent so its beneficial in a number of ways.”
The creative business development series also led to the creation of the West End Collective, an online directory that establishes an online presence for creative small businesses in the Pilbara.
The partnership is made possible by the State Government’s Royalties for Regions Pilbara Cities initiative, delivered by the Pilbara Development Commission. The two-year partnership with FORM also supports the Port Hedland Courthouse Gallery, West End Markets, Spinifex Hill artist programs and the Port Hedland Visitor Centre.