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how she did it

Case Studies // The Story of a Female Blacksmi...

The Story of a Female Blacksmith & Her Business

Tell us about your business…

BexSimon Artist Blacksmith is my bespoke metalwork business in which we create original functional and no-functional artworks for public and private clients.  This is an example of recent project. I also have a start-up company, BexSimon Collections, which designs, produces and wholesales Cast Iron kitchen accessories.  The products are made from traditional sand casting but the designs are very artistic and contemporary.  The product range will be launched in February 2012  at Spring Fair (video intro). Our website is www.bexsimon.com – we are currently building a new website www.bexsimoncollections.com for the Collections business.Email:   [email protected] Tel:   020 8740 6250

What made you decide to start a business?

I am a typical artist – dyslexic and dyscalculic but very creative.  School was a nightmare for me – I struggled with everything apart from art.  I studied art and found my vocation in blacksmithing and went on to Hereford to complete a Blacksmithing Bachelors degree.  During this time I grew my vision of owning a huge workshop, employing scores of blacksmiths to build with me on my designs and commission I won.  I am still on that pathway but the route is very complex and winding as you will discover.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced so far?

There have been two major challenges.  The first was being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  It turns out I had been living with it for years, but I was only diagnosed when I was going through a particularly bad patch and knew there was something wrong with me that needed sorting.  It was then that I sort medical help and it was then that work became very tough.  I was on very strong antipsychotic medication which killed my artistic and creative side and made me into a bit of a zombie.  I could not wake up, needed to sleep constantly, and looked drugged.  This is my blog on the subject.

The second major challenge has been this recession.  My work is basically a luxury product.  Expensive hand forged gates and artwork commissions drop off the bottom of most people’s list when money gets tight.  This had a huge impact on enquiries coming in, the work was just not there.

How did you overcome these challenges?

I knew that I couldn’t get rid of my bipolar disorder – I realized it was something I would have to live with for the rest of my life.  So I had to turn it into a positive.  Like a lot of people with the condition, I felt that part of my creativity came from it and my business is dependent on my creativity. I, therefore, knew I had to come off the medication.  In addition I wanted to start a family and this would not be possible with the medication I was on.  They could change the medication which would be safer for the baby, but when I considered the amount of drugs I was putting in to my body every day, I simply knew I had to deal with it myself.  I am very fortunate as I have a very supportive husband and family.  I am now completely medication free, I have a beautiful daughter, and I am at times a little bit up and down! – but full of inspiring ideas.

To deal with the challenges of the recession I knew I had to start creating volume products that were accessible to the mainstream and I knew that this would also require branding and publicity.  The perfect opportunity arose when I saw an advert by TwoFour Productions recruiting potential contributors for a new BBC One primetime series with female entrepreneur Jo Malone.  The idea of the show, High Street Dreams, was to follow people with product ideas, getting them from ‘the kitchen table’ to the high street.  I applied and I was successful in being chosen as one of the two businesses in the ‘Homes’ edition.  This was the starting point of BexSimon Collections.  My Husband left his job to become my business partner and this allowed me to concentrate on being creative, the thing I do best, and it also allowed us start a family.

What advice would you give to other business owners?

Set yourself aims and go for it.  Get as much free business advice from places like Business Link, City Business Library (who do free lectures on almost every topic) and join groups and get active on LinkedIn.  Always keep positive, if one door closes another opens.  Keep focused on the job in hand and don’t get side tracked, but stay flexible and prepared to adjust your business plan when things are not working out.  No good flogging a dead horse!  Talk to lots of people and listen!

What’s your favourite quote?

“Without hope you are hopeless.”  Tim Simon, my Dad

Who inspires you?

I come across people who inspire me practically every day but the top three would have to be:My Dad, the most optimistic man I have ever met, Antonio Gaudi for his inspiring buildings and Rene Lalique for his beautiful Art Nouveau pieces.

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