Business ideas for 2020: Craft teaching

Whether you’re a perfect potter, a master mason, or wondrous at woodwork, passing on your skills could be a great new business opportunity in 2020.

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With hindsight, it’s easy to see where the craft boom came from. A generation of consumers got sick of the uniform standards and homogenised experience of the modern high street and sought something that felt more real, more handmade, more local, that exuded that tantalising quality – authenticity. 

At the same time, makers, whether they’d toiled in relative obscurity for years or just felt like they couldn’t take their 9-5 office jobs anymore and decided to pursue their hobby full-time, found that the rise of e-commerce opened a whole new international market for their products, making them more viable businesses than ever before. Driven by these forces, over the last few years, the UK has gone craft crazy, with handmade fairs popping up all over the country and the likes of Kirstie’s Handmade Britain on Channel 4 and The Great Pottery Throw Down on the BBC bringing craft to the small screen like never before. 

As a result, the popularity of craft workshops and craft teaching is increasing massively, fuelled by Gen Zers who want to reconnect with the physical, manual world, retailers looking to improve the shopping experience, and companies on the lookout for team building activities that encourage focus and mental wellbeing (part of the near-ubiquitous wellness trend). All this means that 2020 is a great time to start a craft teaching business.

Why craft teaching is a good business idea

It’s not only push factors that have been driving the growth of craft teaching, the declining popularity and vastly reduced emphasis on “old-fashioned” subjects like home economics and woodworking means that many young people now emerge from school with a thorough knowledge of oxbow lakes and the human digestive system, but a complete inability to do everyday things like mend a button, mount a shelf, or change a plug. 

The rise of craft workshops has therefore been powered by a combination of need and desire. There’s no doubt, though, that this is a rapidly growing area. Research from global ticketing and events technology platform Eventbrite suggests that 61% of Gen Z Brits have attended a craft-based class in the last year and that the number of classes, training sessions, and workshops on its platform increased by 350% from 2014 to 2018. The sheer variety of these is amazing, from traditional crafts like knitting and crochet to things like glass-blowing, underwear-making, collage, and Japanese Kintsugi.

Similarly, analysis of government figures by the Crafts Council indicates that 24% of people in England participated in a craft activity in 2017/18 and that this figure had steadily increased over the preceding few years. With the popularity of craft workshops having only grown since these figures were compiled, it’s clear that this is a huge opportunity for gifted crafters.

It’s also a trend that’s all over Instagram, which crafters love for its visual emphasis. #craftworkshops has been tagged in over 58,000 posts, #knittingclass has over 23,000 posts, while #crochetclass has over 12,000, and even the relatively niche #screenprintingclass has over 1,000. That’s not to mention the huge numbers racked up by #knitting (14.9m) and #crochet (24.2m), or the 695,000 for #craftastherapy.

Moreover, Eventbrite’s research revealed that a desire to try something new was a key motivating factor for 39% of those who had taken craft classes in the past year, indicating that there’s a big audience out there for new crafting experiences, alongside the strong demand for teaching of more traditional skills.

Is it Brexit-proof?

In short, yes, or as Brexitproof as any business can be. No matter what happens with Brexit, you’ll be teaching in the UK (and often in your local area) so shouldn’t be affected by things like import tariffs and any potential travel restrictions.

Of course, if you need to import materials from other EU countries, then this may be more complicated than under the current system. And, like many businesses, if Brexit has a significant negative impact on the UK economy and people’s disposable income, then demand for your services may reduce.

Craft teaching business opportunities

Craft Teaching The Makery

The Makery is a great example of how a craft workshop business can grow. In 2009, founder Kate Smith decided she was tired of working in marketing and founded the company with the simple goal of teaching as many people a new craft skill as possible. Fast forward 10 years and The Makery has taught over 100,000 people everything from upholstery to calligraphy all over the country, run craft workshops for the likes of Google and Anthropologie, and sells craft kits all over the world. Oh, and they’ve been running craft workshops in John Lewis’ Oxford Street store for the past six years.

This story gives a great insight into the current craft teaching market and the opportunities available for the right business. Of course, you’ll need to be a skilled crafter (or know skilled crafters) to start with – most craft workshops are run by experienced makers who teach alongside selling their products commercially to add another income stream and maximise their expertise. The good news is that this isn’t an area burdened by professional qualifications, as long as you know enough to teach your craft and confidently answer any questions your students might have, there’s nothing stopping you from running craft workshops from your home or studio (just make sure you have the right insurance in place).

Also, don’t just stick to targeting individuals, craft workshops are becoming an increasingly popular option for hen dos and other social gatherings, so make sure you have an offer catered to these groups. Also note the demographics of your local area and plan accordingly, knitting and crochet often cut across demographics, while other crafts may be more suited to specific social groups.

Depending on the craft, you may also be able to offer your workshops as therapeutic exercises. Part of the reason crafting has become so popular in the last few years is the desire for a digital detox, a chance to get away from tech devices and focus on a calming, physical activity for a few hours. Many craft teaching businesses are now using this as part of their marketing strategy, with The London Loom describing its workshops as “satisfying, healing, fun”. 

This angle has also driven the growing business demand for craft workshops. They’re an ideal way to promote team spirit, get away from the pressures of the work day, and promote mental well being, so make sure you have an offering that suits their needs and get in touch with businesses in your local area. Connect with local retailers too, especially craft or knitting shops. Hosting workshops could be a great way to showcase their wares and attract new customers.

If you’re wondering what crafts are going to be in demand next year, then you’re in luck, the Eventbrite research discussed above questioned respondents about their future craft workshop plans and came up with the following up-and-coming areas:

  • Basic DIY
  • Upcycling furniture
  • Photography
  • Candle making
  • Jewellery making

Additionally, Smith picks out crafts with a sustainability focus (like making beeswax wrap, an eco-friendly alternative to clingfilm) as an area whose popularity will only increase in 2020.

Is it sustainable?

To ensure that your craft teaching business is sustainable, keep a close eye on your supply chain. If you teach knitting a workshop for example, ensure that the wool used is from responsibly managed farms that responsibly care for their animals.

Also, consider how much plastic you’re using and whether this could be reduced through alternatives. As sustainability becomes more important in the minds of consumers, think about whether you could teach a craft that uses materials that might otherwise go to waste or helps to reduce use of a non-sustainable material. Beeswax wrap is a great example of this.

Insider opinion

Asked about the growth of craft workshops as a business, Smith picks out three trends that have driven this area so far, and which she expects to continue in 2020:

  • “Wider acknowledgement of the benefits that craft has on mental wellbeing”
  • “Sustainability – more people wanting to make and repair rather than buy new”
  • “People wanting to invest in experiences rather than material goods”

She also expects The Makery to continue growing in 2020: “I can see us working much more with brands and businesses in the future. And with retail, as large retailers fight to get customers to make the journey into their stores. There’s so much more emphasis on Experiential now, and it’s growing all the time.”

And finally, she has three pieces of sage advice for anyone starting a craft teaching business:

  • Have a very clear vision of who you want to be as a business, what your target audience looks like, and how you will reach them
  • Be prepared to adapt and evolve
  • Don’t be scared to scale up and grow your team 
Written by:
Alec is Startups’ resident expert on politics and finance. He’s provided live updates on the budget, written guides on investing and property development, and demystified topics like corporation tax, accounting software, and invoice discounting. Before joining, he worked in the media for over a decade, conducting media analysis at Kantar Media and YouGov, and writing a wide variety of freelance pieces.
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