Catrin with one of her pet portraits
As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we are focusing on a number of USW graduates who have turned their interests into a thriving business.
Catrin Membery has always had an interest in drawing, but it’s not a subject she studied after taking it for GCSE.
But, while doing a HND in Animal Studies at Bridgend College, run by the University of South Wales (USW), she rediscovered her love of creating portraits, while facing up to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, and was able to start a fledgling business producing pet protraits.
Now booming, Catrin’s skills have already caused a stir amongst customers, and word of mouth recommendations have meant she is booked up well past Christmas.
And, the 20-year-old from Bridgend, is aiming to make it a full-time career.
“I started my business in March 2021 alongside my final year university exams and assignments,” she said.
“I’ve always loved to draw, but only since the pandemic have I had more time to do it and rediscovered how much I actually loved and enjoyed it.
“I first started drawing animals realistically in March 2021- my first drawings were of my own three dogs - but after receiving so much positive feedback on these portraits from friends and family, and even some people asking if I could draw their dogs, I realised that there was an opportunity here to do what I love for a living.
“Since March I have completed more than 20 orders, whilst being fully booked a couple of months in advance - I am currently completing a number of portraits that are surprise Christmas gifts.”
Catrin explained why her creations are so special to many of her customers.
“I create custom, hand-drawn, pencil portraits of people’s pets, from dogs and cats, to horses and even tortoises,” she said.
“I work with either graphite or coloured pencils and hope to create artworks that are even more special and meaningful than any photograph. I aim to capture the pet’s personality, and can work with customers and use multiple photographs to achieve the best possible result.
“Each portrait is created with so much care and attention to detail, particularly when it is a memorial portrait.
“Many pet owners realise, when it is perhaps too late, that they don’t have the ‘perfect’ photograph of their pet - each portrait starts with a blank piece of paper, meaning I can create whatever the customer wants from it.”
Although she had the talent and drive to build her business from scratch, Catrin was glad to be able to get extra specialist help through the USW LAUNCH: Graduate Freelance & Business Start-up Accelerator, which is part of the USW Springboard +Plus programme.
LAUNCH offers start-up funding of up to £5,000, paid as a salary replacement, and expert business coaching and mentoring, to help those offered a place on the scheme the freedom to develop their ideas, test their products or services, and launch their freelance business, start-up, or social enterprise.
“I see my involvement in the LAUNCH project as a massive once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my little business,” she said. “When I applied, I wasn’t expecting to be chosen but knew it was an opportunity that I couldn’t just pass up on. I started with the programme in October, and will complete it in January next year.
“I’m so grateful that my business idea was selected as one of just eight out of more than 70 applicants as it’s such an amazing programme.
“I was drawn to the programme by the generous grant funding that would significantly help boost my business, and the personalised support coaching that would be offered to me.”
As part of the support, Catrin gets tailored one-one-support for her and her business, as well as group coaching sessions, allowing her to get to know other young people in the ‘same business-boat as myself’.
“My advisers have helped me so far with some business ideas and encouraged me to push my business forward, whilst also helping me with the more admin side of things such as record keeping and taxes,” she said.
“The funding provided by the programme will also help me boost my business further as I will be able to pay for more advertising, and materials and equipment that will improve the overall quality of my work.”