Martin Evans, Glory Art Glass, Sandown
"I turned down a special commission once, said Martin Evans.
A prestigious international developer wanted several large vases for a new hotel. It was very flattering, a change of scale so dramatic it would have changed my life. It could have paid well and I felt the urge to do it.
But I would have needed more equipment and more assistance. I would have to change the business.
And it brought infinitely more risk. Glass is not a forgiving material, a great leveller, know yourself and know the material.
Like so many family businesses on the Island, we earn our own living. That's something to be proud of.
My family depends on me to put food on the table and pay the bills. But the real reward is the interest people show in the work and what we produce. "You made our holiday!" is a frequent and immensely satisfying quotation from our visitor book.
I'm an artist first and a businessman second. The business is not scalable – it depends on how much I can do in a day. International fame was a nice dream. But we are a micro business – that's our natural scale.
as published by IW County Press, Column by Dave Simon, continues below.
Profit Opens Doors To Growth
Commentary from Dave Simon
The Government wants businesses to grow. That employs more people, pays more tax and reduces the national debt by exporting more.
And the Island may be in a better position than ever before to grow businesses. Digital products, small light-weight manufactured products and niche services are all viable options here.
The entrepreneur's discipline is to go where the money is – seek out popular products and services and do them better than anyone else. Easy to say!
Most large businesses were once small. Rapid growth may get applause, but slow growth is safer.
All growth takes skills and funds. Occasionally, opportunity arrives before you are ready.
While some Government and local support exists for start-ups, most growth spurts for small businesses have to be self-funded. Micro and small businesses must save their profits to use later.
I believe every Business Owner can make more profit. They just need to find out how.
Business is an ancient art. There are now huge numbers of ideas that can help increase profitability. They are accessible from classroom training, extensive reading or individual mentoring. Improvement here can open doors to scale-up.
Successful development is often more about adopting old ways that work than struggling to invent new ones.
the interview continues...
Glass has been made for more than 4000 years. It has always been precious, prized by Kings and Governors. Making glass objects is a highly-skilled craft. I feel honoured to be part of such a tradition.
Balance Is The Key To Sustainability
I'm an artist and I want every piece to be personal, different. I hope to express myself in form and colour. To make beautiful things, the secret is to be without prejudice, like a child; to enjoy playing with ideas techniques and material a veritable playground.
But, you have to balance the books, pay the gas bill, another leveller, this is the real world and another side to the discipline.
So I can't make what I can't sell and this is determined by location, customer base, etc. like any shop. If you make things you can't sell, the art is jeopardising the business, aspire and perspire by turns.
We are celebrating twenty years in our Sandown studio now.
I know what my customers enjoy. Our studio is as much theatre as it is a manufacturing centre. We offer a personal service, a sense of theatre, a learning opportunity, all through the alchemy of glass. Maintaining the balance is the key to sustainability.
Small Is Beautiful
For us, small is beautiful, the life of an artisan just like the village blacksmith, potter and baker.
Big business often forces the closure of local business due to advantages of scale. It's not better, and in the long run it is destructive of community and innovation.
The long-term loss of local business, the the loss of diverse skills, the loss of cultural richness are a poison, corrupting the sense of community. Short-term profit sells the future down the river. The bankers and corporations are the new Barons depressing true freedoms of talent and expression streamlining our existence and killing diversity.
Small businesses can care more – care is time, not always money . Multi-nationals can't afford to care – despite ordering staff to care more. They serve their investors. And at the moment with savings at the bank earning next to nothing, everybody wants more interest. At their customer's expense! And most mega-businesses are in price wars to attract those same customers! No-one wins.
Local is Life
Local businesses are part of village life. They keep money circulating locally and they add life. We need more of both those benefits. Be friendly, be different, be passionate!
If local people supported local businesses a little more, it could help everyone. Just spending £20 a week in your own town centre would help local businesses, give you more exercise and make you new friends. The cost, negligible - the rewards, incalculable.
Island Holidays To Remember
I am closely connected to the tourist industry. Most of my customers are visiting – they stop for ten minutes, enjoy watching our special art, buy something and move on. Tourists bring more than money. They give us recognition and praise. Their own experiences fertilise ours. And their thanks sustains us spiritually. They help us, little by little, to grow.
I want the Island to be better at giving tourists a holiday to remember. It's not just the beach, the hotel, the pubs that matter. It's the extras of their holiday that make it more than just a package tour. The sights, the experiences, the fun that they get away from the beach, bedroom and bar. The unusual, the unexpected, the unforgettable. That's what they tell their friends and that's what brings their friends on holiday. Make sure your visitors book says "you made our holiday".
We need to be better at guiding guests around all the extra sights and experiences the real Isle of Wight. We want them to be pleased and exhausted at the end of the day, whatever the weather. That way we get more footfall, more excitement, and more loyalty. Everyone wins.
Advertising to get more visitors costs so much. But a small outlay to link local attractions into a journey of discovery could return much more – for visitors and for us. Just imagine if every tourist spent £5 more here – that's £10,000,000 more into the Island economy every year. They are already here, so the ferry cost won't be an off-putting factor. This is good business sense as well as sustaining for us – it's nice to be nice.
Crafting Our Future
Youngsters are our Island. We have to invest in the next generation – who else would we trust with our future? So we either invest in youngsters or in no-one. Coaching and mentoring are so important – they are ways to guide, encourage and energise today's youth. And when you think of all the distractions available to them – we do not really have a choice, do we?
Glass-making takes years to learn. Like all crafts, every piece you make is different. And that teaches you that you never stop learning. You're as good as dead once you've stopped learning.
Mentoring is so important. I've had several mentors in my life. Sometimes you just need a clue or a quiet word from someone you respect. I have to put in the work, the practice, the soul searching and self-criticism. But I've gained the rewards of finding solutions and discovering new ways to express myself.
Being a family business makes you very aware of the succession issue. We have a daughter in America who is already a successful glassmaker and two sons here who make glass. We didn't set out to start a dynasty but it's good to know someone else will carry the torch!