We chat with two of the current board members from the Association for Creative Industries in the UK (AFCI.UK) to find out how it can assist your craft business

What does the association do?
AFCI.UK is an influential network of suppliers, manufacturers, publishers, wholesalers, service providers, retailers, professional crafters and designers, which exists to unify, develop and inspire the UK creative, craft and hobby industry. The main purpose of the association is to provide a better way for its members to network, connect and engage and grow their business within the craft sector. To find out more about becoming a member contact Craig De Souza at craig@afci.uk or visit www.afci.uk.

Sarah Hurley, Director, Sarah Hurley Ltd
Multi-award winning Entrepreneur, Sarah Hurley, established the Sarah Hurley creative lifestyle brand and company in 2010. The company is now made up of her own product range comprising of beautiful and useful gifts, creative kits, stationery, children’s products, clothing, homeware and keepsakes, a creative lifestyle blog – Sarah Hurley Media and Sarah Hurley USA. Sarah now leads a global team and is a published author, TV personality and Brand Ambassador for Create & Craft TV, Business Advocate and in demand Global speaker, as well as serving on the board of AFCI UK as the Head of Events, and currently in her second term.

Graeme Wright, MD of EQS Ltd
Graeme Wright spent many years with Coats both in the UK and overseas, primarily in sales and marketing roles and 21 years ago set up the business that we now know as EQS (European Quilting Supplies). During that time, he has developed the company into one of the leading distributors of quilting products in Europe. Most recently the company has taken on the distribution of the Liberty range of quilting fabrics, and indeed has brought their experience to the design process to ensure that the Liberty look works well in the quilting side of the craft market.

Explain in a couple of sentences, what the AFCI.UK is and what it brings to the creative, craft and hobby markets?
Sarah: It’s a one-stop destination for creative businesses of all kinds where you can receive specialist help, advice and support and draws on years of industry knowledge and expertise from people within the creative sector.
Graeme: By its very nature, the world of creative industries is a diverse collection of businesses, all focused on being very creative. AFCI.UK acts as an umbrella organization and represents the interests of all its members to get the best for each one. Using the Association’s wide array of contacts and deep knowledge of the market, it offers its members the chance to look beyond today’s challenges and learn from what has been proved to work for other people. It’s also a forum to exchange and explore ideas with like-minded business people.

Why did you join the AFCI.UK and become a board member?
Sarah: When I first started my business I had no prior knowledge of the craft industry and I joined to get help and advice and I have to say, it was undersold as I received so much support and made so many connections, it was the best thing that I invested in! After seeing it in action, I wanted to give something back and help others who were in the same position as me or were having similar struggles along the way. Everything I’ve done to this point is working to those targets!
Graeme: In essence, I believe that people belong to such a body for one of two principal reasons or both: they have an innate belief in the power of a larger organisation, which can better represent their interests and get things done, and secondly, to secure benefits such as discounted insurance, free entry to shows that will advance their business. I was delighted to accept the invitation to join the board as I thought that I had something to offer, not least from the world of textile crafts that at that time was under-represented.

Why should businesses join, and what benefits are there for businesses to work together within the creative industries?
Sarah: The Association is like an insurance policy – anytime you need help, a second opinion, a connection – it’s there! Even as a board member, I take advantage of my member benefits all the time. The events are fantastic for networking and making connections and whatever you need, there’s usually something happening that will help. There are so many opportunities to work together and the events have already sparked so many collaborations, partnerships and friendships, it’s really inspiring to see! All too often people get stuck in a bubble or think they have to compete when in fact, there are tons of opportunities to work together to succeed in this business!
Graeme: The Association’s mantra is Learn, Connect and Discover. By that we mean – Learn what might help you run your business better; Connect with people in the industry who face many of the same problems and opportunities that you do; Discover new ideas that may drive you on to new success.
The organisation also gives you direct access to many people who you may not otherwise know about, from designers to retailers to manufacturers and shopping channels.