Case Study: Nikki Cookson

Nikki Cookson is the owner of Woodcroft Crafts. She shares her story about how her business started, and how The Growing Club CIC has helped her gain confidence with her business through peer support and a strong network of women in business. Nikki is currently on the Bloom and Grow online training course, on a Pay It Forward grant, funded by Boost: Lancashire's Business Growth Hub. The course helps women to develop and grow sustainable businesses.

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Woodcroft Craft, Nikki Cookson, Bloom and Grow case study

Tell us a little bit about how you started with The Growing Club CIC

Initially, I was made redundant from my job and I decided to start a business. Jane Binnion came to visit and spent a morning with me to help me get set up and said that there was a course with The Growing Club that would really suit me. That was the Bloom and Grow course, which I’m currently doing, via the online teaching.

Previously, I was a primary school teacher at Bleasdale but unfortunately, the school was so small we had to close it. It was a choice really, at the time when I found that the school was closing, I also found out that my mum had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my dad needed a triple heart bypass, so it was not a good time. I had to decide whether I should look for another job and go on the teaching supply list or should I try and do something where I can be there for my parents.

So that’s how my business came on the scene. I was thinking: how could I be around to help my parents?

Tell us about your business?

My business is based in a little shop in a shed, within my parents’ four acres of garden in Scorton, Lancaster.

I make things out of wood. The garden is set in four acres and so we’ve got lots of trees and natural materials lying about that I can use for crafting. I use wood from the grounds, even a pile of slate that was from my brother’s roof of his house! I making things in slate too or any natural materials I can find really!

I’ve got a little craft shop too. To try and encourage people to visit the craft shop, I opened up the gardens too, for people to walk around and enjoy the space.

Lots of different things are coming out of my business as it develops – I have made a craft room so that I can have craft workshops for children. Pre-COVID, I was doing that and it was just starting to take off, but obviously COVID has just put everything on hold.

I also do children’s parties as well – we’ve got a little shed in the garden where I facilitate children’s treasure hunts. I’ve only managed to do one of those before everything started to shut down. But the idea is there!

I also created a labyrinth prayer walk, where visitors can walk and feel at peace which will be great to share when we can finally reopen.

Did you find any barriers to starting the course?

Not really. To be honest, the thing that made it appealing to me was that it was online rather than in person. Because I am so shy and because of my commitment to my mum – I care for her every afternoon – I wouldn’t have been able to commit to going to meetings regularly yet, so the fact that it was online and I could do little bite-sized chunks of work at a time to suit me, that was perfect. Had it been a different kind of set up, I wouldn’t have been able to fit my life around it.

The only thing that was initially an issue really, was the Zoom meetings. At first, I was quite nervous about that because I’m not technological at all – I had to work it all out and my daughter had to give me a lesson to set me up on Zoom! I was nervous about speaking to people at meetings, but actually, the monthly series of meetings really helped. I got used to them and I got to know the ladies who are all so lovely. I think that’s really helped with my confidence as well.

Our group of women are so supportive and we are able to support each other during overwhelming times and also to celebrate each other’s successes which is fantastic. I will miss that when we finish the course.

Woodcroft Crafts, Nikki Cookson, Bloom and Grow Case Study

You’ve mentioned confidence: what kind of activities did you take part in that helped with your confidence?

I think the monthly Zoom meetings. Initially when I heard that we’d have to do that, I really worried about it, but it’s actually been so great for me. To share ideas in a group; even just talking to other people made me more confident.

The units of the course were so helpful. I’ve come a background of teaching and haven’t had any experience in business previously. Each unit has helped me to either confirm that I’m going in the right direction or inform me of thing I need to do that I haven’t thought of. For example, the finances. The unit was in-depth and really helped me to understand how to record transactions effectively for my card reader. I’ve had lots of little moments of clarity.

It’s so great to be able to ask questions when I need to – Jane offered consultations so I messaged her and she was brilliant and just helped me figure out things and eased my mind.

What were your goals when you started the course?

We started the course with goal-setting and I made a big chart of my goals. The goal was my ‘why’ and this really stood out for me. I am a Christian and my business is a Christian business. My business tagline is ‘Handmade Gifts and Christian Crafts’. Many people said to me at the beginning of my business, not to include the word ‘Christian’ in there as it will put people off. But actually, that’s where I’m coming from, that’s what I stand for – that’s my why. There’s a mixture of things in the shop, so it’s not all Christian items.

The whole ethos of The Growing Club’s goal-setting was we should ‘go from where you’re at’ and that I’m acting from the heart. This gave me confidence to carry on doing what I believed in. I’m here because I want to be there for my mum and dad. The central goal was to make my business viable in the sense of making enough money, obviously so that I could be around to help my parents.

Obviously, Covid has shut everything down around my business, but ultimately I’m quite confident now that I’ve got the makings of a good business and that eventually, when we get back to whatever normal is, it will work. I think that that’s the key thing that I have gained from doing this: I don’t need to crumble and sit in a corner and cry. I can do this and will work eventually.

What did you find helpful from your course?

A big thing was the self-care and support and actually looking after yourself so that you can look after other people. We had to do a time diary on how we spend one day in a working week. We did a pie chart can to show where our time went. This was such an eye-opener that actually the time I spent making things out of wood was literally just an hour a day and that’s supposed to be my business!

But I was so busy doing everything else and caring for my mum and all the other things we have to juggle. Even though I thought that I was actually running a business, the time spent actually making wooden crafts was being squashed into tiny sections.

The self-care and positive thinking very much comes through with The Growing Club; that your feelings matter.

We’ve done a session on negative automatic thoughts which was really interesting. It was Sarah Ludford who did the session with us, which I found very helpful and it’s stuck in my mind about how these thoughts come and go but they’re not permanent and they will pass.

The Growing Club really get self-care and they understand where you’re coming from. It’s not just about business-business, it’s not just about finances or the basics of what you need to do – it’s more about how you need to feel and care for yourself whilst running a business, which is just as important if not more so because if you’re taking care of yourself, then you’ll be better placed to run your business more effectively.

The wellbeing sessions have been great to playback in my own time have been so great. These are things that there’s no way I would had access to had it not been online, so the online part of The Growing Club has been perfect for me.

Being on the funded course was fabulous. It made me so much more determined to succeed because someone else has paid. This is an extra incentive so I can help another woman to learn in the future.