Former RAF officer’s art school is flying high

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A former officer in the RAF who has a lifelong love of drawing has set up her own art school in Ayrshire.

Joanne Robinson, 41, an Oxford University graduate, gave up art while in school, but took it up again while she was still working in the RAF.

Twelve years on from her first class, Joanne, now a mother of four and living in Ayr, realised that while music, drama and sports clubs are available for children, there was a lack of chances to practice and learn art.

With support from Business Gateway, Joanne founded The Little Art School by the Sea at the end of last year, and has already taken on four employees to meet demand.

Joanne said: “Since the very beginning, Business Gateway has been very helpful. Our business adviser has been a constant source of practical help and advice. Through Business Gateway we have been in touch with the Chamber of Commerce and the Ayrshire Association of Business Women. My adviser Stacey also helped me locate premises, secure office space and source funding via South Ayrshire Council. Without doubt, Business Gateway has helped us in this early stage of our business development and the rapid development of our business, is partly due to its courses and one- to-one development advice.”

After spotting a gap in the market for a structured art course for children after school, at weekends and during the holidays, Joanne ran some informal classes and was overwhelmed by the interest.

In less than two months, she found the perfect location at the Green Heart Gallery in Ayr, and her classes were fully booked. This year, she is expanding the classes, and although she has taken on four members of staff, including two part-time art instructors, Joanne expects to further add to her team throughout the year.

Joanne added: “The response has been amazing so far. I believe that The Little Art School is not only a place where children can develop art skills, but also build their confidence. I also feel strongly about expanding our workforce and offering flexible working opportunities for people in the area. The response has been so positive that our larger, long term aim is to run the company from our Ayr office while establishing Little Art Schools, teaching our syllabus, throughout the UK.”

Stacey Neville, Business Adviser, Business Gateway said: “The Little Art School by the Sea is an example of a business that stems from a person’s own interest and passion, which then grows into a successful and growing company. We have given Joanne advice and support from the basic essentials of setting up a business, to how to plan and prepare for the future. She also attended our free workshops which allowed her to learn important skills and network with other like-minded people. We look forward to continuing working with Joanne as The Little Art School Company Ltd further expands in 2014.”

To find out more about how Business Gateway can help you set up and develop your own business as well as find out when and where workshops are taking place, visit www.bgateway.com or call 0845 609 6611

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