Young Innovators Success Stories: Megan Jones, Curated Makers, North West
North-west based Megan Jones won the Young Innovators Award 2020/21 with her innovative ambition of curating local groups of micro-businesses and helping them access the UK’s biggest high-street chains.
She secured the award from Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust when her business Curated Makers was focused around a physical retail outlet, trying to stay in business during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past year, with the funding from Innovate UK and the wider support programme delivered by Innovate UK EDGE and Innovate UK KTN, she has experienced a rapid expansion – running successful pop-ups in established chains and opening two of her own shops.
She is ending the year with her talent being recognised through a nomination for Curated Makers at the Holly & Co Independent Awards.
On winning the Award, Megan immediately set the additional funding to good use, investing in raw materials to build fixtures and fittings. This enabled her to initially double, and then quadruple, her ability to run ‘pop-up’ concessions within high-street shops.
“The impact of this means we now have a full set of kit we are able to use time and time again to create revenue via each pop-up we host. This kit will last for years and will ensure much needed revenue is generated for our makers, and for Curated Makers, for many years to come,” she says.
This was combined with the additional support from her Innovation Champion, who provided invaluable connections and advice during the pandemic, and the wider network provided by the other young innovators who offer Megan inspiration and insight into a wealth of industries.
Alongside the success of her pop-ups, Megan embarked on a whole new direction for Curated Makers by opening two of her own stores. Located in Trinity Leeds and Meadowhall in Sheffield, they have given Megan the opportunity to see her own brand name above the shop door.
“It is something I could only have dreamt about, but is now a reality. I have found that through opening our own stores we have more control than operating as a concession. It comes with its own risks and responsibilities, but the reward is phenomenal,” she says.
Megan adds, “We went down this route as it’s very hard for retailers to secure their timelines in advance with us and to promise us space within their stores. Doing it our own way enabled me to plan further in advance, work to our own timeline, and to embark on some really exciting conversations and deals by liaising with landlords directly.”
Going forward, Megan believes a combination of her own stores and concessions is the way forward in order to have multiple routes to success as well as the ability to carry out continuous testing, learning and development of the business.
Since joining the programme, Megan has also onboarded an employee through the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme, which provides funding to create jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit.
With her support, Megan has been able to launch a new business model, Curated Makers Markets. Together they have now hosted markets across four John Lewis stores, supporting 100 makers in the process.
“Without the support of our Kickstarter, this concept would still be an idea on the vision board. Not only did we launch this, we have enabled financial opportunities for 100 other small businesses across the UK and have embarked on a new business model that can be improved and scaled in 2022 and beyond,” Megan says.
Alongside the growth of her retail outlets, Curated Makers has also established a strong Instagram profile allowing her to not only share her behind-the-scenes stories but gain inspiration and motivation from those engaging with her.
Megan is looking to the future with more innovative business models in the offing and is seeking additional funding to introduce a ‘franchise-for-local’ idea to launch locally-run Curated Makers communities around the country.
She says, “We believe that bringing people along for the journey is important and so want to empower others to develop what we have built and for them to spearhead the ‘shop small movement’ in their areas. This will allow them to foster their own local communities; generating local revenue and creating new opportunities all across the UK.”
Since joining the programme, Megan says her confidence has grown by leaps and bounds.
“I am now at peace with talking openly about my business, my journey, and I aspire to encourage others to embark on their own small business journey, which I believe comes through as I passionately speak to others about Curated Makers and what we have achieved.”
To other aspiring innovators, she says, “Make the most of every single opportunity, every introduction, every connection. Believe in yourself and enjoy the ride!”
We want to find young people from a diverse background in the UK with great ideas for starting a business who have real potential to make their businesses a huge success and we want to support them to realise this potential. We want to build a more inclusive innovation system by helping young people from diverse backgrounds to start and grow sustainable businesses.