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The contemporary homeware company, Forest and Clay, whose furniture and pottery designs use natural and sustainable materials, have enjoyed a successful few months since launching their studio and workshop in Malpas in March.

Run by Dan Bethell and Anna Burnett, the company is a story of two creatives whose love of art and design has led them to pursue their passions as a business. And they’ve been helped along this journey thanks to support from the Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme (BGP), delivered by the University of Chester.

Dan Bethell in his Malpas-based studio.

A Fashion Photography graduate, Anna has always been drawn to the visual arts and expresses her creativity through photography, drawing and ceramics.

Following her grandmother's footsteps who was a successful potter; Anna is a self-taught potter who hand throws each pot on the pottery wheel Her designs feature clean, minimal and modern forms.

A Fine Art graduate, Dan has always had an underlying interest in design. A passion for Bauhaus modernist architecture and furniture fuels his artistic practice and led to a fascination with material qualities, collaborating their surfaces within photography, printmaking and sculpture.

Through their business, the pair offer a signature range of pottery, furniture and homeware, as well as bespoke design services for furniture and large fitted cabinetry.

While their design credentials were in no doubt, the pair felt they needed some support when setting up their business, which is when they approached The Business Growth Programme.

Not only did they receive specialist advice which they could tailor towards their business, they also received a £3,000 grant through the Programme, to help fund the purchase of new machinery to increase the quality, efficiency and range of products they’re able to produce.

Dan found the experience overwhelmingly positive, saying: “I first joined the BGP as I felt it would be a great insight to how businesses run and grow. It felt reassuring connecting to other start-up businesses locally who were asking the same questions and giving positive feedback of what we are doing.

“I found it especially useful speaking to those business owners who had more experience in advertising and how to engage with their audience. I learnt a lot in the basics of target market, unique selling points, customer profiles and so on. I now look at my audience and products in another light which really helps to engage with our target market.”

In addition to the four-week start-up bootcamp, Dan also attended a workshop on branding and design, followed by a one-to-one session with Hetal Pandit, the Director of brand and packaging design agency, DCP.

Dan added: “The support has given me confidence in what we do and the service we provide. At the time, I was producing furniture without an audience and all the web design, branding and marketing material had been accessed by family and friends but not by other business owners. I felt this gave me a good insight into how my audience sees our brand/business, where we can improve and what we need to show.

“We’re now offer bespoke fitted furniture, which includes 3D designing, manufacturing and installation of kitchens, wardrobes and large fitted cabinetry such as larder cupboards and audio-visual walls. We also offer a series of tableware, from small plates to large serving platters in a range of clays and glazes, and can provide bespoke tableware for wholesale orders to restaurants or interior designers who want something unique.”

Expert growth support

The Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Entrepreneurs, SMEs and pre-start businesses registered or trading in Cheshire and Warrington, meeting the eligibility criteria, can apply for support. Help is available from our team of Business Engagement Managers and access is also available to facilities at the University of Chester’s Thornton Science ParkRiverside Innovation Centre and the NoWFOOD Centre.

If you are a business seeking access to facilities and expert growth support, contact the University of Chester’s Business Growth Team by emailing: businessgrowth@chester.ac.uk.