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The feathers Tracey uses in her designs have a particular combination of materials applied to them. This affords a strong level of protection against damage, or ‘un-zipping’, which makes them far more durable to wear but doesn’t affect the colour, look and beauty of the natural feather. The hand-made bases to the accessories are created from the best quality British silks, taffeta silk and linen silk.

Fine feathers

Tracey Telford designs are renowned for their exquisite handcrafting and beautiful quality. It is important for the brand that this level of attention to detail is consistent across the whole product range. In order to control the quality and quantity of her packaging, Tracey was looking at ways of bringing the manufacture of her product boxes in house. This represented a massive investment, which could have been a huge and potentially risky step for the business.
As part of the I2C programme, Tracey attended a demonstration of a laser cutting and engraving machine in Thornton Science Park’s research centre. Seeing the capability of the machine lead to her and co-director William Telford investing £10,000 in a Lightblade system of their own. Tracey’s confidence to make the purchase and go still further by building her own workshop was boosted by being given detailed advice by I2C engineers on fume extraction systems, ideal room temperature and much more to provide the optimum working environment.

Diversifying for additional income streams

Using the Lightblade system in her brand new workshop, Tracey now makes her own beautifully crafted walnut veneered boxes, which perfectly complement the quality of the accessories themselves. They command higher prices than the previous birch ply used so the machine will soon pay for itself. She has also used the laser machine to cut feathers and silk products – a complete innovation for this market. During potential downtime for the machine in creating fabric accessories, she has diversified her product lines to include a range of wooden Christmas decorations, opening up an additional income stream.

Multiple skills acquired, thanks to I2C

Through I2C, Tracey has also learned to design in Adobe Illustrator, and discovered how to use RD works software in order to produce more of her own products in-house. Attending an I2C course on 3D printing has revealed further potential for her designs, while an I2C presentation on product photography provided invaluable tips on how to showcase her existing work to perfection for her online market.
One particularly exciting development for Tracey is that her business has now expanded so far that she can employ a student for several hours per week. She is training them up on the laser engraving machine and wood side of the business. She has also taken on a part time PA, which frees her up from administrative tasks and enables her to concentrate more on business growth.

Birds of a feather

Tracey’s experience of networking with other SME through the I2C project has created further business opportunities. These include the formation of the ‘Cheshire Collective’ group for artists to support each other and also collaboration with other I2C beneficiaries on particular products for mutual benefit.

Tracey says, “The networking aspect of I2C has been absolutely priceless. I have also really valued I2C’s advice on business direction. This is particularly useful for me as our business is so diverse. I have been able to focus on each area of the business and now have a clear
direction on the way forward.
The legal expertise made available to me through an I2C course on trademarking and copyright means I am now trademarking my name and company logo. I’ve even taken part in a marketing course which showed me how to link all my online platforms into direct sales. Customers can now buy direct just by clicking on a product photograph. I am so grateful for all the opportunities that I2C has opened up.

The I2C initiative was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. SMEs registered or trading in Cheshire and Warrington, who met the eligibility criteria, were eligible to apply for support from the I2C project. Applicants had to have a turnover of less than €50 million and employ fewer than 250 employees. In addition to I2C’s in-house team of engineers and specialist equipment, SMEs that enrol in the project had access to the world-class facilities at the University of Chester, via its state-of-the-art skills, equipment and resources based at Thornton Science Park and the NoWFOOD Centre in Chester.

The I2C project has now finished but if you are a business looking for access to facilities and expert growth support, please contact the University of Chester’s Business Growth team either by visiting www1.chester.ac.uk/business-growth, emailing businessgrowth@chester.ac.uk or you can call 01244 512 477.