Posted: Wed 8th Jun 2022
We met Sandymount based Barbara Burke at our in person drop-in event in Dublin last week. She is a papercut artist using the pattern of roads, rivers, and coastlines to create contemporary paperwork maps.
Barbara has been a member of Enterprise Nation for some time now, coming to us initially through the Lunch and Learn sessions.
“I make pieces of artwork as gifts for people to celebrate different occasions like wedding and special occasions. It’s a piece artwork that they can keep on the wall forever,” explains Barbara.
Finally in-person events
“What I loved about the drop-in session was, first and foremost, it was in person - it was great to have something in person again.”
“I'm a small business owner, we mainly work by ourselves, so we have to learn a bit about everything, from marketing, to website design, we are all rounders. It was great to be able to learn and ask questions in person.”
Being visable online
The pandemic was when Barbara’s business really took off, she had her best year yet, last year, and it’s likely due to all the hard work and learning she put in to stay visible online.
“I've been clicking into these half hour sessions, through lunch time, and learning everything from Instagram stories to photography. I've been doing this over the last year and a half to two years,” she says.
Barbara’s business idea for BBpapercuts came at a turning point in her career. During the recession she moved to the Middle East when her husband had to move for work.
Back home in Ireland she had worked as an interior designer but when she came across the art of papercutting she decided that a new vocation was at play.
“It’s quite big over there and immediately I knew that's what I wanted to do. So, I just said that's my focus now, I’ll learn how to do this and make a business out of it. And that's when I decided to give up the interior designer and go full time into learning how to do this,” she explains.
Launching a business
When she returned to Ireland, she did some courses to learn how to do the work digitally and to learn some new techniques. In 2018 she launched her business as a full-time venture with a website she created herself.
This move to launch herself online gave her the edge when the pandemic closed the country and moved business to the cyberspace.
“I was online maybe a year at that stage, so I was a head of other people, so it did help,” she says. “There was a lot of people wanting to buy Irish and support local businesses.”
When it comes to support and funding Barbara has gained support from the Design and Craft Council Ireland.
“They had this great course for starting out a craft and design business, so I joined that in 2018. To be honest I was in the dark, I didn’t have a clue, they sorted me out and gave me direction,” she says.
With this backing she was given opportunities to appear at trade shows. She also availed of programmes in exporting Irish products into new markets.
“That’s what I’m at at the moment. I currently sell items abroad via my website but I’m trying to maybe launch on a bigger scale and ship to the States and different places,” she explains.
The challenge of digital skills
While Barbara sounds like a real go-getter when it comes to growing her business she has found some aspects of the business a little more challenging.
“It’s pushing it on Instagram and my digital skills really. It’s the competence of everything from writing content to posting and pushing it on Facebook and Instagram. Making the product is easy for me, it’s just those other skills I need to learn how to do,” she says.
Luckily, she picked up a few handy tips during her time at the Dublin drop-in event.
“We had one person talking to about four of us for 15-20 minutes at a time, it was fantastic. It was nearly like getting a one-on-one session. You could ask questions and they were great,” she says.
“You learn a lot from the people sitting beside you too, although we are all in different businesses, we all have the same issues – pushing our businesses online,” she adds.
Go and Grow Online Ireland
Enterprise Nation is working with Microsoft, Klarna and Vodafone to support 20,000 small businesses across Ireland to improve their digital skills.