Posted: Thu 30th Mar 2023
StartUp UK is Enterprise Nation's scheme to provide free tailored support to budding entrepreneurs.
Backed by the UK government and Monzo Business, the programme delivers initiatives such as e-learning, online training, national events and flagship annual conferences throughout the UK.
As the scheme continues to run, we're talking to some of the business owners who have been taking part, to hear how it's benefited them so far.
Here, we talk to Craig Sheldon Thomas, whose business Soul Medicines of the Earth sources and sells crafts and handmade artisan products from across the world.
How did you come up with your business idea?
The business came out of my travels from a young age. I grew up with a travel journalist mother whose job was to take me with her around the world and then write reports on these journeys. We've visited six continents and stayed with people of all cultures, colours, creeds, faiths and backgrounds.
During that time, I got to see many of the wonderful and ancient arts and crafts the world had to offer and I became fascinated with these beautiful and century-old treasures.
I began collecting them and saving up to buy small quantities to offer to my friends and family and the local community back home. From here, Soul Medicines of the Earth was born. A true labour of love and it's deep within my bones!
What makes your business unique?
We're doing things differently. We're a business that not only finds and offers the best-quality crafts from around the world, directly from their source, but we acquire them with our very own hands during our very own travels.
But we're empowering families who have practised their crafts for generations to continue and not to give up on a way of life they've maintained for a long time, often for centuries.
We're also championing young LGBTQ+ businesses and want to become a key figure in the UK business scene that empowers and inspires young LGBTQ+ people.
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You've taken part in Enterprise Nation's StartUp UK programme. What were your reasons for doing it?
There were a number of reasons. I wanted to become more confident in my ability to grow my business and to network.
Also, I was looking to access a wider community of like-minded individuals who can exchange ideas and support each other, and gain exposure to opportunities that would otherwise not be available to me.
In addition, I wanted to lead the way as a young LGBTQ+ community member and inspire other young LGBTQ+ members to start businesses.
How has the StartUp UK programme benefited you and your business so far?
The programme has been beyond inspirational. I live in London but I drove an eight-hour round trip to attend the StartUp Saturday event in York, just to be there! And I would have driven further if need be.
I got to meet some amazing entrepreneurs who are starting out in their own businesses. I also met more experienced business owners who are happy to offer advice and counsel to people like me.
And I gained a lot of insight into how to progress my business forward, and I now have actionable steps to make my dream even more of a reality.
What's the best advice you've received from taking part in StartUp UK?
If you put in the effort, show up, take risks, keep going even when it gets hard, and show willingness to find the right support and put yourself out there, then it's only a matter of time before your business and your ideas receive the traction and recognition they deserve.
Also, there are so many people out there waiting to seek inspiration from business owners like me, so they can start their own journeys – in the same way I've been inspired by StartUp UK to grow and develop mine.
Do you have any business advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Anyone can start a business and make money. But not everyone can start a movement that will touch hearts. By touching hearts, you guarantee positive change in people, the community and, ultimately, the world. And we all know that the world needs more people touching hearts than just chasing money.
Finally, what are your plans for the future?
I hope to continue to travel and connect with different cultures and their ancient crafts. I want to make documentaries and video-catalogue crafts that are dying out around the world, so the families can continue to make their living doing these ancient crafts and the world does not lose these master artisans and craftsmen.
I'd also like to put on events for people to learn about these skills, and open doorways for those who wish to learn the crafts. I have big dreams for the next few decades and am looking for the support to bring them to life.
Access support to start your business
Visit the StartUp UK hub for resources that give you the education and inspiration to get started on your entrepreneurial journey.