Last week, I had a really enjoyable conversation with a friend of a friend who is considering setting up her own ‘making’ business. It’s still early days for her, but she wanted to hear about my experiences of setting up Finch & Fouracre. It’s a story I’m always happy to recount, so I thought I’d do it again here…
I studied Product Design at Glasgow School of Art. The favourite part of the course for me was being in the wood workshops, and making models. So towards the end of second year, I wrote to all the architectural model makers in Glasgow (of which there was 4, I think!), looking to get a summer job or internship, and was lucky enough to get some freelance work at Abacus Modelmakers. I loved it.
I continued freelancing at Abacus on and off throughout the rest of my studies and then after graduating, and it was there that I met Beth. We hit it off, and when I was asked by an architect friend to make a model for them at NORD Architecture, I asked Beth to work with me on it. We worked together really well, and under pressure to come up with a name to put on our invoice, we (not all that creatively) chose our surnames. Finch & Fouracre was born!
As the freelance work was a bit haphazard, Beth and I decided to come up with some other money-making schemes, and hit on the idea of the tenement model kit, inspired by model kits I’d had as a child. Our first batch of 20 kits went on sale at the Lighthouse (Scotland’s Centre for Architecture and Design in Glasgow) and pretty quickly sold out. We were in business!
In addition to my background of a degree in Product Design, I am the daughter of two architects, and some of Finch & Fouracre’s early commissioned work was for my mum, which really helped build our portfolio. We did some more work for NORD, our first clients, alongside designing more model kits, and finding more retailers across Scotland.
However, unfortunately for us, the formation of our business coincided with the 2007-8 financial crisis. Not a great time to start out. There was a lot of sitting round, drinking coffee, and not earning very much money at all. However, the flip side to the coin is that there was really no other work out there, so it seemed like our best option to keep on at F&F. I’m so glad we did! Our incomes supplemented with other part-time jobs, we slowly began to get more clients and commissions, build a portfolio, and took on our tiny workshop space in the Hidden Lane.
After 4 years of working together, Beth decided it was time to move on. This was a totally amicable decision, and she was very pleased that I wanted to carry the business on, but it was a hard process to go through. It took quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, and advice from friends and professionals, but we came to an agreement that saw me buy Beth out of the business. And off she went, back down to Bristol to be closer to her family; and as an impressive side-note, she decided to cycle all the way there on her 3-speed vintage bike!
While I was so glad to have set up the business with a friend alongside me, I was excited and ready to go it alone. Yes, it was pretty tricky in some ways, and I really missed Beth both personally and as an extra pair of hands in the workshop, but I really enjoyed taking full responsibility of the output, as well as liaising with clients and taking decisions myself of everything from quotes to branding.
From there, it was onwards and upwards! More clients, commissions, and model kits. After 6 years in the Hidden Lane, I moved to the Whisky Bond, where I am still, with a space 4 times the size! Both the Hidden Lane and TWB are brilliant places to be based as a sole entrepreneur - it means so much to have others around you.
The business was never a big masterplan, it just grew organically from one opportunity to the next. I’m pretty sure that if you’d asked me at art school, I wouldn’t have said I wanted my own business, but I think I’ve got an amazing job and can’t imagine doing anything else. And I do love working for myself.