Subscribe to our Newsletter for all our latest info

Outset Bristil Success Stories How to find Outset Bristol

Simon Tonkin – Homedraw

With redundancy looming after 21 years working for John Lewis, Simon Tonkin decided to view his redundancy as an opportunity and went to local business start-up organisation Outset Bristol for support to start his own business. “I determined that if I was going to carry on working – and finances alone dictated that – then [...]

With redundancy looming after 21 years working for John Lewis, Simon Tonkin decided to view his redundancy as an opportunity and went to local business start-up organisation Outset Bristol for support to start his own business.

“I determined that if I was going to carry on working – and finances alone dictated that – then I would try to earn money doing something I enjoyed,” says Simon. “I’d always been creating artwork and managed to sell a few pieces from time to time. During one particularly successful period I’d considered the possibility of becoming self-employed but felt that with a young family and a mortgage the gamble was too great. Now that my children were grown up and had left home, and with redundancy money to help ease myself into it, this was my chance.

“Having previously drawn my brother’s house as a birthday gift I also happened upon an advert in ‘Country Life’ for an artist who took commissions for house portraits. When I investigated further I felt I would be able to achieve more pleasing results and at a more competitive price.”

Simon was referred to Outset Bristol by his local Jobcentre Plus, and went on to receive more than 40 hours of advice and support to help him start his business. “I was lucky to be pointed toward Outset Bristol within the first couple of weeks. They only confirmed what I suppose I already knew… that I didn’t know enough about starting up my business. Through their good offices I began to consider ways of providing myself with other revenue streams. I began proper researching of the market and my competitors, and began to develop ideas on how I might progress my business, taking it into areas and to other customers I had not previously considered.”

Simon progressed through Outset Bristol’s Introduction to Enterprise and Business Start-up programme, taking on vital advice and guidance about how to run his business. “It could have been done in a matter of fact manner, liberal use of printed material for example – but everyone at Outset has been so friendly and encouraging and I knew very early on that their advice was up to date and accurate. I didn’t think I was short of confidence when I started but without the help of Outset that initial enthusiasm would have soon faded in the face of my ignorance of the world of business. Ultimately it’s still going to take my drive and determination to get my business growing, but it now has such a foundation that I’m only looking forward.”

Simon’s business Homedraw specialises in house portraits where clients commission him to undertake detailed pencil drawings of their homes, past or present. “House portraits will always form the backbone of my illustration business. However, with my passion for drawing matched by that for literature, so it seemed appropriate for me to combine the two and begin drawing writers’ houses. Inevitably, my first such drawings were all connected with my favourite poet, Dylan Thomas. Now I’m increasing my portfolio to include the residences of other writers (Hardy, TE Lawrence and Chatterton for example) and setting myself the task of seeing where I can find markets for them. I already have the prints of Dylan Thomas on sale in his Boat House in Laugharne and 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, where he was born.

“I looked upon my redundancy as an opportunity and had my business idea in mind but no real idea how to start. The free advice and training I’ve been given by Outset Bristol has been absolutely priceless and shaped my approach to starting my business completely. It’s also comforting to know that even when I’m trading I can still go to the specialists at Outset and get advice to keep me pushing on.”

If there's too much happening in your life to know whether enterprise is right for you, why not come along to one of our informal workshops

If you've got a seed of an idea, but not sure if it will work, or whether you can do it, our introduction to enterprise sessions are for you

If you've got a business idea, are keen to get going, and just want to learn how to do it properly, you need our start-up programme

If you've already started up your business but could do with some help, call for some 1:1 advice or choose one of our business growth workshops