It’s not a secret for anybody trying to make a living out of creative work: having a good idea is just half of the road- the even more difficult part is turning your idea into money. Second year BA Design student Emily Gardner (who goes by Nemii) had some work she wanted to sell, she knew other students and friends had marketable products of their own, but she didn’t know of any possible route or opportunity of marketing them through the university. So she took the matters into her own hands and The Design Marketplace was born, an organisation that Nemii started from scratch as a personal project and that she still runs mostly by herself.
It all began in May 2012, with an application to the Goldsmiths Annual Fund, which awarded the project £1000 worth of support funding. (I’m not surprised that Emily’s pitch was successful: she appears very focused and professional as she tells me about the enterprise and its workings in almost one breath. ) The principle behind the Design Marketplace, she explains, is similar to that of the popular tv show Dragons’Den: a panel of top staff from Goldsmiths Design (Kay Stable as the head of panel, later replaced by Juliet Sprake, Martin Conreen, Aidan Sheridan and Andrew Weatherhead) took on the mission of evaluating the ideas that students come up with. Have you designed an innovative handbag, for example? Well, if it sounds good, you’ll be given support to make, let’s say, 100 of them and sell them. The maximum amount of money you can receive is £200 per product, but you’ll also get dedicated time in the workshops of Goldsmiths Design, and manufacturing help. The funding is not a grant, but a loan: you’ll have to pay back (with a ten percent interest) once you’ve sold your work. Nemii admits that, when it comes to returning the loan, at the moment the organisation is relying on trust more than anything else, but she’s feeling confident as some of the beneficiaries of the program have already returned the money.
When the market events happen, you get a stall that you decorate and you also do your own branding: it’s all about encouraging creators to “take off” by themselves. The first Design Marketplace took place before Christmas right here at Goldsmiths College, had about 20-25 stalls and Nemii calls it a success. On top of this, The Design Marketplace also functions as an agency, matching jobs from the industry with the right person, and as an occasion for all kinds of creative events such as exhibitions, workshops, live drawing battles and so on, as well as music performances from up-and-coming artists. A proper website for the project is in the making.
All of this is quite a lot to manage even for one organisation, never mind for one person. The initiative is not really off the ground completely yet, and more people need to hear about it and get involved, as its founder admits. She remembers that when she first started everything, many of her classmates were excited and wanted to help, but they ended up dropping out because the BA Design course is difficult and demanding and their priority was, of course, their studies. Nemii herself is having trouble juggling all this work, not to mention there’s not much time left to make her own creative products, the ones that made her start the business in the first place. (So, yes, to those of you reading these lines: it’s definitely a good time to get involved and help this student enterprise grow.)
When it comes to the kind of work that The Design Marketplace sells, anything goes, as long as it is an original product, thought out and created by the person pitching it. The doors are open not only to Goldsmiths students, but to any kind of creator or artist who is at the beginning of their career. (Again, for those of you reading these lines: if you’ve got creative work sitting at home, here’s an opportunity to promote and market it.)
Here ended my conversation with Emily Gardner, quite quick as she had another meeting waiting and she seems to have an endless resource of energy. She was already preparing another Design Marketplace, at the Forest Hill Fashion Week.