A 23-year-old mid Wales woman is using her flair for design to establish a real leather bag and accessories business, which she makes by hand from her workshop in Machynlleth.
Elin Evans makes bags and belts from leather, taking commissions to design bespoke items for customers locally and across the UK under her business name Elin Angharad. She specialises in reusing second hand leather products – from jackets to shoes – which often hold sentimental value for her customers, that she works into her new designs
Elin stumbled into leather work by chance during work experience in her second year Artist Design & Maker degree at Cardiff Metropolitan University, where she had the opportunity to work for a short time with a local shoemaker in Machynlleth, Ruth Emily Davey. Here, she fell in love with working with leather and focussed the rest of her university coursework around leather products.
After graduating, Elin discovered a space in Machynlleth town centre where she set up her workshop space and has made over 70 commissioned products since the start of this year. Her designs include everything from small clutch bags and wallets, to oversized tote bags, ranging from £90 to £270.
“I was nervous to take the plunge and pursue my designs as a full-time business venture because I wasn’t sure if I had the clientele to make it viable, but in such a short amount of time the orders have rocketed. I rely on social media heavily to market my products and it’s a great way of chatting to potential clients about what they’d like me to create.
“Starting a business in a rural community brings with it many challenges, but it also brings many benefits, including having loyal customers and not having to compete with the ‘fast fashion’ culture. I have strong roots in the area, and I’m a member of YFC Wales, which gives me freedom to have fun out of the workshop, which can be an intense environment for a young business person.
“I would like to work further afield at some point, but Machynlleth is a great starting point for me – I feel comfortable to explore here. It was important for me to start my business journey in an area that I know and I love making myself and the business a part of the community”.
In only a few months of trading, Elin has been approached by a stockist, Siop Mirsi in Pwllheli, and aspires to work with more stockists, both locally and further afield, in the future.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the demand for my products which has kept me really busy during the last few months, but I’m hoping to find time soon to create stock to allow me to venture to produce fairs across Wales. I have set myself a goal to have a stall at next year’s National Eisteddfod in Llanrwst, so by then I hope to have plenty of products to sell.”
Elin developed her business with the help of Big Ideas Wales, the youth entrepreneurship service in Wales. Big Ideas Wales is part of Business Wales and is funded by Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund. The service is aimed at anyone between the age of 5 and 25 who wants to develop a business idea.
Earlier this year, Elin joined a cohort of 50 other budding young businesspeople at the Bootcamp to Business residential event in the Urdd Centre in Bala, a free three-day workshop hosted by Big Ideas Wales. Bootcamp gives young entrepreneurs the chance to learn and hone their business skills with advice and mentoring from successful Welsh businesspeople.
Speaking of the experience Elin said:
“I learned a lot at Bootcamp and it wasn’t until I was putting what I’d learnt into practice in my work that I realised just how valuable it had been. It’s a great starting point for young Welsh people with a business idea who need guidance and the assurance to get it off the ground.”
In the future Elin hopes to start using leather from more local sources. She said: “Being from an agricultural background, traceability is an important aspect of what I do. Although the traceability of leather is hard, if not impossible, to determine in some cases.
“I am aware of some tanneries in the UK that I would like to visit in future, once my business is more established. It has been a passion of mine to explore the process of turning a skin into a leather hide, and I hope to fulfil this in future.”
David Bannister, a Big Ideas Wales business advisor has been working closely with Elin offering advice to help her develop her business further. He said:
“It’s no surprise to me that Elin has seen such high demand for her products as she is a very talented designer. She’s thrown herself into the responsibility of owning a business and learnt a lot quickly. I’m confident her enthusiasm and talent will make her business a great success.”