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Entrepreneur goes hell for leather with handmade bag business

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A 23-YEAR-OLD 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 focused 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.

She said: “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.

She continued: “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.”

For more information visit https://www.elinangharad.cymru/ or https://www.instagram.com/elin_angharad/

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Elin Jones backs calls for business rates holiday extension for independent businesses

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CEREDIGION’S Member of the Senedd, Elin Jones, has backed calls by the British Independent Retail Association for the extension of the current rates holiday for non-essential businesses in 2021/22.

Many local independent businesses have been closed for the best part of a year, and many will be in a more precarious situation now than when the initial rates holiday was announced last year. Many businesses will be looking forward to the easing of restrictions over the next few months, but Elin Jones warned that many would benefit from the continued business rates holiday.

Elin Jones said:

“Every effort must be made to secure the future of independent businesses in Ceredigion. They are such an important feature of life in Ceredigion, both as employers, and as a draw for people to our towns and villages.

“Normal trading will eventually resume, and these businesses will be able to flourish again, but local businesses owners know that this cannot be rushed. Therefore we must continue to sustain our businesses until they are once again back on an even keel.

“It will take a while for footfall to resume, and extending the business rates holiday is one way to help in this time of need.”

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MP makes Budget case for support for self-employed and small businesses in Ceredigion

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BEN LAKE MP has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the government’s financial support package for businesses and self-employed workers in next week’s Budget as many struggle to stay afloat during continued lockdown restrictions. 

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is to set out the UK Government’s budget on Wednesday 3 March, almost a year since the last Budget on 11 March 2020. 

To help businesses and our local high streets over coming months, the Ceredigion MP has called on the Chancellor to extend the lowered rate of VAT at 5% for hospitality and tourism for a year to March 2022 and to extend the business rates relief package. 

Mr Lake also called on the Chancellor to retain the furlough scheme for the duration of pandemic restrictions, as recent figures show more than 178,000* in Wales are still receiving government help from the CJRS. He also urged the Chancellor to expand the existing eligibility criteria for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme in order to offer some help to the many individuals who have not received a penny in Government support thus far. 

Ben Lake MP said: “For many businesses and self-employed workers, the financial support government has offered over the last 12 months has been a lifeline. Now, as we are finally starting to see light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, we cannot remove this lifeline prematurely. Extending this help for a little longer, and expanding the criteria to help those that have been excluded thus far, would offer small businesses the support they require to ‘bounce back’ from the pandemic.” 

Many businesses who are still not open due to lockdown measures are also now expected to start repaying their Bounce Back Loans. This is despite their situation largely remaining unchanged since they took out the loan, or in some unfortunate instances, worsened as they have not yet been able to trade.  

UKHospitality has estimated that the hospitality sector lost around £72 billion in sales in 2020 and faces, frankly, a debt mountain, including £4.2 billion in state-backed loans.  

Mr Lake said:  “It is important that businesses that took out bounce back loans and CBILS are required to pay only when they are in a position to do so – once they have ‘bounced back’ from the pandemic. Affording such a level of flexibility, and thus preventing avoidable business failures, would protect jobs, the taxpayer’s investment in the recovery, and the integrity of our financial system.

“We remain in the early stages of a vaccine-led recovery, and it is likely that we will have some form of restrictions for many months to come. Having done so much to protect the economy and the workforce, we must not withdraw support prematurely, as to do so would risk throwing away the investment taxpayers have made in the last year, and potentially our economic recovery.” 

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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