Wednesday, September 9, 2015

News: An illustration of what can be achieved

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Lewis Houghton, a young, enterprising illustrator from Rotherham has secured a book deal in America after setting up in business with the backing of local organisations and national charities.

From a young age, Lewis used drawing as an escape route from his depression and difficulties at home. Lewis was home-schooled and entered the world of work at 16 without any formal qualifications or basic grades in Maths and English.

Faced with unemployment, Lewis took on some temporary job opportunities including labouring and cleaning but struggled to secure permanent work. Possessing little confidence or self-esteem, he rarely showed people his illustrations for fear of how they would respond. However, after he confided in a friend that he would love to start his own business, she convinced him to develop the idea.

Within weeks Lewis had joined The Prince's Trust four day Enterprise programme, which supports unemployed 18-30 year olds interested in self-employment. He set about developing some customised drawings and an illustration service for publishers.

Lewis has also accessed a range of small grants through Rotherham Youth Enterprise (RYE) which have supported him to look at the branding of his business, making the best use of social media through LinkedIn, use of photography to market his products, and to exhibit his artwork at the Rotherham Show. RYE secured part-funding through the European Regional Development Fund, to provide self-employment support, advice and premises for young adults (up to the age of 30) in the area.

After completing his business plan, Lewis was awarded a £650 grant from The Printing Charity who, in partnership with The Prince's Trust, helps disadvantaged young people in the North of England set up their own print-related businesses.

Lewis was able to invest in essential specialist illustration tools to help make his dreams a reality. He based his paper doll illustrations on children's books to make the business more relevant and began posting his work on social media sites. Lewis's talent soon caught the attention of an award-winning children's author in America who has now commissioned Lewis to illustrate his next 12 books.

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Lewis, 25, said: "I always wanted to start my own business but didn't think I was smart enough so when I found The Prince's Trust I thought, it's now or never. I'm creative rather than business-minded so it was great to have support in being more business savvy. If it wasn't for the grant from The Printing Charity, I wouldn't be working for a world-famous author so I'm hugely grateful for all the support I've received."

Lucy Hornsby, head of philanthropy at The Prince's Trust, added: "Setting up in business can be an escape route out of unemployment – and a positive step towards success. Lewis is an inspirational example of just how much can be achieved."

Mark Johnson, helps and futures manager at The Printing Charity, added: "Our successful partnership with The Prince's Trust Enterprise Programme is an important part of our work in the North of England. Since 2012 we have been providing grants to help unemployed young people in the region set up their own businesses in sectors such as printing, publishing, photography or graphic design."

Lewis is now part of group of young entrepreneurs acting as ambassadors, visiting schools and colleges in the borough with RYE to discuss self-employment and enterprise at careers fairs and other events.

Lewis, added: "I enjoyed talking to the creative college students about my experiences and the possibilities of self-employment. Sometimes I forget how far I've come from starting out on this whole journey. If I can do it anyone can, believe me."

Jackie Frost, manager at Rotherham Youth Enterprise, added: "Lewis has an obvious talent but just needed some business advice and that boost in confidence that is often required to get a business idea off the ground. I'm delighted that he has received commissions for his wonderful illustrations and look forward to seeing many more of them in print in the future."

LewBot Facebook page
Rotherham Youth Enterprise website

Images: Lewis Houghton / Facebook

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