College experience helped me set up in business

Sandra Ferguson returned to college as a mature student, eager to change her career and embrace her creative side. The skills she learned helped her start her own soft furnishings business. With a successful business behind her, Sandra inspires others to change their lives, learn new skills and become entrepreneurs of the future. Here’s what she has to say.

I was bored stiff in a job that I did not like when I read an article called “New Year New Career” and I thought – why not? It was time for a career change and I was going to do something just for me – a present to myself!


Although I was apprehensive about returning to college as a mature student, what I lacked in confidence I made up for in enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. I’ve always been a creative person and so I was attracted to the fashion and the soft furnishings courses.

I loved the experience of learning new skills and I got involved in everything, absorbing information like a sponge. Everyone at the College was supportive, open and friendly and, as the course developed, I was really pushed out of my comfort zone and encouraged to develop my skills and take on more complicated work.

It doesn’t matter if you have no sewing experience as you learn all the basic skills and techniques, and you are encouraged to work at your own pace. The more I learned, the more confident I became. I also liked the social aspect of being in a class of like minded people, all sharing ideas and inspiration and passing on hints and tips to make things easier.

The facilities at the College are great with lots of space for pattern making, cutting out, sewing, over-locking and pressing. With expert tuition, we learned in a safe and supported environment.

My main aim was to become self employed, as I thought if I was going to work so hard I might as well do it for myself. Many of the design students become self employed because there are low startup costs – all I needed was a sewing machine and I could work from home. Using social media and word of mouth, it is easy to promote yourself. I also received good advice from Business Gateway.

I teamed up with another designer and we attended the big trade shows to promote our business to interior designers who were looking for people with our skills. This business experience led me back into education and I’m now teaching fashion and business courses! It’s a job I love and allows me to use my creative skills and inspire others to get involved.

It’s a great time to get into the world of design. The TV is full of programmes like Kirstie’s Vintage Home, 30sec Makeovers, Grand Designs and Location, Location, Location. There is a real trend for up-cycling and making the most of your home to make it more comfortable or sellable. Even if you are not after a new career, enrolling on a design course will give you lots of interesting ideas for home improvement.


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