Posted on Thursday 11th August, 2011
Ever keen to spot new ideas involving disabled people, I was intrigued to see that Julie Fernandez - of The Office and Eldorado fame - was opening a new craft shop and training centre near Huntingdon, Cambs.
Julie and her business partner, Sarah Payne, both describe themselves as "avid crafters". Their new venture, Bee Crafty, not only sells all of the materials needed for quilting, knitting, jewellery making to name but three, it's also a place where people can learn how to perfect their chosen craft. Of course, it's also fully accessible.
The idea is to make craft work much more of a social or group activity - following the trend in North America.
I first met Julie on a working trip to San Francisco in 2004: then, as now, Julie was irrepressible and impossible to ignore. Her new business displays that fizzing energy and a canny knack for spotting just the right opportunity.
"In the current economic climate, people are looking to their own talents and abilities for crafting to absorb their interests at an affordable but not compromising level," she says.
Bee Crafty had its formal launch last Saturday and I was delighted to have been invited.
Chief among the crowd of supporters and well-wishers was David Proud - the first EastEnders character (to my knowledge) in a wheelchair to be an actual wheelchair user. The rest (Jack Branning and Nick Cotton spring to mind) usually end up walking away from their chairs at some point.
David did the honours and cut the cake for Julie and Sarah and afterwards he told me about a host of new projects in which he is now involved.
Julie meanwhile was far too busy working the till to engage in small talk. It's an enterprise that deserves to do well.