Not a representative body!

Several different people have encouraged me to take The Guild of Craft Soap and Toiletry Makers to the ‘next level’ and become more proactive in promoting the interests of members.

On the face of it, it’s a great idea – the reasons that this Guild at least is going to carry on as is are outlined below but in no particular order.

The Guild is a peer support group; it is not a representative body and has never had pretensions to be one. Simply put, many hundreds of crafters who are trading legally are not Guild members and there is no requirement for them to join. It’s a take it or leave it deal. There will be many reasons for not joining including not having heard of us up to thinking the Guild is a waste of space and not worth supporting.

The Guilds aims are on our front page, they are limited and achievable for a reason – it makes a viable Guild that actually serves a purpose, that doesn’t rely on a budget, a possibility. Incidentally when I first formed the Guild I was told it was destined to fail, couldn’t possibly succeed. Yet here we are almost 8 years later…

There are major issues to be considered when it comes to a representative body, but it all revolves around finances. Without finances nothing much is going to get done. At the very least a representative body would need one full time and knowledgeable employee – call it £30,000 a year as an absolute minimum.

This would need to be supported by a recurring membership fee, and people would rightly expect to get some tangible benefits from membership. Having someone working to promote the interests of members would be the non-tangible benefit because it’s not predictable how successful those efforts would be.

The Guild currently has about 300 members. If we were to do a thought experiment and suggest that they’d all paid £120 membership fee the sum would be £36,000 – lets double that to 600 paying members and we end up with £72,000 – great! That sounds like a lot of money, actually its peanuts in the grand scheme of things.

You’d probably get your full time employee, and then all the overheads that go with having an employee (overtime, pension, travel etc) – and there’d of course be a committee to guide said employee. A good committee gets good things done, fill in the blanks for yourself…

Personally, and I’d be happy to be proved wrong on this, I don’t think the profession can support that – if the Guild charged a joining fee, something I’ve been set on not happening right from the start, I doubt that we’d have many members at all. Many craft businesses are by their nature, lifestyle businesses. They make enough money for the people running them to make a living, but the world of dividends, profit forecasts’ and AGM’s exists somewhere else. And that’s quite OK, after all that’s what running a craft business is all about, doing the job you love.

What I believe actually attracts most members to us is the sense of community and being involved with a group of peers…

Bottom line if anyone else wants to form a representative body and ‘go for it’ I’m absolutely not going to stand in the way – however for the avoidance of all doubt going forward that person is not going to be me as, however much I’d like to be proven wrong, I don’t think it’s a workable prospect…