Introduction: Laser-cut Acrylic Jewellery (making+selling)
A group of students at our school decided to take part in an extracurricular activity, in which we were to effectively set up and run a business.
This activity is run in the UK by Young Enterprise, the UK's largest business and enterprise education charity.
Learning Objective: Observe the practices used in small, start-up businesses, through the active involvement, and day-to-day running of a small, start-up business.
We first set about coming up with a name, and after a significant amount of thought, named ourselves 'Alpha Innovations' and designed our logo (see above).
There were certain guidelines provided by Young Enterprise in which to adhere to, including the prohibition of processing online payments (stopping us from selling on ebay etc.).
Step 1: Idea Formulation
The process of selecting a product/service to base our business upon required a significant amount of thought. We originally decided upon the personalisation of 'twister' memory sitcks using 'cermark' (or the cheaper 'dry moly' method), however, initial market reasearch proved that this idea was not as lucrative as we expected.
Suggestions were made to produce an arduino-based electronic product, however, this too, was not exeptionally lucrative (mainly due to the amount of time involved).
That left us to consider our options, the product had to be relatively simple, and make use of equipment that we had acess to...
Our school's laser cutter proved to be one of the most useful pieces of equipment available to us, so why not make use of it's computer-controlled precision cutting power?
That is exactly what we did, deciding to produce a range of laser-cut acrylic jewelery, which could be made almost entirely by us.
Step 2: The Materials
After raising finance through the sale of 'shares' in 'Alpha Innovations', we set about purchasing our raw materials.
600x400mm frosted acrylic sheets (3mm thick) from Technology Supplies LTD (with the exception of an opaque black and a green fluorescent sheet).
8mm, 6mm, and 4mm jump rings from ebay (http://stores.ebay.co.uk/sarlgems)
Necklace chain, fish hook earring findings, some clip-on findings, and some grip-seal bags from ebay (same store)
100 keyring-rings from ebay
school's laser cutter
2 sets of craft pliers (per individual)
several individuals with some free time
Step 3: The Designs
Once the .DXF file has been opened in APS-Ethos, it is simply a matter of ensuring the design is the right size, assigning vectors to cut/engrave, loading the acrylic onto the laser cutter (setting origin/media), and cutting as many as is needed.
Step 4: The Products
Our products included:
'stud' earrings (hanging product)
Xmas tree ornaments
The assembly of our products was relatively easy (albeit time-consuming), mainly involving the linking of jump rings in specific combinations (depending on the product). For example, an earring would consist of a 'fish hook' a 4mm jump ring, and a 6mm jump ring, whereas a keyring would consist of an 8mm jump ring and a 25mm split ring
Step 5: Selling
Then came the hard part... effectively selling and marketing our products, without using online payments (ruling out ebay)
We constructed several stands from MDF, laser cut/strip heated a 2mm acrylic earring stand, and laser cut a fluorescent sign and an oval mirror to aid our marketing efforts.
Young enterprise had set up a 'trade fair' in our local city center, but alone this was not enough to shift the amount of products we had produced. Therefore, we attended 2 other craft fairs, placed some of our products in a relatives' shop, and set up a stall in school at lunchtimes.
(i will post updates on how well Alpha innovations does, and how much money is made at a later date)