Forge: Firing up creative enterprise

A business support programme designed for freelancers, artists, makers, designers, producers, creative micro-enterprises and SMEs in the Blackhorse Lane Creative Enterprise Zone in the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

Forge is providing 12 hours of free support through tailored workshops, 1:1 advice and coaching, and events enabling networking, peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and making new contacts. There are four editions of the programme, taking place in 2019/20.

Applications for the programme are now closed.

To be eligible for the programme you must:

  • be based in or around the Blackhorse Lane Creative Enterprise Zone, or be considering moving your business there
  • have been trading for at least 12 months
  • operate in a creative or cultural sector, such as design, craft, digital, performing arts, music, fashion, publishing, film and video etc.

To Apply

Applications are now closed for the programme.

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Contents and dates

The next edition of Forge will include the following content and structure


Below are the dates and subjects for the fourth (of four) of the Forge editions.

Due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19 workshops will take place online from 1.30 to 4.30pm unless otherwise mentioned.

Everyone attending the Forge programme will be invited to attend a series of six half-day workshops that will enable to you develop the essential skills and strategies for your creative business, its market and products.

13 May 2020
Defining Ambitions & Customer Discovery

This workshop will set the stage for the programme. We will use the Venture Design Canvas to describe and assess your current Business Model.

We will then take you through a series of exercises to help you define where you want to go and identify the constraints and gaps you need to address in order to get you there.

During the second half of the workshop, we will use exercises to introduce you to the newest approaches to segmenting your customers, as well as some Customer Discovery tools to gain greater insight into their needs. You will be ready to interview customers in the field to confirm and/or refine your assumptions about their needs.

What you’ll learn: 

  • Understanding of Business Model Design using the Venture Design Canvas
  • Self-Assessment
  • Growth and Scaling Objectives
  • Gap and constraint definitions
  • Customer Segmentation Hypothesis
  • Customer Discovery Plan

28 May 2020
Value Proposition Design and Brand Positioning

This workshop will focus on designing a set of value propositions which address the needs you’ve identified during your Customer Discovery work.

You will design a compelling and differentiated value proposition targeted at a concrete customer segment and backed up by a solid brand position.

You will develop a low-risk, low-cost plan to validate your value proposition and iterate it in response to customers feedback.

What you’ll learn: 

  • Understanding the key components and tools of Value Proposition Design with a focus on differentiation and brand positioning
  • Prototype Value Proposition
  • Plan to test and iterate the Value Propositioning

11 June 2020
Business Finance Literacy Part 1: Unit Economics

This workshop will introduce the key elements which define the profitability and scalability of your products and services.
You will explore how your revenue model and pricing can be used as creative tools to differentiate your value proposition.

What you’ll learn:

  • Understanding the key levers of profitability and scalability including:
  • Pricing
  • Revenue Model
  • Fixed vs. Variable Cost
  • Gross Margin
  • Break-even analysis
  • Understanding how your product mix affects your profitability.
  • Understanding the creative use of revenue models to differentiate yourself

25 June 2020
Marketing Channels and Sales Strategy

We will introduce service design tools to design your customers’ adoption journey and use these to formulate a sales and marketing plan, including appropriate channels and partners for each stage.

What you’ll learn:

  • A validated marketing and sales plan covering customer adoption journey, marketing channels and customer acquisitions costs.

09 July 2020
Implementation Capabilities

The focus will be on designing and assembling the key resources to deliver on the strategy that you have designed in the previous workshop, including your team, appropriate company culture, partners and other resources.

We will also help you put together an operational plan and timeline to deliver the strategy.

What you’ll learn:

  • Understanding of Organisational Design
  • Building Capabilities
  • Company Culture
  • Negotiating Partnerships
  • Using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to manage execution

23 July 2020
Business Finance 2: Metrics and Growth Planning

This workshop will focus on building financial projections which reflect the decisions and assumptions you’ve made in the previous workshops. We will use a modular approach which will allow you to see the financial impact of your decisions and iterate them as you implement your plan.

You will also be able to identify your funding needs and identify potential funding/investment sources. We will also cover how to pitch to these investors for funding. We will also cover how to build a dashboard with the key metrics to monitor your progress to the next stage.

What you’ll learn:

  • Practice building modular financial projections
  • A dashboard of key metrics
  • Identifying funding needs and potential sources
  • Pitching to investors

1:1 advice or coaching

The Forge programme will give you the opportunity to bolster the support received through the workshops with 1:1 advice or coaching from creative and cultural sector experts and experienced business coaches.

Local programme partner, Ayama Coaching is on hand to provide an holistic approach which will help you make changes and would be focussed on your goals. We will match you with the person best suited to your needs.

Nat Harrison (Ayama Coaching)
An International Coaching Federation (ICF) Accredited Coach who has worked with professionals ranging from company directors and marketing executives to NHS workers and charity professionals. Her client’s coaching goals often cover work-life balance and improving confidence.

James West
James is an expert at bridging the gap between creativity and business growth and understands first-hand the challenges facing today’s entrepreneurs. A specialist in theatre, events and experiential marketing, James is also well-versed in coaching a variety of early stage and growing businesses.

Olga Astaniotis

Olga mentors and advises in the start-up and small business sector, with experience across many industries including furniture, fashion, craft, interiors, retail and social enterprises.

Networking events

Hive Collective are organising 3 Networking events across the programme, each taking place online from 6.30 to 9pm.
They will be an opportunity for businesses being supported on the programme to meet for coaching demos, panel discussions and sharing experiences through ‘Open Mics’.

Themes of the events include:
• Developing management skills
• Building networks
• Marketing and digital
• Recruiting and retaining staff
• Funding bids and finance

The next Networking events will take place on the following dates:
Thursday 21 May 2020
Thursday 18 June 2020
Thursday 16 July 2020

If you are interested in attending, you must complete an application first.

Themes and speakers will be updated soon. Stay tuned on social media #ForgeCreative

Making Connections (Open to all Forge applicants)

Hive Collective are organising a series of Making Connections events across the programme. For this edition, these events will be taking place online due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19.

These events will be an opportunity for businesses both being supported on the programme, and those who have applied but have not been selected for a cohort, to meet for coaching demos, panel discussions and sharing experiences through ‘Open Mics’.

The next Making Connections events will take place on the following dates:

Thursday 07 May 2020 – Innovation theme & exercise
Thursday 04 Jun 2020 – Innovation theme & exercise
Thursday 02 Jul 2020 – Innovation theme & exercise

If you are interested in attending, you must complete an application first.

Meet our Forge community

Meet our community of Forgers and find out more about their businesses here.

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Funders and partners

  • London Borough of Waltham Forest
  • Mayor of London
  • Slingshot: Simple Venture Design
  • Hive Collective