Resource type: Case study

Broken Abacas

Broken Abacus
“Our experience with Superfast Business Cornwall has been invaluable, they have given us business advice as well as access to knowledge and further opportunities.”

An online start-up business is on course to create a new market for Cornish art with support, advice and guidance from Superfast Business Cornwall.

Broken Abacus, an online marketplace for the sale and promotion of contemporary Cornish art, is in the late stages of development and due to launch this year.

The Opportunity

The business was co-founded by Chris Colston and Lucy Collett who noticed time and again that artists were limiting their client base by only displaying their work in galleries.

Chris said:

“My background is in art and web development and so many times I went to look online for an artist I had noticed or liked, only to find that their website was out dated or wasn’t suitable for mobile use.

A proactive, strong, digital footprint is the cornerstone of any business and essential for artists. By displaying and selling work online artists can access a much broader client base than if the artist displays in physical spaces alone. I found that a strong website and promotion through social media was often not an integral part of many artists’ business models.”

Lucy added:

“Often, even if the artist had a website, it was limited in scope, without a commerce function, pricing or availability. We are conscious of the fact that maintaining a web presence is resource intensive in terms of time and costs. By introducing a collective digital marketing platform, we can hopefully help alleviate much of that faff and allow artists to concentrate on their studio practices.

We want to create a cohesive collective, where we tell the story of Cornish artists. We have many artists already on board and are still actively recruiting – there is a huge market for creative talent in Cornwall that needs to celebrated.”

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The Solution – Strategy and Website Specification Expertise

Lucy and Chris were directed to Superfast Business Cornwall by Outset Cornwall, which advises people on setting up their own business. They attended a Technology for Growth workshop with the Superfast Business Cornwall team where they met Dan Piper, who was later assigned as their Business Adviser and helped them to develop a digital action plan and reviewed their website plans.

They also attended Superfast Business Cornwall’s Tech for Growth conference last year and the Connect to the Future conference at Goonhilly Earth Station in October, which further opened their eyes to understanding, adopting and exploiting digital technology to start their business.

Chris said:

“Our experience with Superfast Business Cornwall has been invaluable, they have given us business advice as well as access to knowledge and further opportunities.

Dan and Superfast Business Cornwall have helped us with market research and understanding our competitors, as well as helping us to use that information to take our business forward.”

With the support of the project and due to a direct suggestion from Dan, Broken Abacus crowdfunded to raise money for the platform, which caught the attention of Arts Council England. The Council agreed to support the venture, providing 25 per cent of the funding if Lucy and Chris reached 75 per cent of the overall target, which they did.

Broken Abacus is due to go live using a dot com address to further its reach and appeal to the international market.

Lucy said:

“Dan has been so incredible in encouraging us with our ideas and he has given us the confidence to move forward with them. Superfast Business Cornwall has helped to cement and gel our idea as a business venture as well as signposting us to further opportunities.

Throughout the entire project, the organisation, and Dan in particular, has given us confidence, and helped us recognise that we are definitely on the right track with Broken Abacus.”

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Created for small to medium sized businesses based in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, this practical bank of information contains free to access in-depth guides, top tips, case studies, videos, blogs and more. The content is impartial and written in plain English.

The benefits of adopting digital technology


Funded by ERDF, Superfast Business Cornwall provides a fully funded programme of support to help businesses understand, adopt and exploit digital technology for growth. Delivered by a small team of experienced Digital Business Advisers, the service offers 1-2-1 impartial advice, website reviews, workshops for small groups and advice on connectivity to Superfast Broadband. Grant funding may also be available for new digital projects which help businesses grow and create jobs.

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