Proggy mats set for American adventure

Craft Yourself Silly managing director Hayley Smith.
Craft Yourself Silly managing director Hayley Smith.
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A crafty North Shields business is looking to conquer America by introducing traditional North East skills.

Craft Yourself Silly is attending a US craft fair to launch its new ‘Proggy’ range following European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) support.

Hooky and proggy rag mats – made from old sacks, clothing and recycled fabric to help keep people warm – were common in working-class homes in the North East until the mid-20th Century.

Craft Yourself Silly has created kits using the traditional “proggy” making technique in which scraps of material are pushed through holes in a hessian backing.

The firm received ERDF funding, administered by the Department for International Trade, to internationalise its website, provide staff with export training, undertake market research to identify new overseas clients and attend the Creativation Exhibition in Phoenix, USA.

The company, which currently employs six people, also plans to use the funding to help create two new job.

Managing director Hayley Smith, who has exhibited ranges at trade fairs in Anaheim, California in recent years, said: “Crafting is huge in the US, but the crafting market is years behind here.

“There is always a huge amount of interest in our products whenever we attend craft fairs in the country.

“Proggy mats are much-loved and well known in the North East but it’s a whole new concept for many people in America, and for a lot of people in the UK and Europe.”

“It would be really difficult to take stands at these important events without the ERDF support,” said Hayley.

“It helps us not only keep our finger on the pulse of our largest market, but also test and showcase new products and innovations. The US is ten times the size of the market here, and being at the forefront of the industry is key to our ongoing success in overseas markets.”

Craft Yourself Silly started life as a series of craft-based courses in 2013.

Hayley, who shared running the business with her mother, soon realised the potential for also providing materials and kits for crafting and began to grow the firm.

Having supplied funding through its Tradeshow Access Programme, the Department for International Trade again backed Craft Yourself Silly to help them cement their share of the US market.

Department for International Trade director, Julie Underwood, said: “It is brilliant to see this company, that blends seamlessly modern innovation with traditional skills and crafts, doing so well in overseas markets.

“We have worked closely with Craft Yourself Silly to help with technical support for commodity codes and documentation, as well as providing market insight and financial advice. Their desire to break into new markets is matched only by their belief in and passion for their products and we wish them nothing but good luck for the future.”

Craft Yourself Silly has broken into the New Zealand and European markets, but the US is the company’s main export target, with Hayley regularly appearing on popular shopping channels in the country.

The firm won the New Exporter of the Year Award at the North East Exporters Awards in 2016 and made it through to the finals of the National New Exporters Awards.

The business has got grand growth plans, hoping to increase sales by £50,000 in the next 12 months, and in July won a contract worth £125,000 at a USA Craft Exhibition, having received Department of International Trade support.