A University of South Wales (USW) graduate has been given the opportunity to run her business full time after receiving support from the University’s start-up scheme.
Gabriella Di Salvo from Neath graduated from BA (Hons) Creative and Therapeutic Arts in 2019. She now runs Grow Up Gaby, a gift shop specialising in wellbeing-themed products such as mugs, coasters, and greetings cards.
For Gaby, it was the coronavirus pandemic that inspired her to start her business in March 2020.
“I was struggling with my mental health during lockdown, and I felt that others may be too. I really wanted to put some positivity out into the world during such a tough time,” she said.
In June 2021 she applied for funding at USW’s Bright Ideas Den, a scheme established in 2009 which offers USW students and graduates help towards their business venture. Running three times a year, the scheme allows individuals to pitch their business ideas to a panel of experts, including local entrepreneurs.
“I entered BID as I wanted to expand my product range and so I needed funding for basic machinery and equipment,” said Gaby.
“I found the whole process to be straightforward. The first step included answering questions about my business, the progress I had made so far and what I would like to pitch for. I pitched my ideas to four judges and explained how I could use the funding to scale my business.”
Since then, Gaby has left her full-time employment to focus on Grow Up Gaby and has amassed more than 3,000 sales on her online shop.
“I love being creative every day and receiving amazing reviews on my products. Every time I hear that my products have made a difference to someone’s mental health, I feel so happy that I’ve had a part to play in that,” she said.
Gaby now hopes to expand her product range and has also written and illustrated a series of mental health books for children which she hopes to have published.
Gaby says that the support she has received from BID has been a great help with her business.
“The funding and feedback has helped tremendously, and I will definitely be using the judges’ advice to shape my business in the future. I am also receiving one-to-one support from one of the judges which is invaluable. I would definitely recommend applying to BID if you have a business idea or have just started out,” she said.
Emma Forouzan, Student Enterprise Manager at USW, said: “Gabriella attended the USW Freelancers Academy in 2019 to develop her knowledge and confidence to start a business. Gaby is a pleasure to work with and it is fantastic to see that she has followed her dreams to support the mental health of others. Through our alumni network Gaby has kept in touch and continued to benefit from the on-support and funding we have available for our graduates.”