You're viewing an updated version of this site - your feedback will help us to improve it.

Success stories

Business Wales support enables craftsman to carve out dream career

Karl Watkins

Launching a start-up often means so much more than creating a company. For one artisan woodworker from Dinas Powys, it was the support of Business Wales that enabled him to turn a passion for woodworking into a commercially viable venture.

Founded by Karl Watkins, woodworking start-up, Solace in Wood, has achieved remarkable traction since April 2023, when Business Wales’ advisors first helped to identify funding to invest in his dream to go professional.      

Solace in Wood features uniquely turned and carved wooden objects for everyday or decorative use with ethically sourced and repurposed timber.

Based out of his own garden workshop, Karl uses a variety of specialist techniques such as ebonizing, dyeing, and wire brushing in order to create one-of-a-kind pieces – from bowls cake stands and vases, to jewellery pillows and cheese boards.

Before establishing Solace in Wood, Karl honed his design techniques and craftmanship over three decades, by working for design and manufacturing businesses. He also began teaching design technology at a local high school during this time.  Karl’s passion for woodwork was sparked by a spoon carving kit that his wife Helen bought him as a Christmas present in 2017.

As he began carving spoons, Karl wanted to work on bigger pieces and experiment with colour and texture, and he started to craft the very first pieces that would become the start of Solace in Wood.

Karl knew that there was space in the market for his wooden works, so he got in touch with Business Wales for support to fulfil his lifelong goal.

Business advisor, Nicola Thomas, supported Karl by helping him develop a business plan, connected him to a start-up group with other business owners and sought out opportunities for him to integrate into the market.

Discussing the support he received from Nicola, Karl Watkins, said:

I always dreamed of building a business, but I didn’t know where to start. Finally at 60 I am able to live out that dream and share my art with the world. Nicola was really helpful, and she helped me get Solace in Wood off the ground with practical support and a wealth of information that I still refer back to. She is always available if I need advice and she keeps in touch with me regularly.

The start-up group that Nicola recommended is very useful for me, we meet every three months, and we discuss how our businesses are progressing and offer each other feedback to ensure that we are exploring every potential avenue for growth. It’s been amazing to be involved in conversations where I can consider different perspectives from business owners like me.

Nicola helped Karl apply for a start-up bursary from the Vale of Glamorgan Council which following a successful application, he used to invest in tools and materials to help refine his woodworking practices and create more complex pieces.

Karl also took advantage of the online seminars and courses offered by Business Wales to learn about accounting, business management, and marketing and officially launched Solace in Wood in September 2023.

Following a successful launch, Karl set up a website for customers to buy his products and social media channels to promote his business and services. The woodworker has also had a presence at a number of local craft fairs and art spaces with his sculptural pieces being a favourite among customers – he is  currently preparing to attend St Fagans Makers Market and Craft Fair Cheltenham.

Nicola says:

Karl is so driven which I think ultimately is why Solace in Wood’s launch was so successful. He is always willing to learn ways that he can improve his business practices and is very receptive to my guidance. With Karl’s determination, I know that the business will continue to grow, and Solace in Wood will make a strong presence in the art and business world.

Karl hopes to build up his portfolio with larger scale sculptural works to increase sales and gain access to more prestigious galleries. He plans to continue to use Business Wales’ online courses in hopes of nationalising the business and eventually tapping into the global market.

Business Wales is funded by Welsh Government. For more information and support to help your business discover opportunities, and to speak to a specialist advisor, contact Business Wales. Visit or call 03000 6 03000. Rydym yn croesawu galwadau’n Gymraeg  we welcome calls in Welsh. 

Business Wales Helpline

03000 6 03000

Lines are open 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday.

Rydym yn croesawu galwadau’n Gymraeg.
We welcome calls in Welsh.