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Success stories

Tides Fine Art Gallery and Tides Upholstery

Tides Fine Art Gallery and Tides Upholstery

An art gallery owner secures funding to tackle Covid-19, while launching a new business, thanks to support from Business Wales.

Having faced financial difficulties with her fine art gallery, artist and entrepreneur Jo Frost turned to the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service for help. She received advice on keeping the business afloat, including help to secure funding. As a result, Jo was able to increase Tides Fine Art Gallery’s turnover and even start a new venture.

  • business support to keep the gallery open during Covid-19
  • 1 job safeguarded and 1 job created
  • a grant investment of £14,000 secured
  • HR support with recruitment, contracts of employment and legal compliance
  • a new business launched with a start-up loan investment and a further 1 job

Introduction to business

Mumble’s Tides Fine Art Gallery was established in June 2018, showcasing the widely acclaimed dramatic ocean paintings by artist and owner Jo Frost. Overlooking the beautiful Swansea Bay, the high-end fine art gallery offers special individual pieces for purchase and commissions from professional artists living and working in Wales.

​Faced with financial challenges, brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, Jo decided to set up another business – Tides Upholstery, offering marine and soft furnishing solutions, including complete redesigns and repair jobs for boats, campers, garden, commercial and home furniture.

Why did you decide to set up your own business?

In the summer of 2020, I was in a predicament as to how I was going to sustain myself, get my gallery, Tides Fine Art Gallery, through lockdown, pay rent and support the artists who I showcase – initially, with no income at all. To have another income stream, I considered starting up my upholstery business. Thanks to support from Business Wales, I indeed embarked on this and Tides Upholstery emerged!

I soon found that marine upholstery is very much in demand in this area and I was inundated with jobs before I had even purchased the sewing machines! I was then able to purchase the equipment with the start-up grant generously awarded to me. 

Tides Fine Art Gallery has survived and in fact, it is fair to say – thrived recently. This, too, is only due to the government financial support that I have received. In the months that we were able to open, I made some large painting sales and since, I have taken on four commissions. I feel very blessed, but also very aware that this is going to be a rocky road for a while so I’m not sitting on my laurels and I’m still continuing to focus on communications with customers and making sales. This is not the right time to take sales for granted.

What challenges did you face?

The main challenge for both businesses has been affordability, which is, of course, top of the list of concerns as a start-up. In 2020, as with most businesses, we find ourselves in a position of radical change – finding income streams and securing sales during Covid-19 has been difficult.

Business Wales support

Jo got in touch with Business Wales as, due to Covid-19, her fine art gallery was struggling financially because of a lack of sales and she needed advice on available financial support. Jo worked with Business Wales’ start-up adviser Shahidul Islam, who helped her secure a Local Authority Phase 1 grant as well as a lockdown grant, a total investment of £14,000.

This has allowed Jo to not only safeguard her own job, but also reinvest the funds, increase turnover and create an extra position.

Additionally, having spotted the need for marine upholstery in the area, Jo launched Tides Upholstery. Shahid advised on her business plan and financial forecasts, enabling the business to secure a £5,000 start-up loan from the Start-Up Loans Company.

Jo received specialist HR support with recruitment, contracts of employment, legal compliance.


  • business support to keep the Gallery open during Covid-19
  • 1 job safeguarded and 1 job created
  • a grant investment of £14,000 secured
  • HR support with recruitment, contracts of employment and legal compliance
  • a new business launched with a start-up loan investment and a further 1 job

I have been very grateful for the support that Shahid has given me on behalf of Business Wales. He has always been there to answer my questions and follow up with any information that may help me. His approach is friendly and kind and I have found him to be compassionate and supportive to my business issues and needs.

Being very personable and genuine, he has guided me through the processes to obtain the finance that my two businesses needed to survive and grow despite the economic situation we are all in right now. Without Shahid’s support and assistance I am in no doubt that I would not have understood how to get the grants that I was eligible for and needed, and my gallery would have had to close – and also my new upholstery business may have never got off the ground.

Future plans and ambitions

I would like to secure premises, ideally in Mumbles, where I could carry out my upholstery work with a gallery and studio on site. I am in no rush, but my upholstery currently takes up a room in my home, which is a tight squeeze. 

I have one member of staff who operates the gallery two days a week and I am looking to increase his hours as soon as footfall returns to Mumbles.

Once I’ve secured the premises, I would like to take on an apprentice to help with the upholstery, as there is so much work available and I cannot do it alone. The more known I become, the bigger my customer base gets, and enquiries are coming in for all kinds of work. 

If you want to read more success stories of how Business Wales has helped other people like you to start or grow their businesses, visit or follow @_businesswales / @_busnescymru on Twitter.