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Loughborough graduate bucks the high street trend

Katy Widdowson

A successful entrepreneur and Loughborough University graduate is riding the economic downturn as her bead business grows from strength to strength.

Bojangle Beads – launched in 2009 by Woven Textiles graduate, Katy Widdowson – stocks 2,233 products and the online store attracts orders from as far afield as Australia. The Loughborough-based business also runs a highly popular series of workshops as well as one-to-one tuition.

Katy began her career in beads soon after graduating. Offered a job with an online bead retailer as a packager, she quickly progressed to purchaser. After two years, Katy saw the opportunity to set up her own bead business.

Established during the current economic downturn, it is impressive that Katy’s business is not only surviving but actually thriving in these prolonged times of hardship. Katy attributes this to the help she has received from the University’s Enterprise Office and its Student and Graduate Enterprise Manager, Marina Pickles:

“Marina was a regular at my Mum’s beading workshops and she saw the passion I had for my new venture. She was invaluable in helping me with my business plan and sourcing the funding for the initial start-up directing me to the Thomas White Charity. With her help I was able to set up my dream business.”

Ironically, Katy feels that the current economic situation is actually helping her business to thrive – as well as having a great, knowledgeable team around her.

“Money is tight and people are turning to inexpensive hobbies and homemade gifts, including jewellery. We are making bead crafts a sociable hobby – our workshops are creating a growing local beading community.

“We are very lucky to have found a niche in the market and have settled into premises that suit our needs. I work alongside my husband and parents and we complement each other’s skills, being experts in separate aspects of the business.

“Keeping up-to-date with new ideas and trends is also important. One of our most popular kits recently is the Shamballa bracelet. We have also responded to requests for a beginners’ kit which is selling very well.”

Bojangle Beads is looking forwards a very bright future with plans to update the website to keep up with requests from their ever-growing customer base.

Katy is featured in Loughborough University’s Inspiring Graduates campaign which hopes to inspire students and graduates to follow their dreams.

Find out more about Loughborough University’s Inspiring Graduates – including Katy – at

You can see Katy talk about her business in a Creative Circle film on You Tube.