World's top hotels are among list of Jude Cassidy's clientele
Textile designer and entrepreneur Jude Cassidy is really going places - attracting increasing demand for her fabrics in the US, Asia, Australia, Europe and her native Northern Ireland.
The Saintfield businesswoman has combined her creative and entrepreneurial talents to weave a very successful business, making beautiful hand-woven fabrics for global companies such as the five star Mandarin Oriental hotel chain.
She has just finished work at Belfast's Merchant Hotel, producing a range of new cushions for their 36 Art Deco-inspired rooms and suites.
She said: "The Merchant Hotel was one of my first clients. They gave me my first chance to show what I can do and it is just great to see local businesses helping each other and continuing to grow through the recession."
Jude was thirsty for knowledge from an early stage and made sure she honed her business skills early by signing up in 2010 for Making It, a business incubation programme run by Craft NI and funded by Invest NI and the Arts Council.
She recently took part in Craft NI's Innovation Boost Programme, supported by the Creative Industries Innovation Fund, which helped sharpen her company's branding and online presence, resulting in orders across four continents.
The course included intensive mentoring sessions - Jude chose top brand expert Valerie Brown to build up her profile and business consultant Des Mulholland to improve her online presence.
"The one to one mentoring was extremely valuable. Our brand is growing and we really benefited from the branding advice, particularly the idea of the company becoming a brand in its own right," she said.
"During the programme we worked hard to improve our branding and online presence before a major trade show in London. At that show we secured a contract to supply cushions and blankets to a large department store chain which has 39 stores throughout Switzerland.
"We also talked to a distributor in the US and secured business with other customers in the US and Singapore. This included supplying fabrics for curtains, blankets and cushions for the five star Mandarin Oriental hotel chain."
Jude (29), now employs Hannah, another full-time weaver, to help her produce her fabrics, as well as two London-based part-time sales staff.
"London, like New York and Paris is a major hub for design so it makes sense for us to have a strong presence there," she said.
"All of the hard work has finally paid off. Sales are very good at the moment and I have recently become an Invest NI client. With its support, I went to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York in May and got a substantial amount of orders from Australia, Istanbul and other parts of the world."
Next up, Jude will be going to exhibit at the Maison & Objet International Trade Fair in Paris in September - one of the world's largest trade shows.
Despite all the demands of a growing company executive, Jude is taking part in Making It 10 - an exhibition celebrating the 10 years of the business programme, which has launched the careers of 35 designer makers.
The exhibition, which takes place at the Millennium Court Arts Centre in Portadown from July 31 to September 23, will help to launch August Craft Month, Northern Ireland's annual celebration of craft.
Jude is one of 26 participants from the Making It programme who will be showcasing their work at the exhibition.
"I am proud to be part of the local creative sector. It is always exciting to see what everybody else is doing. Even if you are busy exhibiting all around the world, you still want to showcase your work in your own home country," she added.
You can look at Jude's textiles work on www.judecassidy.com