Angela designs and makes her 'Burman Bears' from a workshop at home, including Whisper who's used as a counselling tool for children. She shares her advice for anyone considering becoming a design entrepreneur.
Angela creates contemporary, traditional and vintage-inspired characters made using the finest materials. Her business benefited from the University’s contacts with industry to sell her creations through the Birmingham Made Me initiative.
She continues to sell bears direct to the public, as well as running bear-making workshops. Whisper the Listening Bear is extensively used by teachers, counsellors and therapists when providing comfort and friendship to children who may have suffered trauma, and Angela is looking to develop this product into an animation, computer games or an App.
What advice would you give a 16 year old wanting a career in your industry?
I would advise a 16 year old starting out in the industry to be unique, totally push it and celebrate being different. I think you have to have a really good attitude. Without a good attitude you will not get the same opportunities – it's so important.
How can someone get the most from their course?
The first thing you have to do is to make sure that this is the course that you really want to do and not the one that someone expects you to do. If you’re really passionate about it, you will get through the more difficult times of study.
What's the secret to success in your industry?
To get ahead in my industry I think you have to be different – you have to create something that’s unique to you.
You have to build up a very good relationship with your customers. For me, my customers very often turn into collectors and those collectors have families, and very often those become customers and collectors. I know an awful lot of them by first name and I’ve got a lot collectors now so it obviously works.
You’ve got to try things. If it doesn’t work, move on and try something else. But you’ve got to keep trying because one day something will come and you’ll want to get it out there.
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Founder of Burman Bears
BA (Hons) Visual Arts by Negotiated Study
Angela started designing her individual characters under the Burman Bears brand in 1998.
"Despite the early success of my business, I decided to come to Birmingham City University to study Visual Arts to gain more of a formal grounding in the techniques of fine art.
After my interview I just knew it was the place for me. I had spoken to a number of graduates previously who gave such good feedback.
The teaching was excellent. They helped me think in a completely different way and really pushed me in areas that I needed to be pushed. As a result I now really enjoy the process of research for my projects.
The facilities were outstanding and I wanted for nothing. Support was always available and the learning environment was a constant and ongoing presence in my own development.
I really loved being a mature student because there was such a mixed group of people from all ages. There was something for all of us."