All the world’s a stage for young Blackwood prop designer
A creative young Welsh entrepreneur has established her own business selling replica film props and cosplay items internationally, all of which she crafts by hand from a workshop in her garden in Blackwood.
Charlotte Williams, 21, a higher education student based at Coleg y Cymoedd and founder of Khepri Props, utilises her artistic flair to create replica props and costumes from iconic films, with her portfolio ranging from full suits of armour, Iron Man helmets, Batman gauntlets and even an 8ft pit wheel designed for a production at the Blackwood Little Theatre. She is a regular attendee at the Film & Comic Con events in Cardiff, often dressing in her creations to demonstrate to potential customers what she can make.
After a stint as a BBC Wales costume intern where she discovered her passion, Charlotte’s first creation was a pair of space boots, which she decided to put on online marketplace Etsy, not anticipating the level of interest she would receive. It was then that Charlotte decided to turn her hobby into a serious business venture, and over the past four years she’s seen orders for her bespoke items quadruple in size, with much of her business coming from the US.
Charlotte has received support in establishing her business from Big Ideas Wales, the service for young entrepreneurs aged 5 to 25, which forms part of the Welsh Government’s Business Wales Service, and is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Charlotte was referred to the service by her tutor at Coleg y Cymoedd where she is studying a BA in TV & Film, and has since been receiving financial and mentoring support from the college’s Entrepreneurship Champion Lesley Cottrell.
Charlotte meets regularly with Lesley who, along with the rest of the Big Ideas Wales team, are able to offer her business advice to allow her to kick start and further develop her business.
Speaking about her work, Charlotte said: “I have always been a creative person and was accepted onto the HE course on the strength of my portfolio. Prop making is a real passion of mine and to have established a business while studying at college is something I am very proud of.
“Since discovering Big Ideas Wales, the support system they offer has encouraged me to pursue my creative ambition and supported me in establishing a business out of something I love.
“The entrepreneurship service at Coleg y Cymoedd gave me advice on how to apply for a small grant, which meant I could buy specialist tools and resulted in me winning a work contract with to make a large of gauntlets, so there really has been some incredible tangible benefits to discovering the service.”
Lesley Cottrell, Entrepreneurship Champion at Coleg y Cymoedd said: “Charlotte is a fantastic example of a student combining their own entrepreneurial thinking and studies to start their own business. Her dedication to her business is so impressive, and we’re all excited to see this business evolve and grow”.
As Charlotte enters the final term of her degree, balancing her business, studies, as well as working part time in a local shop, Charlotte has also made the decision to go onto study a PGCE in order to teach creative art skills to young people, while continuing to expand her business.
And Charlotte has big aspirations for Khepri Props, with plans to employ an extra member of staff in the near future, allowing her to take on more work and even more ambitious design projects.
Charlotte continued: “Since a young age I have always been encouraged by my parents to learn skills like cooking, woodwork or metal work, and I am reaping the benefits now that I have been able to turn those skills into a viable business venture.
“As well as progressing my own business, I would also love the opportunity to teach and encourage young people with a flair for the creative to follow their passion, while at the same time addressing the stigma around creative arts versus more academic careers.”
The Welsh Government Creative Industries Sector team also commented, saying: “We are committed to developing and promoting Wales’ creative talent, crew and services to international and national business. Big Ideas Wales has helped develop and promote Charlotte’s creative talent, and we look forward to supporting Charlotte with growing her business in Wales.”