The CT Entrepreneur Awards is following up with 2018 award winners, starting with Hartford Artisans Weaving Center Director Fran Curran, who won 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year: Social Good.

How has your business progressed since you won the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year: Social Good?

FRAN CURRAN: Since 2018, we’ve expanded our physical space to include two floors of our building, we now own the building. We’ve hired a full-time executive director and a part-time administrative assistant. We’ve taken on three new artisans since January 2019. We’ve expanded our workshop offering and been able to have our own dedicated, larger sewing/finishing room and classroom.

What was the impact to you and/or your business, if any, in being named 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year: Social Good?

FRAN: The name recognition has been helpful. Our challenge has been to get our name out there so that people know how important the Artisan Program is to our Artisans, who are low vision, no vision, or over 55. It’s such an important place for them, it’s nice to be able to tell our story and to encourage visitors to come to learn more about our program, and to shop for our beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces.

Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently while you were developing your business?

FRAN: The last 10 years of our business have been very successful. We started by writing grants at our kitchen tables. Now we’ve been able to hire full-time and part-time staff, but it has been a long journey. I’m not sure we’d change a whole lot, though after-participating in the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving “Building on Success” Program, we were able to focus on simplifying our mission statement, focusing on building rather than doing, and understanding what it will take to grow our organization.

What aspects or resources of the Connecticut entrepreneurial ecosystem have helped your business the most?

FRAN: Support for the arts, and specifically, support for artists with disabilities, has been helpful. When people learn about us and learn our story, they become very interested and invested. But, we’d be interested in more!

Looking ahead, what are the next major milestones for your business?

FRAN: Looking ahead, our main goal is to maintain the integrity of the Artisan Program by making sure our Artisans are happy, being creative, and feeling a part of our supportive community. We’ve just finished the renovation of the second classroom in our building.

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