Income generation ideas from Steps to Sustainability

The five-month programme included masterclasses, webinars, good practice panels, a 9-month development period including access to coaching/business mentoring and funding of up to £10,000 to help shape the success of a business idea. Lots of AIM members took part and we caught up with a few to find out more.

Glencoe Folk Museum – developing the retail offer

Founded in 1967 to chronicle the history and people of the Glencoe and North Lorn area the museum is based in two C18th thatched cottages.

Initially their Steps to Sustainability idea was to expand the museum’s gift shop space and develop an online shop. The project developed to focus on linking shop items with the collection, providing time, support and funding to experiment with new lines and create collection-inspired bespoke products. Catriona, curator at the museum told us more.

“The programme allowed us the freedom to experiment with new lines, commission our own bespoke products based on objects from the collection, cover high “minimum spend” for new sellers, and put in much larger initial orders to keep us well stocked.”

According to Catriona visitors appreciated unique items which had a strong Glencoe connection – whether to the museum, the community who created them or to the landscape.

“Our gift shops sales and profit have increased remarkably and has continued to do well – in April 2023, we saw a huge 270% increase in gift shop income compared to April 2019, and the summer months have seen increases of 65%, 84%, 64% and 54% on their April equivalents.

I would say that aside from the money that we got, which allowed us to invest more in local products, the experience gave us the confidence to try new items in our gift shop, and to approach local sellers. It also gave us a little bit of publicity locally, which encouraged sellers to come to us as well. We have since restocked many of the original items and expanded our local items to include beautiful hand painted magnets, and cards showing local scenery based on the paintings of a local artist.”

Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust – Increasing income through paid experiences

For their Steps to Sustainability project, the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust team developed a ticketed public tour programme, including hard hat tours into the vaults. They increased the number of tour dates and available tickets to meet audience demand,
improved the consistency of delivery and recruited additional support.

The development of better resources for guides to use with groups helped to curate a more interactive experience. Steps to  Sustainability funding enabled the recruitment and training of a team of professional Learning Facilitators to deliver family-friendly tours, activities and schools programmes.

Laura Hilton, Visitor Experience Manager:

“Since completing the project, we have continued to grow both our Learning Facilitator Team and our offer. We have developed and
launched a second family-friendly underground experience called ‘Lates by Lamplight’ and we have been awarded ‘Stepping On’
funding which is helping us to create a new hands-on STEM workshop for schools exploring the material properties of the bridge. We are currently working with a Musicologist from the University of Bristol to investigate the sounds that the structure creates and
transmits to allow children to explore it in an entirely new way. None of these things would exist without the support of the StoS

“I think what has been so wonderful about the Steps to Sustainability programme is that it has given us an opportunity to network with other people working in small teams and share our knowledge and ideas with each other. Although we came into the programme looking to develop our underground experiences for a family audience, I have been able to follow the progress of other projects exploring retail, catering, events, etc, and take some of that learning away with me and apply it to our own spaces. It has also given us an opportunity to step back and take a fresh look at our audiences and objectives, and that led to a lightbulb moment where I realised we would be able to apply the same thinking to our schools’ programme and further enhance our offer.”

Woodchester Mansion Trust – developing Bat Experiences

Max Raven, Operations Manager, Woodchester Mansion Trust:

“Our aim was to make improvements to the Bat Observatory and make Bat Experiences a new income stream. The plan was to refresh the room with new signage, fresh paint and a new interactive video display. We were also lucky to have a professional come and photograph the bats, resulting in some amazing images that have been worked into the displays.

“I found several of the techniques taught useful and it helped be able to look at the charity as a whole entity. Another thing that was invaluable was a chance to network with several other organisations around the UK.”

Pictured (left to right): Ceramic-double-cottage-in-the-style-of-Glencoe-Folk-Museum, learning session at Clifton Suspension Bridge.