Apprentice star backs Leeds graduate’s art business with £50,000

AN art commissioning business launched by a Leeds Trinity University graduate has won the backing of a former Apprentice contestant who has invested £50,000 into the start-up.

Raj Dhonota, who featured in the first series of the BBC1 show with Lord Alan Sugar in 2005, approached Gareth Craven about his online art commissioning business Hire an Artist.

Impressed by his entrepreneurial flair, Mr Dhonota, a successful start-up and small business investor, was keen to work with Mr Craven and offered the investment.

He said: “Gareth is a very bright entrepreneur, and he was naturally a major factor in my decision to invest in the business. His knowledge of business for such a young age, combined with his passion and enthusiasm for the idea, really made it an easy decision for me.

“I think it’s a fantastic venture because the art industry is one which doesn’t provide much support to newcomers wanting to join in, and you can see that more and more people are finding art an intimidating world to get into. Hire an Artist is taking a fresh new approach to commissioning artwork, giving the market much needed disruption by empowering people to be able to turn their own unique ideas into artwork.”

The investment has enabled Mr Craven to further develop his business, including a re-brand and new user-friendly website, which will be showcased later this month.

Mr Craven said: “The investment has already taken us to the next level and opened up many more business opportunities. My aim is to be the staple for bespoke art; the company that you can trust to get you the artwork you wanted.

“I really want to achieve significant growth within the pets market because it has such huge potential and Britain really loves their pets. From there I’d love to grow into many other areas, I’m very much interested in all kinds of artwork –  tattoo designs, wedding portraits, anniversary gifts, there’s so many amazing things people can do with art and so many ideas.”

The 22-year-old launched Hire an Artist during his final year of studying a Business degree at Leeds Trinity University, where he graduated in July.

In January his business was accepted into the world’s largest business accelerator Entrepreneurial Spark, and he has picked up various small business awards and presented at some major UK business networks.