Stirlingshire business gets crafty with growth plans

Bg - stir - country mumkins - l-r diane mailer and donna syme

A friendship formed at the nursery gates led two mums to launch a business that six months on is expanding its workshop offering. 

Diane Mailer (48) and Donna Syme (50) opened Country Mumkins in Tyndrum after spotting a gap in the market for a dedicated space that sold crafts, ran craft workshops and offered a range of homemade food.

As the owner of a disused church, Diane, her husband Jim and Donna watched as the building underwent a complete renovation. The work, which took 18 months, turned the old building into a welcoming café where people could meet with friends, enjoy delicious food and bring the kids to do crafts on a rainy day.  

After gaining advice from Business Gateway Stirling, the friends opened Country Mumkins in April. Now, not only do they sell work made by 24 local crafters, ranging from earrings to homemade chairs, they have recently opened a dedicated workshop space and are looking to expand the range of courses on offer to include ceramic painting, decoupage and clay work. 

Diane, from Tyndrum, said: “Donna and I are both keen bakers and crafters so we started making candles to sell at local craft fairs five years ago. The more fairs we attended the more we realised there was a lack of opportunities to sell and buy crafts locally. Owning the church provided us with a unique building in which to house our business. Initially, we focused on the food side and on the feel of the café. We wanted to make it homely with cosy wood burners and vintage china crockery, and we set about highlighting the church’s special features so people could enjoy the building.

“We saw how much people loved getting 10 minutes of peace while the kids made crafts so we decided to develop that idea and create a space where both young and old could learn and expand their crafting skills. The workshops are run by local crafters, and by ourselves, and have been a huge success. So far we’ve held daytime and evening classes in silk painting, felting and candle making. Next year will see us roll out even more classes to meet demand.”

She added: “We had initially contacted Business Gateway four years ago with our idea of starting a candle making business which involved signposting us to potential funding and general business workshops. When we then decided to open a café we went back to them as we felt we needed further advice. The recent one-to-one advice has signposted us to funding to help with our website design and provided support with marketing and our pricing structure. The information given on the LEADER grant helped us develop a business plan that saw us make some tough decisions early on. Since launching our adviser has visited us and provided additional support as we find our feet running the café.” 

Sandy Slater, Business Gateway adviser, said: “Country Mumkins is a fantastic hub for the local community. Not only providing somewhere for people to relax or sell their wares but also creating five part-time jobs. Customer feedback has been extremely positive and they now have a lot of regulars who come to enjoy the atmosphere and the amazing food made by Diane and Donna.  Although they already had knowledge of how to run a business, from previous interactions with Business Gateway, they came back to us to see what support we could give them with their new venture. With our help, they update their knowledge and secured funding. We’ve also helped provide additional advice as and when they have needed it since opening six months ago.” 

With the quieter winter months now upon the business, Diane and Donna have taken the decision to open five days a week to give them time to improve their website and look at developing their workshop programme. They will also host their first ‘Christmas Weekend’ on December 5th and 6th, offering wreath and card making seminars alongside candle and felt workshops, and are on the lookout for ‘lovely handcrafted things to sell’.

Donna, from Bridge of Orchy, said: “We want to support local crafters as well as the Scottish craft industry in general, so would love to hear from people who makes both unusual and unique products that would suit everyone's purse – and who would love to take part in our festive event.

“Forming strong links with more crafters and local businesses is one of our goals for next year. We also want to source more local food products and are looking into the possibility of creating an upstairs seating and crafting space - we might even try to squeeze in a holiday!

“Our ultimate aim is to keep up our high standards of food and service, encourage people to come back and keep the personal, friendly touch. We also want to be known as a destination, not just for food but as somewhere to go to do something with the kids, to create something or learn a new craft and to stay true to our principles of selling only handmade, recycled, organic and Scottish products.”

Find out how Business Gateway Stirling can help your business by visiting their local pages or call 01786 498496.

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