Opening three successful Little Thistle retail outlets since 2014 led Kevin Fleming and Tracey Hinds to establish their own manufacturing base in Glenrothes where they now design and hand make a wide range of gifts that are sold locally and nationally and ultimately, they hope, internationally.
What does your business do? We design and manufacture traditional gift items from reclaimed whisky barrels whilst adding a wee bit of technology to the range to create stunning gift items.
How and why did you start in business? We got into manufacturing when we couldn’t source products made from whisky barrels to sell in our Little Thistle retail shops so we decided to use Tracey’s experience as a kiltmaker and my blacksmith skills to design our own. My son then finished university and with his technical knowledge, he has also developed other ranges that we make and sell.
How did you get to where you are today? Hard work and a willingness to take a chance. The break came when my sister was getting married and Tracey made the wedding dress and groom's kilt. With the spare material, she created a handbag for my sister to match the kilt and lined it with material from her dress. My sister loved it. We decided to see if other people liked it, and I went out on the road selling to a number of retailers. It was then we decided, given our backgrounds, that we should move into retailing and we opened our first shop in Dunfermline in 2014. We now have shops in Dundee, Dunfermline, Glenrothes and a manufacturing premises in Queensway Technology and Business Park, Glenrothes.
Who has helped you along the way? Family have given us both moral support, physical help as well as some financial. More recently we have had a lot of help from Business Gateway Fife. Having someone to bounce ideas off as well as provide expert help to develop our online presence has been invaluable. Our adviser is now helping us investigate the potential to export our goods, which would open up a whole new avenue for the business.
What was your biggest mistake? In my previous business, we got comfortable and worried about risking what we had already achieved to start another venture. This attitude meant all our eggs were in the one basket and when things went wrong we didn't have much to fall back upon. Thankfully the skills, knowledge, and experience we built up allowed us to adapt.
What is your greatest achievement to date? Businesswise, it has to be taking that leap of faith and opening my first business, a soft play and café, with my family. After much research - and lots of hard work - we opened in 2004 and, boy, it was a steep learning curve having never worked with the public before. Thankfully, the way I was brought up as well as my experience as a project manager we quickly got things under control.
What do you hope to achieve in the future? Continue to develop the range of gifts and cards we offer in our shops and grow our presence on the high street. Have our own products in carefully selected retailers, and establish a successful export business for our own range of gifts.
Do you want to recruit in the future? Yes, at the moment there are 12 of us and we see that growing by over 50% in the next few years.
What is the hardest thing about running your own business? Switching off. When you are doing something you love it's difficult to take time out!
Any advice to wannabe entrepreneurs? Research and a plan, make sure you know your market, ask yourself - who will your product or service appeal to, how much will someone be willing to pay against how much you can make or provide it for? And get help from Business Gateway Fife.
Find out how Business Gateway Fife can help your business by visiting their local pages or by calling 01592 858 366.
Outwith this area? Find your local Business Gateway office or call 0300 013 4753.
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