This week for my Mums in Business series I’m delighted to be featuring The Tartan Blanket Co, and I am bowled over by their story. Since leaving London to set-up their business, this husband and wife team have done so much, plus had a little girl as well. I am inspired by their success and achievements, and they should be really proud of where they are today with 5-star reviews and positive feedback from nearly every customer. Setting up your own business is all about the planning, and the finer details that make a customer smile. So read on to find out more about this inspirational business; The Tartan Blanket Co.
Tell me a little bit about you, your background and The Tartan Blanket Co?
Three and a half years ago me and my husband Fergus were living and working in London and were just about to get married. I worked as a footwear buyer and traveled regularly and Fergus remotely ran his kilt business, which was based in our hometown, Edinburgh. We loved many things about living in London, in particular I loved my job and knew it would be hard to work in fashion outside of London.
However, the lifestyle we didn’t think was suited to starting a family, with high house prices, demanding jobs and no family support. So after many late night talks thinking about what our dream life would look like, we came up with a plan to move back to Edinburgh and do something we loved. We wanted to have the flexibility to raise a family and live where we wanted, whilst also using our skills and knowledge of the retail industry, and so The Tartan Blanket Co. was born.
We loved tartan blankets, often gifting them as wedding/new home gifts and knew they were popular, as Fergus has sold some on his kilt website. We also knew this industry was very traditional, with little ability to purchase them online, especially in a modern, customer focused way. So it felt like a great opportunity in the market and we felt really passionate that we could make it a success.
What were your drivers and motivations for setting up The Tartan Blanket Co?
For us there were two things that we felt would make us stand out and be a successful brand.
A wonderful customer experience and a great product. We wanted the customer to feel happy and excited about the brand and the product through their whole purchasing journey. The imagery had to inspire and show the product in the best light, the customer service had to be really friendly and knowledgeable, and the packaging had to show their order had been wrapped and sent with care and love, so they would be smiling as soon as the box arrived. It was so important for us to be proud of everything we sold, which meant focusing on quality over costs, using only wool and cashmere which are natural, sustainable materials.
We also saw an opportunity to expand on the traditional tartan designs, to offer a mix of tartan and simple, modern designs, which would not go out of style or fall apart, but be loved and used for many years to come, potentially being passed on to others.This point of difference we felt was really important in a market overrun with disposable fast fashion items.
To get our vision made into a reality we started by finding and building relationships with mills, both in Scotland and globally, to source the highest quality and best value products. We also hired a small team and moved into our warehouse and office in Leith, Edinburgh. We have taken time to hire an amazing team of people who were incredibly dedicated to both the brand and the customers. They are constantly working to improve the customer experience and develop and grow the business.
How do you balance the business around family and childcare?
Over the last few years the team has slowly grown, with the most important and challenging addition being our beautiful daughter Aila Rose, arriving in the summer of 2016. She has brought a lot of love to our lives, and has changed our priorities, making us re-address the way in which we managed and ran the business. Having less time to devote to the business, we were forced to hand over more responsibilities to our team and delegate more of our work. At first this was hard to do and some parts of the business did suffer, but over time we have got into a better system, which has meant the business relies on us less for day to day running, which actually I think is essential for any business to be able to grow.
With amazing family support system, having two sets of grandparents on hand, we have managed to find a really good balance between work and family. It has also been really important for me and Fergus to co-parent and co-run the business together. We both work 4 days, sharing all responsibilities at home and work equally. I think this has made us stronger as a family and a business and is not something we would have easily achieved in the traditional work environment.
Since setting up the business what’s been your biggest success to date?
There have been many small and big successes while we have been in business, from having products featured in magazines like The Stylist, to now having our products stocked in over 80 boutiques worldwide. However, I think that our biggest achievement is the amazing feedback we have from customers, with now over 1,200 5-star reviews, and 99% of our customers recommending us. The stories we read about how much customers loved their blankets, how beautifully it was wrapped and what care went into their order really puts a smile on our face and makes all the hard work totally worthwhile.
The Tartan Blanket Co. was created with love, to bring warmth and happiness to others and it is amazing to hear that is exactly what we are doing!
What’s your top tip for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?
One piece of advice I would give to anyone thinking of starting their own business is Do Something! Starting a business is a bit like starting a diet, there is never a good time or an easy way to do it. You read about so many success stories and different ways you can do it, but there can feel like there are always hurdles in the way and you don’t know where to start.
The main thing is that you do start! You don’t have to start with anything big, maybe writing out a few key goals and break that down into a number of small manageable tasks, like come up with a business name, or find out how to set up a retail website template (it’s a lot easier than you think!). Then set aside an hour a day, a morning a week or a day a month to work on achieving that plan. The more time you put into it, the quicker you will see results. Once you get moving, your business plan will seem so much clearer and more manageable, that you will wish you just got started sooner!
Another great way to get ideas and advice, if you are feeling lost or overwhelmed, is to speak to other business owners out there who are running the kind of business you admire. Most business owners will have, at one point or other, been in a similar position to where you at and you can learn so much from how they moved forward, what worked for them, what didn’t and then use that knowledge in your own business plan. Most small business owners love to share their story and pass on any wisdom they have gained, so don’t be afraid to get in touch! Maybe that can be the first thing that you do today to start your business!
Thank you so much for taking part in my series, it was lovely to interview you, and I wish you the best of luck in the future.
If you would like to be part of my Mums in Business then just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in my series: Matchstick Monkey, Cherry Tree Vets, and Selfie Clothing.