Physio’s handiwork creates business success
A FORMER physiotherapist with a lifelong love of sewing has set up her own business designing and creating an exclusive collection of handmade bags.
Thistle Fairy Designs has grown steadily since Shona Jennings first began selling her products three years ago and now exports 50 per cent of its unique bags to America.
Shona decided to focus on the business full time in July last year after she moved to Oban with her husband.
With support from Business Gateway Argyll and Bute, Shona is now selling online via her own website and Etsy, to customers across the UK and Europe.
Shona is working with small, independent weavers who specialise in limited edition tweed to create one-off products giving her customers a rare and special article.
She said: ‘Thistle Fairy Designs began as a hobby, initially selling to family and friends, but through word-of-mouth, fairs and Facebook, it started to snowball.
‘Somehow I managed to continue with my physiotherapy job, but when my husband was offered a new job in Oban it was the right time to turn Thistle Fairy Designs into a full-time business.
‘I knew I had to get really serious about running the business, so in order to up the ante I went to Business Gateway for support.
‘I attended a number of DigitalBoost workshops focusing on digital marketing strategy and social media, as well as other seminars on selling online and ensuring my website was fit for purpose.
‘This allowed me to introduce an online shop which I felt was the natural next stop for the business.’
Thistle Fairy Designs create a range of handmade bags mainly made from Harris Tweed or the environmentally and vegan friendly cork leather.
With stockists in Perthshire, Oban and Appin, Shona is keen to target more sales and attend bigger trade shows.
She is also opening the doors to her studio to allow visitors to see how she works and touch and feel the fabrics for themselves.
Shona added: ‘By using cork leather we’re producing environmentally friendly bags that are colourful yet allow the natural beauty of the Harris Tweed and leather to be the centre of attention.
‘I had no idea that my love for sewing would result in people in America buying my products but it’s wonderful as I love running this business.’
Angela Vernel of Business Gateway said: ‘Shona has taken advantage of our fully funded workshop calendar and DigitalBoost programme to learn the skills needed to run a successful venture.
‘As Thistle Fairy Designs grew, Shona knew she had to look at improving her digital knowledge and ensure her website was suitable for online selling.’
For more information visit www.thistlefairydesigns.co.uk. To find out more about how Business Gateway can help you set up and develop your own business call 01546 808363 or visit www. bgateway.com/argylland-bute.
Shona Jennings of Thistle Fairy Designs.