Alana Jones and Laurie Collins run Isle of Shee (www.isleofshee.co.uk), a Fife-based business which makes luxury eco-friendly clothing for women. Alana explains what makes the business tick.
What does your business do?
We design and make women’s dresses and tops. Everything is made-to-order and we make all the clothes ourselves from natural textiles. We sell our clothes online, mainly through Instagram.
Why did you decide to start your business?
Laurie started selling clothes on Instagram as a side hobby about four years ago and I was also making and selling clothes myself, having previously worked in the fashion industry. During the isolation of the pandemic lockdowns we realised that it would be much better to work together so earlier this year we merged our businesses to create Isle of Shee.
How did you finance your business?
We started off with no money at all. We both already had some fabric so the first few months we just supported ourselves with any sales we made. My mum has now given us a £2,000 loan to help with branding; we have got a graphic designer to create brand colours and a logo and we are in the process of ordering packaging and labels.
How long have you been an XLN customer?
We have had XLN broadband since January 2021.
What technology and communication tools do you use in your business?
Instagram, website and email marketing.
What is the biggest challenge of running your business?
Finding our price point. When we were both running our businesses from home, we were able to keep all the profits we made and so our prices reflected that, but now we have set up a studio together we have got the rent to pay and other bills so we need to make sure we are charging enough to cover this. But it is quite hard putting up prices and making the jump to turn it into a financially sustainable business – and feeling that customers are going to judge you because of that.
We also want to keep as much of our production in Scotland as we can, which we are finding a bit hard as we need to remain at a competitive price point. But we are determined to do it.
What key lessons have you learnt?
That we need to be more structured with production and manage our team efficiently for our individual products and business to be financially sustainable.
What are your plans for the business?
The plan is to try and bring in enough sales so that Laurie and I can step away from production. We would like to focus on the marketing and design and bring someone else in to make the clothes but we can’t do that at the moment because our sales are quite inconsistent.
We are also trying to expand into different markets. At the moment Instagram is our main way of finding customers but it is scary when you have only got one platform.
What has been the impact of the pandemic on your business and how have you dealt with this?
We have definitely seen a rise in appreciation and support towards small businesses. And because everyone has been having to wait longer for deliveries of readymade clothes, I have got the feeling that people are more prepared to slow down and wait for made-to-order clothes.
What has been the secret of your success so far?
Not taking it too seriously, making sure we enjoy it and always remembering why we started the business. We have also got some lovely customers.
What personal quality has been most useful to you while running your business?
What advice would you give an entrepreneur who is just starting out?
Just do it. I spent a year and a half sitting around thinking about it when I could have just been doing it.