Meet the MD: Andrea Freeman of Beehive Knitwear

Meet the MD: Andrea Freeman of Beehive Knitwear

Born and raised in Darlington, Andrea Freeman was always fascinated by the well-known Patons and Baldwins factory where many of her family had worked. A former designer for Barbour, Andrea has taken original knitting patterns from war-time Britain and revived “Baldwins Beehive” by bringing the trademark back into production with collections for men and women, made from British wool and manufactured in the UK.

What does your job include?

I am creative director at the Darlington-based Beehive knitwear brand and CEO at Redana Studio.

As I see it, my current role for the foreseeable future is to facilitate our company values on a consistent basis.

A priority is to enable the business to grow at a sustainable pace, building the brand, which myself, the growing team and our wider community of stakeholders can enjoy and celebrate.


What is it the company does?

The Beehive Brand is a heritage knitwear label which retails online globally. We design, develop and market clothing products and services.

We work with key wholesale partners to distribute our range and are currently in export trials with Japan.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

A clear vision paired with business values and patience.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Saying no to new projects and clients if it distracts from the bigger vision. As much as you want to get involved in anything and everything, I’ve found it’s important to focus on quality over quantity in order to reap effective results and not stretch resource.

One of my best pieces of advice which I constantly have to remind myself of is to look at the longer term – that way, you get to where you want to be quicker.


How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

Walking the dog, running, going to a spa and trying my best to have regular technology free days.

I love making the most of relaxing at weekends in comfy clothes, catching up on the latest Netflix series and spending time with the family.


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A nurse, a designer or a pilot (the pilot is still on my bucket list – I’m currently training towards my flying license).


Any pet hates in the workplace?

People just going through the motions and not really engaging. Oh, and meetings about meetings!


Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

The design studio and sales team will be a hive of activity and we will have expanded internationally.

We want to strengthen our relationships with wholesale partners here in the UK, in Europe and Asia.


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Take your time to lay good foundations, which will in turn attract the right opportunities and talent.


Where did you start your career?

I studied fashion at Huddersfield and Nottingham Trent universities, took a placement year out to continue studies in China and then moved to London to intern for Ben de Lisi, Betty Jackson and Nailah Lasharie PR.

After doing my BA and MA, my first role was in 2000 at Karrimor International. I then moved back to Darlington and joined Barbour as a designer where I rose up the ranks over seven years travelling the world for research and development before starting my own business in 2011.


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far.

2000 – 2004: Karrimor International, design development manager

2004 – 2011: J Barbour & Sons, design & development manager

2011 – present: Redana Studio, founder

2013 – 2015: Durham University Business School, MBA

2014 – present: The Beehive Brand, director

2015 – present: Teesside University, associate lecturer fashion enterprise

Ask me again in five years’ time!