Claire Shakespeare started making bags at her kitchen table, and now works with some of the country's leading companies. She explains how she makes it work, and why her support network is so valuable.
What is it the company does?
Established in 2015, Butterfly Tree creates beautifully handcrafted bags from its headquarters in Leeds, Yorkshire. Using the finest quality and locally sourced wool and leather, Butterfly Tree produces timeless bags with stunningly unique designs.
Butterfly Tree started out with only the most basic equipment at my kitchen table. Since then, we’ve grown significantly, working with national stockiest, John Lewis and renowned textile manufacturer A.W Hainsworth; a local manufacturer with a royal warrant to supply HM The Queen.
I’m keen for Butterfly Tree to represent exquisite bags that last a lifetime, using high quality British fabric and attention to detail.
What inspired you to start-up?
My business was born after having received positive feedback from friends and family around a knitting bag that I had originally made for my mother-in-law for Christmas.
I subsequently approached a local wool shop, Baa Ram Ewe, based in Chapel Allerton, who proceeded to order nine of my knitting bags. Since then, my business has gone from strength to strength and we now release new ranges every year.
How did you go about starting up, did you apply for funding or did you self-fund the project? If so, where did you secure funding from?
My business is completely self-funded. We’ve been successfully in growing the brand organically with a customer base that has continued to expand year-on-year.
Where do you get advice/support/help?
In 2017, I was successful in securing a place on the Entrepreneurial Spark programme, run by Natwest. Here, I received invaluable support from mentors and fellow entrepreneurs. This has been very useful in helping me to stay motivated when I’ve reached the inevitable hurdles that come with running a business.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
There are many challenges that come with running a business; scaling up is possibly one of the biggest. Making certain scaling up decisions beyond the company’s capabilities and you risk losing everything but scale too slowly and you could miss vital business opportunities.
A support network of friends and family has been key to overcoming these challenges; I ultimately want to make them proud.
What is your next big target?
Launching our new collection in Spring 2018. We’re also looking to outsource certain elements of the manufacturing process in order to meet an increase in demand.
What is the best and worst thing about being a start-up?
The worst thing is cashflow and the best thing is watching the business grow. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come.
What makes this idea different?
Unlike many other overpriced, low quality high street brands, Butterfly Tree bags stand the test of time; their colourful and vibrant linings give them a fantastic sense of character.
Who would be your dream customer?
Kate Middleton – that would be a dream come true.
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