Could you give us a brief background into your career before starting ScotlandShop?
In my head I always thought I was going to work in a big business and the wanderer in me was always excited by international business. I worked for an insurance company, a marketing consultants, a graphic design agency (just as web was beginning) and local authority. I learnt so much from every one and this has shaped the way I run the business today.
What has been your biggest milestone since you started?
I started the business while I was still working so walking out of the revolving doors of my job and leaving behind a nice salary was a big milestone. It felt fantastic and I have never regretted it. We have built an international client base, our products have appeared in magazines around the world, we have created jobs in a rural economy and we have evolved and embraced every bit of new technology available to us. Social media didn’t even exist when we started and now it is a key part of our marketing strategy. I love the constant change and challenge.
What was the best advice someone gave you when starting your own company?
If you survive the first 2 years you are doing well, after 5 years you will have established your business and in 7 years you might start to make a profit. Realistic advice!
Show us a bit around your office, what are the things you always keep at hand?
Anyone who visits exclaims “wow so much tartan”. It is just everywhere piled on every shelf, new product designs hanging up randomly ready to be discussed and there is no doubt what it is we specialise in! I have a big A4 diary on my desk that I scribble in while I am on the phone so I can always flick back and find that crucial idea, product price or phone number. I am very untidy and I always have bits of paper, fabric and tape measures everywhere. The team always accuse me of stock piling scissors! My phone is always buried under bits of paper but I am never far from it. My favourite thing is my headset on the landline so I can still type or reach the biscuits when I am on the phone.
Working in such a rural location you must love the countryside. Any downsides?
I love the view from our windows, the endless free parking and the fact that our water tastes fabulous but it is a nightmare when you need a pint of milk or have a craving for something nice for lunch. No fancy coffee or deli round the corner for us. Part of the inspiration for starting the business was to create myself an interesting job where my kids could get off the bus and I would be right there. I have achieved this and created jobs for other local people too so that feels good. I love a trip to London to meet our PR agency or attend an e-comm conference or days in Edinburgh and
Glasgow for meetings with suppliers and market research but I am always glad to get back to our tartan haven.
How does a typical day in Anna’s life look like?
“Typical” doesn’t really happen when you run a business like ours. Our customers are all over the world so time has no boundaries and in retail weekends are non-existent so even when I am finished I am either clutching a bunch of papers I need to go over at home or returning an hour later to phone a customer in the US when they wake up. I go in planning a day of looking at stats to see why a particular product isn’t performing or to sort out a new product design and find we’ve had a techy problem that needs immediate attention or a press enquiry with a 24 hour deadline. This is what makes it fun. Time flies and you just never know what might happen next.
Do you have any tips for maintaining a good work-life balance?
I love being busy and if I see a window of time I fill it up. This works well for the business and means we keep dreaming up new ideas and driving the business forward. Sometimes the lack of limit is a problem – the business is not limited by footfall, we can cross borders and promote our tartan collection worldwide so it is tempting to work non-stop. I used to do all the social media and this can easily take over your life so I now share this with a colleague! My children do a great job reminding me to stop working and that there is more to life. Exercise is my sanity. I always try to end my day with a run, bike ride or a swim to clear my head or give myself time to think through a problem.
Tell us about dressing for work in such a varied role: Do you always wear tartan?
Ha ha no I do not! I constantly see gorgeous garments coming in that we have created for our customers but am incredibly indecisive about having things made for myself. I love my tartan brogues as they are super smart and so comfy for walking to meetings and a nice subtle touch of tartan. And I have a tweed and pink leather satchel which I adore. It looked great on the front of my Boris bike last time I was in London! My current favourite tartan is the Patriot Modern and I have a full suit in it and now I have my eye on this season’s big trend our tartan Cape. My wardrobe follows the rules of wearing tartan – don’t overdo it, go for either a core piece such as a dress or jacket in tartan with simple, plain accessories or take a simple black dress or jacket and go mad with your tartan accessories. Our French customers do this so well.
If it’s not tartan what do you love to wear?
The quirky detail of Ted Baker, the casual simplicity of Esprit, a faux fur I’ve spotted from Whistles and an occasional tailored treat from Alexander McQueen. My favourite boots this season are from Seven Boot Lane, so lovely I had to buy 2 pairs! And being a sporty girl I am developing an addiction to Sweaty Betty to complement the ridiculous pile of Nike trainers in every colour.
We would love to start doing more interviews again ourselves so please leave us a comment with any suggestions.