At then end of 2004, I had talks with a number of new suppliers and by the start of 2005 we branched out into a number of new products. We introduced kilt accessories including kilt hose, flashes and sgian dubhs. Later in the year, we also started adding some core Highland Dress products including kilts, ghillie shirts and jackets. We also made a big step by combining individual products together, and selling them as kilt outfits.
Along with the developments in Highland Dress, we started trading in pewter goods. On the 7th of February we sold our first hip flask, a few months later on the 13th of July we sold our first tankard. I certainly didn’t expect that less than 5 years later we would have the biggest hip flask store and tankard store on the internet.
However, all the extra products meant that my bedroom started to become filled up with inventory. Products were stacked up underneath the window, under the bed, along the walls…virtually everywhere there was space. Each pile was a different product so I could quite easily do a visual stock-check to see what was running out, and order more.
Towards the end of July I flew out to Singapore to spend a year studying at the National University of Singapore on a student exchange programme. The opportunity was the chance of a lifetime, and that year changed my life.
I had spent 12 months selling Scottish products online, but was now leaving everything behind to live on the other side of the world. In a way the business and my travels were competing with each other for my time, in another way they needed each other to survive.
The money I had made during the previous year funded my 15 months in South East Asia. If I hadn’t been selling sporrans, I couldn’t have gone. However, I spent the next 15 months having to work from the other side of the world. This period taught me a lot about working with others, and about standardising the work flow. The whole business was in my head – how could anyone else take over without having access to my brain?
Thankfully, my family looked after things in Scotland while I was away, and they had privileged access to my head if they needed it!