Name: Jane Lindsey
What is your business called?
Where is it based?
Just outside Drymen in Loch Lomond National Park
What does it produce, what services does it offer?
We custom make personalised gifts like mugs, bags, aprons and mirrors using customers' own quotes, messages and photographs incorporated into our designs.
To whom does it sell?
We sell direct to consumers. Traditionally most of our custom has been personal gifts, largely birthday and Christmas presents, but this year the two fastest growing sectors of the business are weddings and personalised items for corporate clients.
What is its turnover?
How many employees?
When was it formed?
Why did you take the plunge?
I had left my job as Curator of British Art at The Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, when pregnant with my younger daughter in 2000.
The spur was wanting to work outside, as well as for myself, so initially I retrained in horticulture and set up a business growing cut flowers.
From 2003, to fill in the six months of the year when there were no flowers in the field, I began to create embroidered gifts. When I left school, before I went off to University, I had a year where I had the opportunity to study embroidery, really as a way to try out something creative before I knuckled down to academia!
I did part of a qualification in fashion and fabric and the first year of a City and Guilds embroidery course, so when I was looking for something to do to fill in the winter months, it was a natural place to return to.
It was clear that this scaled much better than the flowers and in 2008 I took the decision to concentrate on the gifts, specialising in personalised custom made items.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
I have always made things, my mum is very creative and encouraged me to experiment, even when I was banned from the sewing machines at school and discouraged from taking art.
I have always loved textiles and costume and my initial aim was to become a textile curator.
I studied History of Art at Aberdeen University and then took a post graduate museums qualification at Manchester University before getting employment first at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and then at the Hunterian Art Gallery. The textile curator post never appeared.
How did you raise the start-up funding?
There was no outside start-up funding. The initial flower business was funded by selling a collection of vintage costumes that I had built up in my teens. I had 10 trunks of 19th and early 20th century costumes that I had bought at jumble sales and in charity shops in the late 1980's during the time I wanted to become a costume curator. I sold them all to a vintage costume shop in Glasgow.
The gift business has been boot-strapped with personal savings used to build, and now extend, the workshop, which is sited in a field behind our house.
What was your biggest break?
Being accepted as one of the very early sellers on the Not on The High Street market place website for creative small businesses, which put my products in front of a much bigger audience than I would ever have managed on my own. I was subsequently included in their catalogues and have become one of the best-selling producers.
As well as the sales, having access to a large number of customers has allowed me to get very fast feedback on whether products will be popular and to do swift iteration cycles when developing new products.
Being on the website also made me very professional from an early stage in the business as there was an established brand to live up to - I may have been working on my own at my kitchen table, but packaging, customer service and marketing were all much slicker than they would have been had I not had access to their advice.
Being from an academic background I had little experience of how things work in business so went to Business Gateway. I've had great support, particularly from their IT adviser. Business Gateway has been great at connecting me with the right people.
What was your worst moment?
In the winter of 2010 we were snowed in for six weeks with the single track road that we are on completely closed to traffic.
It was the busiest period of sales that we had ever had, fuelled in part by people Internet shopping rather than going out.
Staff walked in and we sledged orders out to the main A82 where they were picked up by friends who ran them into the sorting office for us.
In retrospect it looks romantic, at the time it was grim.
What do you most enjoy about running the business?
I love the fact that we are creating things from nothing: every product starts as an idea and I love the process of bringing things to market.
Since launching our corporate side I have particularly loved working with other businesses to create products. I also love that we are creating local jobs: in the past five years we have grown from the business being me working at my kitchen table to a team of five permanent staff, which is supplemented by another five temporary staff in November and December,
What do you least enjoy?
December. People are shopping later and later for Christmas - as we make to order and 70% of our retail trade is for Christmas - it means working well into the night for four weeks. I become very unsociable.
I feel that as a sector we are training people to order things later and later - the Amazon Prime effect - which causes a lot of unnecessary stress both for us and for customers.
Next day delivery is what a lot of customers expect as standard now, which certainly wasn't the case even five years ago.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
I would like Snapdragon to become the "go to" business for high quality custom made gifts and promotional items within the UK. At present we are growing at more than 100% a year and I hope that continues.
What are your top priorities?
Customer service and developing our website to create ways in which we can help customers make the gifts they order really meaningful. Continuing to grow the wedding collection, working with more businesses on client gifts and promotional items.
What single thing would most help?
The lack of low-cost, light industrial facilities to rent in rural areas is a brake on business development.
We have been lucky enough to have space to build business premises on land behind our home but further expansion would require renting space, which would be difficult locally.
What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?
E-commerce relies on good, reliable, affordable postage.
The price increases and re-classification of Royal Mail postal bands have had the biggest impact on our business this year: we have had to completely drop certain products when they became too expensive to post.
The worry is that this squeeze will continue. It is important that this is mitigated by the government.
What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?
That I don't have to do everything. That the brilliant team I have built up is very competent. That I can take a holiday.
How do you relax?
I live in a beautiful part of the country so I pack up my dogs and head out to Loch Lomond each day, rain or shine, and walk out all those daily problems.