Name: Karen Somerville.

Age: 48

What is your business called?

Angels’ Share Glass.

Where is it based?

Bridge of Allan, Stirling.

What does it produce?

We create handmade, premium glassware and giftware which is a hit with whisky-lovers. Our range includes a signature line of whisky-filled glass Angels, Whisky Water Droppers and Gin Pigs.

To whom does it sell?

A range of distilleries, visitor centres and gift shops both nationally and internationally. We also have an online shop so we can sell directly to customers worldwide.

What is its turnover?


How many employees?


When was it formed?


Why did you take the plunge?

I’d always wanted to start my own company – my parents ran a glass giftware shop and I grew up helping out in the family business. It was while watching a Ken Loach film called The Angels’ Share that an idea came to me and I knew exactly what I was going to do – create unique whisky angels which would bring the distillers’ myth of the `Angels’ Share’ to life! According to legend the portion of whisky lost to evaporation during ageing is taken away by angels. I persuaded my glassmaking dad, Tom Young MBE, to come out of retirement and help me create our angels filled with whisky to bring the fable to life. They proved a great success and since then we’ve created a whole range of spirits-related giftware.

We recently launched Angels’ Share spirit glasses and plan to extend the range to include decanters and water jugs.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

Growing up I helped in the family business before taking up jobs in the travel retail field and then working in operations at the Macrobert Arts Centre at Stirling University.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We self-funded the business initially and began by working from the kitchen table and a small home glassmaking studio. We grew quickly and soon realised we needed our own premises and a state-of-the-art glassmaking studio to keep up with demand. A Crowdfunding appeal in 2016 helped raise funding for the Bridge of Allan studio where we now train our own glassmakers.

What was your biggest break?

Our creations proved popular with the public and we were recognised with a number of business awards which really helped raise our profile and get our name and brand known.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I love the fact that every day is a challenge and there’s always something to focus on. It is the perfect job for me because it combines my passion for whisky and the industry with the fact I enjoy creating new designs and bringing them to market. There is nothing better than seeing something on a shelf in say a high-end department store and saying I designed that! It’s a wonderful feeling.

What do you least enjoy?

I’m not a big fan of doing the accounts and all the nitty gritty things like HR and compliance.

What are your top priorities?

Just now our priority is to make it through the Coronavirus Covid-19 crisis as unscathed as possible – like many businesses we have seen orders drop in the wake of the pandemic. Like many businesses, staff had to be furloughed and now we are gradually bringing them back. As our business to business work dried up, we turned to optimising our direct sales and making the most of our website and Amazon trading – delivering locally free and giving customers personalisation and gifting options if they couldn’t reach relatives. Online sales actually rose in April and May but now we are seeing numbers even out again.

We are also launching new products ahead of schedule as during lockdown we had time to look at projects that had perhaps been put on hold; having more focus in the quiet times allowed us to progress these projects.

Other priorities include protecting our glassmaking skills, growing the Angels’ Share Glass brand, creating a legacy for our family and achieving ongoing success for us and our employees.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Anything that helps us access new markets - so initiatives like funded trade missions, funded tradeshow presence or virtual tradeshow/showcasing platforms.

It’s important that governments listen to business owners and one of the reasons I became an Ambassador for Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) a couple of years ago was so I would have the chance to lobby government and have a seat at the table when it comes to influencing decision making. Being a WES Ambassador gives me a voice to let officials know exactly what kind of help and support businesses – and particularly female-led businesses - need and I’m not shy when it comes to making my opinion heard.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Never to take someone’s initial enthusiasm as a business deal. I’ve come away from many a meeting thinking this was good and then the follow-up deal never happens.

How do you relax?

In my touring caravan with my family.