Name: Kristen Hunter.

Age: 39.

What is your business called?

Whisky Frames and Barrel Smiths.

Where is it based?

Rosewell, Midlothian.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

Whisky Frames produces hand-crafted photo frames from retired whisky barrels. We offer personalisation such as laser engraving, monogramming and family tartans. Barrel Smiths has expanded the original idea of Whisky Frames with handmade gifts, such as chopping boards, trugs and serving platters that can also be personalised.

To whom does it sell?

We retail online and through our workshop and we sell wholesale to stockists thoughout the world.

What is its turnover?

Whisky Frames’ turnover is £225,000. Barrel Smiths is in its first year of trading.

How many employees?


When was it formed?

Whisky Frames was formed in 2017 and Barrel Smiths in 2020.

Why did you take the plunge?

I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and have my own business. We had the idea for Whisky Frames in 2016 when I was looking for a personalised frame after our dog, Tess, sadly passed away. We had an ah-ha moment when we saw a gap in the market for both personalised frames and Scottish gifts. We attended our first Christmas market in 2016 and sold out of frames before the end of the day. We realised at that moment that we had a product people loved. When I was due to go on maternity leave the following August, we decided to really try to build the brand. We were successful in taking on 200 wholesale stockists in our first year and building retail and online sales through markets.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I was managing some amazing speciality coffee shops in Edinburgh. Prior to this, I received my MFA from Edinburgh College of Art, preceded by my BFA in Interior Design in America where I worked in commercial architecture firms. I’m from Minnesota and came to Scotland to study. I decided to stay after meeting the man who is now my husband.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We were primarily self-funded. We started by reinvesting our profits and had a workshop in converted shipping containers in our garden which helped with overheads. We were fortunate enough to win a pitching competition sponsored by RBS which funded some much-needed equipment.

What was your biggest break?

We gained a lot of recognition after we won Start-up of the Year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. From there, we were approached to appear on Dragons’ Den in 2019. This helped to make us a household name and gain brand recognition, even if we didn’t win investment from the dragons we pitched to.

What was your worst moment?

We have had some challenging times as we have grown. Being a business owner isn’t for the faint of heart. My worst business moment(s) have occurred over the past year. Everything has been unpredictable. I have seen lovely stockists and suppliers struggling business-wise and mentally through the past year. It has been a hard year for all of us. Many people, including us, have spent years of hard graft to build our businesses and I just hope we all weather the storm.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I enjoy the customers! It’s amazing to hear the stories on how our frames are used to hold special memories.

What do you least enjoy?

I don’t love the admin work such as invoicing and HR.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

I hope to double our sales annually in ecommerce. It’s been a great way for us to reach different markets and to send a wee bit of Scotland around the world. We hope to expand the brand through our second online shop, Barrel Smiths, which highlights craftsmen and women woodworkers.

At the moment my top business priority is coming out of the Covid crisis with our business intact and ready to expand. It has been a hard year with employees on furlough and unsure about where and when orders may come from. The business-to-business market has been tough, which has shifted our focus to ecommerce and the expansion of products and personalisations. We had a great June last year with the launch of Barrel Smiths coinciding with Father’s Day. We hope to build on last year’s momentum with additional products for the summer season spent in the garden. Think pizza peels, wine caddies and more!

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

As a Woman’s Enterprise Scotland Ambassador, I believe that the most important thing that the Scottish Government can do is provide tailored support for women in business. This will be especially important as we come out of the pandemic. Women and women-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

That you never know what is around the corner or where opportunity lies. Every connection can lead to great things so be sure you are out there and approachable.

How do you relax?

We love to go on family bike rides.

at the weekend exploring Midlothian.

, which usually also results in a stop off for ice cream with our daughters who are four and six. I love to go on long walks and listen to audio books. The fresh air and stories transport me away from the worries of the day.