ITS name is synonymous with bold, quirky design that never conforms to the path that mainstream textile and wallpaper brands follow – and now Glasgow-based Timorous Beasties is to open a new shop in Edinburgh.

The story of how Glasgow-based Timorous Beasties has spread its wings across the world was presented in glorious technicolour by co-founder Alistair McAuley on the Go Radio Business Show yesterday, with the move into Edinburgh one of its latest developments.

Listening to Mr McAuley’s story about how he started the company in 1990 with Paul Simmons, after meeting at Glasgow School of Art where they both studied textile design, presented an eye-opening insight into how the business journey for some can be “a slow build”.

Admitting that they had “no business experience but loads of enthusiasm and optimism”, Mr McAuley said: “When you leave art school you are ready to take on the world but it was steep learning curve and we learned by doing it, getting in amongst it, and being determined.

“Back then, to get work you had to get out there with your portfolio and put it in front of people, you went to trade show, you got work through a friend of a friend – I remember boing to New York in the early 1990s and standing at a call box with my portfolio phoning folk. And we got one of our biggest orders – 700 rolls of wallpaper – from someone I met there 12 years later.

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“It was for a converted building on Wall Street and the order came over by fax – that’s how long ago it was. So, it was a slow build for us – there were lean times – but we knew there was always something good on the horizon.”

He added: “It took until 2004 when we opened our first shop in Great Western Road to really take off then the shop in London came in 2007 which was great because it gave us a presence there. With a shop, the customer is king and people come to us because they can’t our stuff anywhere else – it’s unusual, different. It’s niche.”

The internationally acclaimed Timorous Beasties, famous for its colourful, luxury designs – many featuring insects and wildlife – also has premises in Berlin as well as London and its shop and workshop/studio in Glasgow’s west end. “We’re in the process of opening a shop in Edinburgh on Dundas Street in the spring.”

Asked why Mr McAuley and Mr Simmons called their business Timorous Beasties – a nod to the “tim’rous beastie” in To A Mouse by Robert Burns, Mr McAuley said: “At the time coming of art school we were doing a lot of things with insects and beasties so we thought the name would be memorable – we added the ‘s’ to beastie because there were two of us.”

The company has come a long way since those “lean times” and its designs – wallcoverings, fabrics, rugs, cushions, lampshades and accessories – can be found all over the world, in private homes, businesses, hotels and even on a Royal Bank of Scotland £20 note. “It’s cool when you’re in Morrisons getting the messages and you see someone hand of £20 that you’ve drawn,” said Mr McAuley.

Mr Simmons, he told Lord Haughey and Sir Tom, has recently finished work for a new album by Kate Bush titled Hounds of Love – The Baskerville Edition on 12” vinyl. Other high-profile clients of the award-winning design business include Nike, Fortnum & Mason, and Philip Treacy.

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Asked if he thought the business would grow to become so acclaimed, Mr McAuley conceded that while he was confident it would always work, he didn’t predict its current level of success.

However, he paid tribute to one individual who provided support in the very early days – Evelyn McDonald, the current chief executive of Scottish EDGE, Scotland’s biggest business funding competition which is backed by Sir Tom’s The Hunter Foundation. Recalling that Ms McDonald was at Prince’s Trust Youth Business Scotland at time, Mr McAuley said: “We were starting out a time when we were doing colour in a world where things quite minimalist, a world of beiges and greys.

“People liked our work but they weren’t buying it – as I said, we were massively optimistic and a bit bewildered – so we managed to raise £10,000-£12,000 through the Prince’s Trust and we learned a lot from people like Evelyn. We learned that you have to be business-focused.”