Inspirational Woman Award Finalists
Kilgraston School is proud to be sponsoring the Inspirational Woman category at this year’s Business Women Scotland Awards.
This week, we are introducing you to the finalists and asking them some questions about their business and the challenges they face. So first up is Rosemary Eribé – founder and CEO of ERIBÉ Knitwear Ltd. Edinburgh born, Rosemary went to Hamburg for an apprenticeship in retail management and it was there, while selling natural fibre clothing, that she became interested in knowing how they were made. She returned to Scotland to obtain a first-class degree at the Scottish College of Textiles. After four years of intense training in print, weave and knitting and with the help of Graduate Enterprise, she started her business without funding, building it up slowly.
After 33 years, Rosemary still travels extensively, visiting customers in Japan, Australia, and around Europe, as well as looking after customers via Skype to reduce their carbon footprint. Eribé aims to be a plastic free business next year.
1. What was your first experience of the industry and how did you get to where you are?
After studying textile design in the Scottish Borders – I always knew I wanted to set up my own business. So, with that in mind I did a crash course in business for 6 months. As part of that I knitted my own new collection and used it to do market research. This was my very first experience of selling. I travelled to London on the overnight bus and tramped the streets of London to find my first customers. I managed to sell to a few retailers. It was a very hard learning curve. Customers don’t always want to pay. I learnt very quickly that the UK was a difficult market with a lot of competition. Most retailers could only place small orders. After doing more market research, I discovered that I could sell to larger customers overseas (first in the USA, then japan). It meant less paperwork and as a one man band, meant I could focus on design and delivery more easily.
2. What would you say is your greatest achievement so far?
One of the most memorable achievements for ERIBÉ was when we won the UKft Award and met Princess Anne. For us, as a small company, it felt as if we were recognised as a serious business. It put us on the map in the UK as a brand with a future. It helped my team and helped our customers too. We are forever grateful for those Awards.
3. What has been the greatest hurdle you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
A German distributor placed a large order with us and did not pay despite bank checks etc… Luckily, I only shipped out half the order as a precaution. The day after shipping I received a phone call from another supplier saying they had not been paid and were suspicious of this distributor. I borrowed money from a German friend to keep us afloat. The local newspaper did an article on our mishap and advertised the sale we did to sell everything off quickly.We lost a business year and had to work very hard to recover; all hardships and difficulties have only made us stronger.
4. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
When a serious problem arises: Look for an opportunity – whatever it is. Turn the problem into something positive.
5. What would be your advice to anyone looking to achieve a similar career to you?
Learn by doing and asking questions. Always do market research before starting or trying something out. Never give up, textiles is like being in a boat riding high on a wave and then slowly down again….and then up high once more…. Just like slow moving waves with a few storms inbetween. So you need perseverance and a determination to learn and to succeed. Life is never boring and always very interesting….and you meet so many wonderful people.