This is the history of The Scottish Shutter Company from its tentative beginnings in 1987 to the award-winning business it is today.
June Browne set up the first business in 1987 by purchasing a franchise licence from Decorating Den. At the time, the world’s largest home-based interior design service. This involved June visiting clients in her franchise area – Dundee and North Fife. She
did that in a fully kitted out extra-long wheelbase Ford Transit van. That van carried lots of soft furnishing samples and sample books!
June’s franchise proved to be very successful. However, just like any franchise, you are only as good as the other franchisees around you. And while June was doing a great job, those around her weren’t.
The concept of the Decorating Den franchise was that it could use its reputation to open accounts with suppliers that were not usually available to smaller interior designers.
However, a number of the larger interior design suppliers (Romo, Harlequin, Crowson, Sanderson and Luxaflex) approached June personally with better terms.
Interestingly, the Company is still working with four of those suppliers more than 30 years on.
June decided to leave the franchise and set up her own business. This business – Interiors in Motion – still used the same principle of bringing all the books and samples to the client in one fully kitted out van. The move to Interiors in Motion coincided with the early nineties’ recession. However, the business continued to grow and attract new clients.
Around 1995, June decided she had had enough of driving around in a big van. And she put the business up for sale. The business attracted six potential purchasers. As June heard herself describe the business to them, she realised that it was too good to sell. The only thing that she didn’t like about it was the driving. So, she took the business off the market and looked for bricks and mortar premises.
She found these in a vacant shop to rent at 212 Perth Road Dundee. The business was renamed The Fabric Shop. This was a small retail shop which was perfect for all the fabric sample books she had carried initially around in the van. June also decided to invest in stock rolls of fabric.
After two years at 212 Perth Road, it became apparent that the little shop was quickly running out of space as the client base grew. Fortunately, the much larger shop next door at 214A became available for rent. So, the Company move next door.
That same year, husband David, a design engineer to trade, and with a very successful career in the computer industry, decided to join June full time. Specifically, to help concentrate on building up the window blind side of the business. Mainly using his engineering and computer-aided design skills. This meant that the Company could take on more challenging and technical window shading products and compete very favourably with the likes of Thomas Sanderson – a national company with a turnover of more than £100M.
The first year working with June was an interesting one for David. His earnings for that year were equivalent to what he had paid in tax the previous year working in the computer industry.
In 2001, daughter Judith’s boyfriend, also David, joined the business. He was, at the time a serving Royal Marine with a desire to join the Police Force.
He started to help David (Snr) out. Initially, by
carrying heavy boxes and then beginning to get an interest in fitting blinds.
David is still with the Company and is now Technical Director.
David & June’s niece Larah then joined the team. Larah helped out in the showroom, and June’s sister (Larah’s mum) started to make all the soft furnishings for the Company from her purpose-built workshop.
Shutters can be a complicated product for a lot of window-blind companies. However, it was easy for The Fabric Shop because of David’s engineering and computer-aided-design (CAD) expertise. The Company was also fortunate to be approached by the largest supplier of window shutters to independents in the UK – S:Craft.
At the time, S:Craft were looking for a company to take on the Master Licence for Scotland.
The Company exhibited at the Royal Highland Show one year as The Fabric Shop but decided, through lack of stand space to take only shutters. This caused a bit of a challenge – as farmers wives were wondering where the fabric was. Still, on the other hand, the Company introduced the concept of window shutters to many new people, and the show was deemed a great success. A new name was created – The Fabric Shop & The Scottish Shutter Company. The Fabric Shop looks after all soft furnishing projects and The Scottish Shutter Company handles shutter and window blind projects.
Judith & David (Jnr) got engaged and then married in 2004. While they were on honeymoon, David (Snr) and June discussed getting someone in to
carry out a marketing function. The obvious solution was an easy one. After graduating from St Andrews University with a degree in Art History and Spanish, Judith had joined the marketing department of a large international company. She spent five very successful years there.
Judith became the next family member to join the business.
In March 2008, during the early part of that recession, BBC Breakfast Television featured the Company as an example of how small family businesses were bucking the recessionary trend. This was broadcast nationwide at 7.50 am one morning in the run-up to the news. The exposure resulted in the Company getting enquiries from all over the UK. This sudden exposure was an unexpected shock to the company.
Their bank encouraged the Company to move away from high street premises. An industrial unit would be ideal, especially if it could be purchased instead of rented. In December 2008, one such industrial unit appeared on the market at Unit 2, Ainslie Street, Broughty Ferry. This was ideal. This building had a big showroom area, three individual offices and a large warehouse attached with a roller door. This made receiving shipments, in particular, shutters so much easier than at Perth Road.
Unit 2 was purchased, personally by David & June in February 2009. Right at in the middle of the next recession! However, the trend continued, and the Company finished the year to June 2010 with its best performance ever.
Then the recession did kick in for real in the soft furnishings industry with many smaller independents ceasing to trade. What it meant for TFS & SSC was after finishing their best year ever in June 2010, they then had their worst quarter ever to September 2010.
On Thursday, 7th October 2010, at 7 pm, the family met in David’s office to decide whether to call it a day.
At that meeting, there was a resolve to give it one last push and the determination not to fail saw the Company through. Over the next few months, June & David invested their remaining savings, into the business to keep it going.
The most significant change, however, was to the marketing. Up till then, SSC was in every edition of Yellow Pages in Scotland, sometimes with a full-page ad, at the cost of over £30k per year. The Company also had advertising deals with the Sunday glossies for double-page spreads, they used newspaper advertising – a contract with The Scotsman for over £15K pa and an agreement with local radio for £10K.
In April of 2011, The Company joined Nigel Botterill’s Entrepreneurs’ Circle. Nigel is a serial entrepreneur with a history of helping a small business grow. Nigel has built nine separate one million-pound businesses. This was the turning point for SSC. In October 2011 Judith and David(Snr) joined a small mastermind group to be personally coached by Nigel.
The Company stopped all the old-style marketing. Marketing such as Yellow Pages, the Sunday glossies, newspapers, radio and TV.
There was a wholesale move to digital marketing using Google’s AdWords and Facebook.
The Company then went on to win several awards. Awards including Scottish Family Business of the Year 2014. The Company was runner-up in the Best Family Business category at the recent Broons’ Awards, run by The Sunday Post.
David (Snr) won Best Marketing Campaign Award at the National Entrepreneurs’ convention in 2014 in front of an audience of 1,300 UK entrepreneurs.
2011 saw David (Snr) use Google AdWords marketing platform for the first time. It became evident that this medium would be where SSC could shine and attract a lot more clients. David spent many hours honing his skills. In November 2014 he decided to step aside and allow Judith & David (Jnr) take over the reins of SSC and TFS. David (Snr) is now acknowledged as one of the UK’s leading experts in the use of Google Ads for small businesses.
David (Snr) then formed a Company called Rocknowe Consulting to concentrate on digital marketing and small business coaching.
The team at SSC has become known for its expertise in blind and shutter motorisation.
One of SSC’s clients for this innovative technology is The Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews.
Investing in this technology sets SSC apart from the vast majority of window blind dealers in Scotland. In July 2017, Luxaflex appointed The Scottish Shutter Company as their number-one, flagship window blind dealer in Scotland. Luxaflex is part of the $3.6 billion company, Hunter Douglas. The largest supplier of window blinds in the world.
The only authorised Luxaflex Gallery dealer in Scotland is The Scottish Shutter Company. And one of only a handful in the whole of the UK and Europe.
In 2015, the business format changed from a partnership between June and David (Snr) to a limited company with David (Snr), June, Judith, and David as directors. The full business name is now:
Rocknowe Interiors Ltd, trading as The Scottish Shutter Company and The Fabric Shop.
At the end of 2016, June and David sold the building at Ainslie Street to Rocknowe Interiors Ltd.
David (Jnr) has followed in David’s (Snr) footsteps in being a member of the Management Committee of the window blind industry’s national body – The British Blind & Shutter Association (BBSA).
In September 2017, the Company applied for and was successful in receiving significant funding from Funding Circle to supply capital for growth. Unlike typical Funding Circle funding where the request for funding goes out to many potential investors, the Scottish Shutter Company request for funding did not reach a public offer. Within three days a single institutional investor fully funded the application.
David (Snr) has recently returned to work in the Company. He now manages the larger commercial projects, which, by their very nature, tend to need a bit more time and detailed involvement.
The next logical step for the Company is to create satellite locations in the main population centres in Scotland such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen. This would allow the Company to capitalise on the growing “local” business in each of the regions. All ordering and customer support will remain at the Broughty Ferry location, which will act as a hub for the satellite locations.
In May 2018, the Company found suitable premises in Ratcliffe Terrace, Edinburgh. This facility opened in September 2018. This is Scotland’s second Luxaflex Gallery. The first being Scottish Shutter Company’s home base in Broughty Ferry. In the space of one year, the
Edinburgh showroom has gone from a standing start to one of the most successful Luxaflex Gallery stores in the UK.
In May 2019, the Company received The Best Plantation Shutter Installation in the UK Award. The judges for this award were the movers and shakers in the window-blind industry.
Award-winning author of “I Don’t Work Fridays” and APCTC Mentor of the Year 2015. Martin has worked with the Company through his company Advocate Business Services. A company dedicated to improving business performance through a range of services. From non-executive mentoring and coaching, leadership management and goal setting, right through to SCALE programs that seriously supercharge business growth. The concept of having at least one independent view in the boardroom to improve decision making and reduce risk is one of the most valuable advances a company can make.
Known as The Mindshaper is an expert on advanced thinking strategies for entrepreneurs.
Terry has worked with some of the world’s leading business thinkers.
He is an invaluable asset in the boardroom. He helps to bridge the gap between what people think and what they actually do.
The founder and chief executive of N5, The Best of, and The Entrepreneurs’ Circle.
He is a best-selling author of two business books helping small businesses grow.
He is also the first-ever non-American (and two-time winner) to be awarded the GKIC Marketer of the Year Award.