Name: Somerville Karen.
What is your company name?
Angels’ Glass Share.
Where is it situated?
Allan’s Bridge, Stirling.
What do you do?
We manufacture handmade, high-quality glassware and gift items that are a hit with lovers of whisky. Our collection includes our own series of glass angels, whisky water droppers and gin pigs loaded with whisky.
To whom is it sold?
To a variety of distilleries, visitor centers and gift shops both nationally and globally. We also have an online shop, so we can sell to worldwide customers directly.
What’s the turnover there?
How many workforce?
When did it become established?
Why did the plunge take you?
My parents had a glass gift store and I helped out as a child in the family business. I always wanted to start my own business. An idea came to me when I saw the Ken Loach film “The Angels’ Share,” and I knew exactly what I wanted to do – make special whiskey angels that brought the myth of the “Angels’ Share” to life at the distillery! Legend has it that angels collect the portion of whisky lost to evaporation during maturation. I persuaded my father, Tom Young MBE, who made glass, to come out of retirement and help me build our angels filled with whisky to bring the fable to life. They have been a great success and we have built a whole range of gift products based on spirits since then.
We recently introduced spirit glasses from Angels’ Share and are hoping to extend the range to include decanters and water jugs.
Before you took the plunge and started your own company, what did you do?
Growing up, before taking jobs in travel retail and then working in operations at the Macrobert Arts Centre at the University of Stirling, I helped out in the family business.
How did you raise the money for the start-up?
We initially self-funded the company and began working at home from the kitchen table and a small glassmaking workshop. We grew rapidly and soon realized that to keep up with demand, we needed our own space and a state-of-the-art glassmaking workshop. In 2016, a crowdfunding appeal helped boost the funds for the Bridge of Allan studio, where we are training our own glassmakers now.
What was your greatest success?
The public embraced our creations well and we won a variety of company awards, which really helped to boost our profile and get our name and brand out there.
What do you love most about running a business?
I love the fact that it’s a challenge every day and there is always something to work on. For me, it is the ideal work because it blends my passion for whisky and the industry with the fact that I love designing and selling new designs. Nothing is better than seeing something on a shelf in a posh department store, for example, and saying: I created that! That is a marvelous feeling.
What are you enjoying the least?
I’m not a huge fan of accounting and all the nitty-gritty things like HR and enforcement.
What are the top goals you have?
Right now, our priority is to get through the coronavirus Covid 19 crisis as unscathed as possible – like many companies, we experienced a drop in orders in the wake of the pandemic. Like many companies, we have had to lay off employees and are now gradually bringing them back. As our business-to-business work dried up, we turned to optimizing our direct sales and making the most of our website and Amazon commerce – delivering free locally and offering customers personalization and gift options if they can’t reach relatives. Online sales actually increased in April and May, but now we’re seeing the numbers even out again.
We’re also launching new products earlier than planned because we had time during the lockdown to address projects that may have been put on hold; being able to focus more during the quiet times allowed us to move those projects forward.
Other priorities include protecting our glassmaking capabilities, growing the Angels’ Share Glass brand, creating a legacy for our family, and achieving continued success for ourselves and our employees.
What could the Westminster and/or Scottish government do to help?
Anything that helps us enter new markets – i.e., initiatives such as funded trade missions, funded trade show presence, or virtual trade show/sho