Baa Stool produce a range of luxury British sheepskin furniture and accessories with removable covers lovingly created in Denbigh, North Wales. Their aim is to make quality pieces of furniture that can fit in anywhere but still have a real wo w factor.
Before founding Baa Stool, Michelle Bartleet-Greavey was training as a traditional upholsterer. It was when she was dealing with a particularly tricky project that she, in exasperation, sought refuge in the beautiful rolling fields surrounding her Denbighshire home. Unable to take her mind completely off her upholstery issues, she realised that the sheep grazing in the distance looked remarkably like footstools! Unable to get the idea out of her head, she started work on the very first Baa Stool.
We had a chat with Michelle about all things Baa Stool, sheepskin and setting up a small business. Here’s what she had to say…
When did you realise that you had created more than just a single footstool but a potential business?
I kind of knew as soon as I made the first stool that it could be a business. I loved it and knew I was onto something. However, I do have quite ‘out there’ taste so I took the first stool to a County Fair where I was demonstrating traditional upholstery. It attracted a lot of attention!
Then, I did some research on the internet and realised no one was making anything similar. I set up a Facebook page and a Website and started to market them… and they started to sell!
I made and sold Baa stools alongside my main business, North Wales Upholstery, for a year until I decided to seriously go for it and attended our first Trade Show where we picked up several stockists, including a very large furniture retailer. From there it quickly became a business which eclipsed North Wales Upholstery. Within a year we were exhibiting and exporting internationally.
Why do you choose to use sheepskin for your products?
Because it’s amazing. Sheepskin has so many wonderful properties that make it perfect for furniture. It’s very robust, it’s anti-static so repels dust, hypoallergenic and sustainable as well as being a natural temperature regulator. It also looks awesome!
The sheep works hard to make the sheepskin – I hate to think of it being wasted and I feel instead we should celebrate it!
Why do you think it is important to promote British Sheepskin?
British Sheepskin is widely acknowledged to be of very high quality and yet our shops are filled with cheap imported NZ and Australian skins. It seems crazy to me, when we have this superior quality material right here. The general public just do not know the difference and at Baa Stool we do everything we can to educate them.
It’s important to me to promote British Sheepskin, as Baa Stool has grown up around a farming community. Farmers see precious little revenue from the skins – we hope our product range helps to promote this wonderful material.
What do you think has been your biggest achievement with Baa Stool?
I am very proud that Baa Stool provides fairly paid, flexible, interesting and stimulating work for 8 people within this rural community.
I’m also very proud of the fact that 20% of our business is export. In a market where British Manufacturing is struggling, we are growing.
What is one thing you have learnt since starting the business?
I have learnt that having your own business is the hardest thing you’ll ever do but also the most rewarding. It’s important to have a work/life balance. I haven’t found it yet but I’m working on it!
What advice would you give someone just starting out with their own business?
The best advice I can give is to blow your own trumpet and be your own PR. Tell anyone who will listen about your business – you never know who or what they might know!
Make sure you put yourself in front of the movers and shakers in your industry and ask for help and advice – people are lovely if you give them the chance to be.
What are your plans for the future of Baa Stool?
We’re planning to continue to grow, create more jobs and open new markets. Currently we’re focusing on entering the Japanese market.
We will also be launching new products including ‘Moo Stool’ – a range of Cow Hide stools and home accessories.
If you’d like to find out more about Baa Stool, and their fabulous range of products, head to their website: www.baastool.co.uk
Baa Stool is a finalist in the Best Rural Manufacturing Business for Wales and Northern Ireland. To see the other businesses they are competing against, click here. Or, to buy your tickets for the ceremony, click here.
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