Harris textile firm weaves pathway to success with Business Gateway support

Rob English, co-director of Borrisdale Twwed; photo Encompass and Harris Tweed Authority

A SOUTH Harris-based textile business has used Business Gateway’s one-to-one business support and funding advice to renovate new premises and increase on-island production.

Founded by Carol Graham and Rob English in 2017, Borrisdale Tweed specialises in the design, manufacture and retail of exclusive, high-quality homewares and accessories using locally woven Harris Tweed. From cushions to caps, all of Borrisdale Tweed’s products are made in the UK, with the majority made on Harris itself.

After a short break on Harris led them to fall in love with the island and eventually make it their permanent base, the couple gave up their corporate jobs to launch Borrisdale Tweed and Sound of Harris, its sister business of two distinctive self-catering units which showcase Harris Tweed in their interiors. 

Rob and Carol combine their previous industrial and academic experience in textile engineering and colour chemistry, a long term interest in interior design, plus their passion for the Outer Hebrides to create high-quality products that have been a hit with both locals and visitors to the island.

From a modest start as a pop-up shop next to their weaving shed, the business has doubled its turnover year on year and also significantly exceeded its projected turnover for 2019, following its recent relocation.

Business Gateway was able to help Borrisdale Tweed with one-to-one sessions from a business adviser, funding advice and an introduction to Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Business Gateway also supported the textile firm’s successful application to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Grants for Growth Funding, which is part-funded by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

As a result, Borrisdale Tweed was awarded £20,000 in grant funding and was able to renovate a dilapidated building in a key location in the south of Harris.

Rob English, director of Borrisdale Tweed, commented:

“Business Gateway’s support has been invaluable to our business.  Although I was successful with ERDF funding in my previous academic roles, the input provided really helped clarify our strategy to expand our manufacturing through a move to a larger premises in Leverburgh.  This included a focus on training and sustainability, to the effect that I now have a site management qualification and we were able to project manage the renovation ourselves.  We are now also almost zero waste with regard to use of cloth in the manufacture of our products.

“The grant enabled us to turn the former post office in Leverburgh into bespoke premises, which ultimately helped us to achieve our main objective of providing exclusive, high-quality products made in the Outer Hebrides.”

Derek Maclean, business adviser at Business Gateway Outer Hebrides, added:

“In addition to one-to-one support, strategic advice and networking opportunities, we were able to connect Borrisdale Tweed to the Grants for Growth scheme and fill its funding gap. It is fantastic to see how the ERDF grant funding has enabled Carol and Rob to create beautiful business premises and support our traditional textile industry by increasing their on-island manufacturing.”

The latest stories