British-made independent and ethical goods spur on success

A TRIO of Worcester entrepreneurs who fly the flag for British-made goods have successfully secured partnerships with more than 200 independent brands just in time for Christmas.

Online marketplace Hope and Story has reached its target in just six months rather than its original aim of at the end of its second year.

The news comes hot on the heels of concerns Christmas will be cancelled this year due to supply chain issues arising from Brexit and the pandemic, leaving many consumers looking for an alternative to major online retailers when shopping for gifts this year.

Hope and Story co-founder, Betsy Vickery, said: “In developing Hope and Story, we wanted to curate an online marketplace that both championed and showcased the best of British brands, whilst providing consumers with an enjoyable, online shopping experience.

“We are delighted to already be working with more than 200 British partners across 12 plus lifestyle categories, especially at a time where consumers are more inspired than ever to shop British this Christmas.

“An over-reliance on outsourcing overseas has led to a lack of responsibility when it comes to ethics and sustainability, so we are incredibly proud to be building a community of inspired, independent makers who share our values and our passion for truly British-made goods.”

Hope and Story was originally inspired in spring 2020 when Betsy spent weeks searching online for 100 per cent British-made gifts for her seven-year-old daughter’s birthday and found there was no e-Commerce marketplace that offered ethical, sustainable, and truly British brands.

Enlisting the help of her childhood friends, Alison Larnder and Lizzy Waterhouse, they set to work in developing the virtual British-made marketplace and have already seen an overwhelmingly positive response just six months on.

With a clear vision to become the ‘go to’ online marketplace for British made brands, all products listed via the Hope and Story site are united in the same standard of quality and ethics.

Leading brands including Georgie Murton, Studio Arcform, Samuel Groves and Gung Ho are just a few of the names appearing online giving conscious consumers more choice than ever when it comes to buying sustainable Christmas gifts this year.

Visit https://hopeandstory.com for more.

Q&A with Betsy Vickery, Co-Founder of Hope and Story

What is Hope and Story?

A. Hope and Story in an online destination for consumers to buy British made, sustainable and ethically made products.

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What was your inspiration in launching this platform?

A. When I found myself in lockdown, I wanted to support British brands, buying locally made products rather than those that have been imported. I was immediately astonished at the number of websites that misled me into thinking I was buying a British made product when in fact that was not the case. I started to look much more closely at the products I was buying and their origin. As I had surplus time, I spent time researching which brands actually manufactured in the UK and I was delighted to find so many great quality products and amazing brands that shared my values. The stories behind the brands were also amazing and I thought how wonderful it would be to have a department store that showcased them and their fantastic products all in one place; thus the idea of Hope and Story was born.

Has the pandemic impacted on UK consumers buying British?

A. We recently surveyed 1,000 consumers on how their shopping habits have changed over the last 12 — 18 months, which revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired over 56% of consumers to proactively support British businesses, with a further 43% revealing they now proactively search for ‘local’ or British brands when shopping online or on the high street. 46% of consumers revealed that they find it challenging to source products that are genuinely British made, with 61% confirming they would be annoyed if they had purchased a product from a brand that they believed to be British made, to later found out it wasn’t.

It’s great that consumers are much more conscious now when purchasing but I’m not sure how many of them know that at times, they are being misled. The fact that so many websites are purposely misleading consumers proves that there is a market for British made goods.

You use the term ‘British not Brit-ish’ — what do you mean by that?

A. British brands don’t always make their products in Britain. We wanted to showcase the products and brands that actually make / manufacture their products here in the UK.

You state that by purchasing from you, customers are also helping boost the UK economy — can you explain that?

A. By buying a British made product you are supporting the UK economy by helping to create business, jobs and careers and enabling the vast array of creative skills we have here. You are also supporting the ethical values that we carry in this country and the drive to be more sustainable. There are a growing

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number of ‘conscious consumers’ who are looking to shop more ethically and sustainably and who are particularly keen to buy from and support genuine British brands.

Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?

A. Hope and Story has exceeded our expectations so far. We hoped for 40-50 partners for launch, but we have over 180 and counting. In 12 months’ time I would like Hope and Story to be a trusted online shop that has a vast selection of wonderful British made products to choose from. I would like to prove that the UK still produces a wide range of great quality goods that the consumer can easily find on the Hope and Story website.

Do you have a business mentor?

A. I don’t have one single mentor, but I have a wonderful team of professionals that have inspired me and worked on the project with the same passion that I have. I feel I am extremely lucky to have that valuable input.

What did you do before setting up Hope and Story?

A. I still have a company that hires furniture to Exhibitions, Conferences and Events across the UK and Europe. Over the last 20 years I have worked hard to build up my business, but Covid-19 was disastrous for our industry. We are fortunate to have been able to diversify and build on our transport and manufacturing within the company to survive and I am thrilled to say the Exhibition and Event industry has come back with a bang. About time!

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting up a new business based on your experience to date?

A. There are a number of things I would highlight based on my own experience:

· Always make sure you have the right team or support behind you, when you have that, be brave and take the leap.

· Make sure there is a market or a need for your product

· Understand how the finances of the business work

· Set yourself realistic goals and targets

· Don’t give up at the first hurdle

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