1. Tell me about yourself and your role at ERIBÉ?
Rosemary Eribé – founder and CEO of ERIBÉ Knitwear Ltd.
My role, ultimately is to ensure that all of us at ERIBÉ are happy, know our vision and goals and that we are all working harmoniously to reach them.
This keeps me very busy, travelling to meet as many of our customers as possible to ensure they are selling our knitwear successfully and to hear what else they want and need. In turn this helps me design the next collection.
2. What is your focus at the moment?
Right now, I have been very focused on the new Winter 2020 collection (which we will sell all year round due to our new and growing market in Australia and New Zealand) and a growing Scottish tourist market. Also planning sales trips and events for the next coming months.
3. Which are the biggest markets for ERIBÉ at the moment, and which are the fastest growing?
The EU has become very important for ERIBÉ, particularly Germany. But France, Austria and Holland are also important for us. We have just re-entered Japan again and with some success. We see Japan as having good potential for next year due to the weak Pound and the British look is currently popular again in Japan.
Australia has been our biggest surprise. I visited last year for four days and managed to write excellent orders and signed up a new agent. The result is many repeat orders from retailers and many new accounts who trial us. Much to our delight, our new agent is coming all the way to our Agents Meeting to see the new 2020 collection! It is a long journey and a big commitment from her.
4. How would you say the company has evolved over the years?
We have had to reinvent ourselves several times to stay in business. In the beginning I specialised in cashmere and in hand intarsia for the wealthy in Japan and in the USA. Then the focus was accessories before we built up our hand knitting business with 240 hand knitters up and down the country. Now our focus is very much knitting on our own machines, building up our own manufacturing in Scotland making Scottish/British inspired knitwear for a modern way of life. At present our fairisle and tweed patterns are hugely popular. Colour is so important after all these years of wearing black; as is sustainability and how it is made. So, we tick all the right boxes now. It feels good to be back in fashion and in demand again.
5. What excites you about the future of the textiles industry?
Although Brexit is very stressful due to the uncertainty of what will happen and knowing exactly what to do to look after our customers in Europe. What has been very good for us is the very weak Pound. Suddenly in the UK we are able to manufacture at a price that is affordable to both the home and export markets. As more and more people look to slow fashion, they want to know where and how we make it and that we use only natural fibres. So, manufacturers such as us in the UK have become popular again.6. Are there any exciting projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
Yes, we are building up and expanding our new knitting factory called “Woolly Towers” – a subsidiary of ERIBÉ.
7. What was your first experience of the industry and how did you get to where you are?
After studying textile design in the Scottish Borders – I always knew I wanted to set up my own business. So, with that in mind I did a crash course in business for six months. As part of that I knitted my own new collection and used it to do market research. This was my very first experience of selling. I traveled to London on the overnight bus and tramped the streets of London to find my first customers. I managed to sell to a few retailers. It was a very hard learning curve. Customers don’t always want to pay. I learnt very quickly that the UK was a difficult market with a lot of competition. Most retailers could only place small orders. After doing more market research and going on the road again I discovered that I could sell to larger customers overseas (first in the USA, then Japan).
As a tiny company receiving larger orders from bigger customers who can pay quickly and reliably was the best way forward. It meant less paperwork and as a one man band, meant I could focus on design and delivery more easily.
8. What does a typical day look like for you?
If I am at home, my alarm goes off around 6am. I like to take time to think about the coming day, walk round our garden and feed the birds. Make breakfast for whoever is in the house at the time (always my husband and often guests).
Often, I quickly check emails to see if anything needs answering before I leave home.
I leave for work anytime between 8am and 8.30am and prefer to cycle from Galashiels to Melrose (5.5 miles).
Once emails have been completed (never ending work) I focus on the job of the moment: design / sales and our customers / travel plans / the business / our team / knitting events.
I cycle home sometime between 5.30 – 7pm depending on how much needs doing.
In the evening, I enjoy walking with my sister in law (with her dogs) or enjoying the piano that my husband plays as he rehearses.9. What would you say is your greatest achievement so far?
One of the most memorable achievements for ERIBÉ was when we won the UKFT Award and met HRH The Princess Royal. For us, as a small company, it felt as if we were recognised as a serious business. It put us on the map in the UK as a brand with a future. It helped my team and helped our customers too. We are forever grateful for those Awards.
10. What has been the greatest hurdle you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
A German distributor placed a large order with us and did not pay despite bank checks etc. Luckily, I only shipped out half the order as a precaution. The day after shipping I received a phone call from another supplier saying they had not been paid and were suspicious of this distributor. I borrowed money from a German friend to keep us afloat. The local newspaper did an article on our mishap and advertised the sale we did to sell everything off quickly.
We lost a business year and had to work very hard to recover; all hardships and difficulties have only made us stronger.11. If you had an extra hour in the day, how would you spend it?
I would like to hand write letters to my friends and family who are scattered around the world.12. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
When a serious problem arises: Look for an opportunity – whatever it is. Turn the problem into something positive.13. What would be your advice to anyone looking to achieve a similar career to you?
Learn by doing and asking questions. Always do market research before starting or trying something out. Never give up, textiles is like being in a boat riding high on a wave and then slowly down again, and then up high once more. Just like slow moving waves with a few storms in between. So you need perseverance and a determination to learn and to succeed. Life is never boring and always very interesting and you meet so many wonderful people.
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