Charlotte Markwell is a fashion designer creating feminine and romantic bespoke clothing. She started her business accidentally during the first Covid-19 lockdown and, just 12 months later, moved into a commercial unit at The Barnsley Business Village.
“I studied fashion at college and university but then life happened, and I got a job, bought a house and had my daughter.”
Over the years, Charlotte would make small items of clothing for her daughter to wear but had no time to design or make anything else. However, lockdown meant that Charlotte and her partner were at home much more and, when she was unable to buy a new dress for a birthday celebration because of shop closures, Charlotte decided to design her own.
It was a white ruffle dress, and it generated an amazing response when shared on her Instagram account.
“It just went nuts! I kept getting all these messages and I thought surely this is not happening. So I bought some fabric and thought if I sell six dresses over a month, maybe this could work.”
Using the same Instagram account, Charlotte shared her idea and, despite having only 100-200 followers at the time, the dresses sold out within six minutes!
Charlotte now has around six dress designs, all of which are a similar theme with feminine, romantic ruffles. She keeps the colours neutral and says the dresses are easy to wear, either dressed down with a pair of trainers or dressed up for a night out. Each dress is made to order by Charlotte herself, so they can be tailored to required lengths or adapted to customisations. One customer even supplied a pair of curtains as a bespoke fabric request!
Because the number of orders can be easily controlled via her Instagram account, Charlotte has continued to use that as her sales platform and teases followers with the date and time for pre-orders to open.
“At the moment, I open every four or five weeks for orders and I’m having to close after an hour because there’s just me and I can only take on so many.”
With the business growing, Charlotte found that she needed to move out of her spare bedroom and began looking for business premises.
Visiting The Business Village to discuss her participation on the ScaleUp 360 business support programme, Charlotte asked about office space and was surprised to find that the units were bigger and far more cost effective than expected. She moved in and says it was the best decision ever!
“I feel really safe here and that was a massive thing for me. Because of the way I’m running this business, it’s not a 9-5 Monday to Friday business. It’s got to work out of those hours, so I need to be able to feel comfortable and safe enough to be in a unit on my own. My car is right outside and it’s free parking, which is unbelievable”
Since moving in, Charlotte has found that The Business Village staff are great at keeping her updated on important things. They’ve also connected her with other people such as a website designer and a bespoke packaging company to help her business grow.
“I’ve lived in this area forever and honestly did not think there were that many businesses at The Business Village, it’s huge! I kind of went into this a bit blind, never having run a business before. Knowing that the staff are just a phone call away when I have a business issue is amazing.”
Charlotte’s plan is to grow her business and take on staff so that she can fulfil more orders. To do that, she’ll need to expand into a bigger unit and knows that The Business Village has the capacity, giving peace of mind that she’ll not have to start all over again when the time comes.
Charlotte is keen to stress that, with growth, Thread the Spool will still always offer an exclusive designer service rather than selling mass produced stock from a factory.“I would rather oversee everything, know that it’s done right and made correctly, and that it’s sustainable. That’s what people want.”