Ross and Kristen Hunter of Whisky Frames

Entrepreneurial spirit secures barrels of success for Rosewell couple

An artisan business that was started as a hobby has secured 80 new stockists in the past two months, including a leading Australian department store.

Kristen and Ross Hunter, of Rosewell-based Whisky Frames, began crafting a range of unique photo frames out of reclaimed single malt whisky barrels at the end of 2015.

Since then, the husband and wife team has taken on five employees and turned five shipping containers into their workshop, allowing them to produce up to 1000 frames per month.

Now, with the help of Business Gateway Midlothian, the couple is set to benefit from Intellectual Property (IP) and innovation support that will help keep them on track to hit a projected turnover of £308k by February 2018, a four-fold increase on this year’s figure.

Kristen said: “We’ve been surprised by the immediate, widespread popularity of our frames and how quickly we’ve had to scale up our operation. It’s fantastic and scary in equal measure. When we decided to really push the business last October we turned to Business Gateway to see what help was available to us, as my husband’s other business had benefitted from a range of support in the past.

“Our adviser has been fantastic. He’s introduced us to potential stockists and is arranging support that will help us protect our business and hopefully buy further machinery so we can operate more lean. We’d always envisaged exporting but not as quickly. Having Peter’s of Kensington in Sydney as a new stockists, and with discussions underway with an American retailer, we’re now looking to our adviser for internalisation support that will help us manage interest from abroad.”

Having studied sculpture and architecture at Edinburgh College of Art, Kristen used her artistic flare to design each of the company’s five frames, which are all made from casks obtained from cooperages and directly from distilleries across Scotland.

Each barrel, which started life holding bourbon before being used to mature whisky, is dried before being turned into individual frames that are treated, sanded, and varnished.

Jim Hiddleston, Business Gateway, said: “When Kristen and Ross started the business their aim was to generate enough income so that Kirsten didn’t have to return to café management after the birth of their daughter. Because their growth has been so rapid they came to us for advice on how to manage it. Already we’ve helped them tap into IP expertise from Scottish Enterprise and innovation support will shortly follow. We’re also investigating potential funding avenues for the business, and are putting plans in place to provide relevant exporting advice, all of which will help them meet their projections for the coming year.”

Thanks to securing a raft of stockist at both Scotland’s Trades Fair in January, where the frames were voted ‘Best Product’, and Spring Fair in Birmingham’s NEC in February, the enterprise now has over 150 stockists.

Kristen said: “The inspiration for our frames came after our dog died and I wanted to buy Ross a frame to hold a photo of Tess. I couldn’t find anything I liked so ended up finding one in America made out of reclaimed barn wood. That search made us realise there was a gap in the market for gifts geared towards men. We then came across an old whisky cask in a salvage yard and Whisky Frames was born.

“We invested very little to get the business off the ground – £1k of our personal savings – and have grown it through hard work and resourcefulness. We’ve a product we are very proud of that provides a lasting memory of Scotland. Ultimately, we want to be exporting worldwide and for the frames to become a national gift of Scotland.”