Interview with Jill Henry of Meander Apparel – High Growth Scotland with Kim McAllister

As someone who has only recently discovered the addictive rush of a spin class, this new company really appeals to me.

I met Jill at a networking event and was very interested in her concept of fashionable cyclewear. Who wouldn’t love a lightweight, waterproof, stylish jacket that turns into a rucksack or saddle bag?!

If I take my new passion for pedaling onto the open road, Meander Apparel would be a good place to get kitted out. The Meander Jacket, the launch product, is available to buy through Indiegogo. Founder Jill Henry explained why they chose the crowdfunding platform and how the business developed.

“By working direct with the manufacturer and selling direct to the consumer via Indiegogo we’re able to offer our quality design and high performance Italian fabrics to customers for a fair price,” she told me.

“We want to prove our concept and start a journey with a great crowd of supporters behind us that we hope will remain lifelong customers. Following the crowdfunding campaign, we have plans to expand the range to fully cater for commuter cyclists and outdoor lovers keeping with our design philosophy of style and function in equal measure and continuing to work with sustainable suppliers and recycled fabrics wherever possible.”

As with all great startups, there is a story around how the company came into being. 

“We started Meander after a charity cycle trip from London to Paris. My husband Steve was about to embark on a 100K trek to the North Pole and a group of us were cycling to raise money for this charity expedition.

We weren't the sort of lycra-clad racing cyclists but we were all regular commuters around London. In preparation I was looking for a cycle jacket to take on the journey. It needed the functionality for cycling but also for it to look good out at night too. It had to be lightweight, waterproof and breathable and it had look stylish. We spent the long days cycling chatting about what we’d want to make ourselves.

I have a background in the fashion industry having headed up product and sourcing for House of Holland and various menswear brands.  Steve comes from a career in the finance and asset management and has a degree in engineering. He is also a serial ultra-marathon runner and adventurer.”

It wasn’t all smooth cycling – sourcing suppliers, materials and trims took time, then they had to find a manufacturer who specialised in performance outerwear.

“We started developing the collection in Scotland but unfortunately the factory closed down mid way through development,” Jill said.

“It was a bit of a set back as we had to source another supplier. We travelled to Sofia in Bulgaria to meet a factory that was recommended to me. When we met the factory we knew we were in very capable hands as they make for some high-end performance and Scandinavian brands like Barbour and Joules and the products are very well made.”

Jill credits Business Gateway and Michelle Brown PR with supporting the company along the way. Last year, the company was accepted into the Scottish Enterprise high growth pipeline.

“The best advice given is probably to stay true to you vision and to believe in yourself,” she said. “There’s a lot of people willing to give advice out there and you have to filter out what’s best for you and when to believe in yourself and follow your gut instincts. Starting your own business, every day is a school day, so I take in as much support and information as I can.”


Other articles by Kim McAllister