Manchester’s Lisa Watson has always had a passion for fabric, and most importantly, everything quilted. Lisa takes her quilts from design to sale. The materials are all sourced from British manufacturers, the thread is from a mill in Lancashire, the ribbon is from Cheshire. Fabrics range from the traditional Harris tweed, to zinging colours in sumptuous velvet, all trimmed with distinctly British fabrics from the conventional to 50’s retro. In this article Lisa explains why she is committed to ‘made in Britain’ and what support she’s been able to tap into.
Home grown talent
I believe there has never been a better time to celebrate and invest in the quality, heritage and expertise of British manufacturing and goods. Increasing numbers of e-commerce sites such as ‘Make it British’ and inspirational families such as the Bradshaw’s (who are pledging to buy only British for a year) are just a few examples of how home grown products are experiencing a resurgence as of late. With my roots firmly planted in the North West, I’m proud to be from an area with such an amazing textile heritage. Despite the industry being in decline, it is estimated that are still 16,000 people employed in the textile trade in the North West with a further 6,000 self-employed. Greater Manchester in particular is currently enjoying this new found optimism, and I feel enthused to be part of a renaissance in British textile manufacturing. Alongside my business partner, Frank Fult in Audenshaw, we currently stitch and hand finish the quilts in our workshop, but I have big ambitions to train and employ others in the local area to inspire them to continue on the legacy of Best is British.
The ‘light bulb’ moment
Since completing an embroidery degree at Manchester Polytechnic (now MMU) in 1992, I have always worked in textiles but I had an urge to do something more. I’ve worked closely with the local community to help them through the medium of art, from making huge textile banners with Accrington Secondary school students to creating art work with patients and their families at Alder Hey Children’s hospital in Liverpool. After creating a quilt for an event celebrating International Womens’ Day in 2009, I was introduced to Claire-Marie Boggiano and her bustling network of ‘Manchester bossy girls’, all successful North-West businesswomen in their chosen fields. And I was hooked.
It’s fantastic how supportive and generous women are in life and business – and the pearls of wisdom they share have been essential for both my sanity and start up success! Earlier this year, I discovered Blue Orchid which supports start-ups and with the eminently experienced Stuart Ridgeway as my advisor, I have been able to make my vision into a viable business. As a new starter to the world of business, I’d thoroughly recommend considering the ‘Manufacturing Advisory Service’, who offer business support for manufacturing companies based in England, helping them to improve and grow. The wealth of free support available for people setting up their own business is amazing – Global Entrepreneurship Week is an excellent example of this. With over 3000 events taking place across the UK and over 300,000 people taking part, it’s the perfect time to tap into the practical advice on offer to give your business a boost. Since making the leap to start making quilts commercially a year ago last summer, I’ve never looked back. It’s been tricky at times to balance designing and sewing, juggling freelance work and looking after the family but I feel that I am finally on the path to reach the equilibrium I have always dreamed off.
Quilts by Lisa will be soon available at: www.quiltsbylisawatson.co.uk. Lisa donates £10 from every quilt sold to three chosen charities.
Lisa is supporting this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week which runs from 18-24 November and is hosted in the UK by Youth Business International with support from Barclays. This year’s Week aims to encourage and support entrepreneurs and aspiring small business owners to take a step forward towards entrepreneurial success