Mhairi Killin in 2003 founded Aosdàna, which says it regularly collaborates with external designers, creatives, and institutes on projects that often involve new techniques and other innovations.
Pre-pandemic, most of its sales were generated from its gallery on the island, where many of its products are designed and made, but this source of income became affected by Covid-related restrictions. However, this period also saw Ms Killin and award-winning jewellery designer Maeve Gillies win an Innovate UK award to develop jewellery based on the heritage of silversmiths the Ritchies, a husband-and-wife team credited with establishing the tradition of crafting Celtic jewellery and silversmithing on Iona.
Ms Killin approached Business Gateway for support and guidance, and as a result was able to develop a plan to increase her online presence, including generating global sales for the new Kist o’ Ritchies range. The latter is billed as using the latest manufacturing technology to navigate the lack of metalworking skills on the island, and featuring the likes of 3D-printed prototyping to help preserve key historical designs from the 19th and 20th centuries. The range is set to launch in the spring and is expected to appeal to international markets including the US and Canada.
Business Gateway also helped her to secure a Small Business Development Grant from Argyll and Bute Council that enabled her to access professional product photography, which will help get the new range online imminently.
Ms Killin praised the help she has received from Business Gateway, adding: “Not only has their assistance helped me re-evaluate my business strategy, but it has also allowed me to invest in strong product photography for my website, which will help me greatly when launching into international markets later this year.”
Angela Vernel, adviser at Business Gateway, which has also been supporting firms including sportswear specialist Beinn Nibheis, said: “It’s been fantastic to watch Mhairi and Maeve develop such an innovative jewellery collection. I’m pleased that we have been able to support her through this exciting new stage of her business and am sure the new collection will prove extremely popular with customers from all over the world.”