Fife couple turn whisky barrels into unique gifts

Kevin Fleming and Tracey Hinds of Little Thistle.
Kevin Fleming and Tracey Hinds of Little Thistle.

Kevin Fleming and partner Tracey Hinds have three Little Thistle shops and a production base in Fife.

What does your business do?

We design and manufacture traditional gift items from reclaimed whisky barrels.

Why did you start in business?

We got into manufacturing when we couldn’t source products made from whisky barrels to sell in our Little Thistle retail shops. We decided to use Tracey’s experience as a kiltmaker and my blacksmith skills to design our own.

How did you get to where you are?

The break came when my sister was getting married and Tracey made the wedding dress and groom’s kilt.

With the spare material she created a handbag for my sister to match the kilt and lined it with material from her dress.

My sister loved it. We decided to see if other people liked it and I went out on the road selling to a number of retailers.

We opened our first shop in Dunfermline in 2014, followed by shops in Dundee and Glenrothes.

We also have a manufacturing premises in Queensway Technology and Business Park in Glenrothes.

Who has helped you along the way?

Family have given us both moral support and physical help, as well as some financial. More recently we have had a lot of help from Business Gateway Fife.

Having someone to bounce ideas off as well as provide expert help to develop our online presence has been invaluable.

Our adviser is now helping us investigate the potential to export our goods.

What was your biggest mistake?

In my previous business, we got comfortable and worried about risking what we had already achieved to start another venture.

This attitude meant all our eggs were in the one basket.

When things went wrong we didn’t have much to fall back upon.

Hopes for the future?

We want to continue to develop the range of gifts and cards we offer in our shops and grow our presence on the high street.

We also want to have our own products in carefully selected retailers and establish a successful export business for our own range of gifts.

Do you want to recruit in the future?

Yes, at the moment there are 12 of us and we see that growing by over 50% in the next few years.

Any advice to other entrepreneurs?

Research and a plan, make sure you know your market and ask yourself who will your product or service appeal to?

Also ask how much will someone be willing to pay against how much you can make or provide it for?