A Lakes brand that truly stands out from the herd
Published at 14:01, Tuesday, 15 May 2012
TAKE a walk on any of the Lake District fells and there is a good chance you will meet a Herdwick sheep.
These iconic animals have been a mainstay of the region for hundreds of years, having been bred to stay loyal to their territory.
While some of us may take them for granted, a Cumbria-based giftware company is taking them to a worldwide audience.
The Herdy Company has developed a distinctive brand using the distinctive Herdwick face as its symbol and, with more than 300 independent retailers stocking its products, the Lake District’s most famous residents now adorn mugs, tea towels, bags, mouse mats and greeting cards across the UK and beyond.
Diane Hannah, who set up the company with her husband Spencer, says: “The brand mark is the face of the Herdwick sheep, because not only is it the iconic face of the Lake District, but it is also rather cute.”
And there is no doubt that the buying public feel the same.
In just five years, the company has gone from the husband and wife partnership selling three products from a stall at a country show, to an internationally-known business supplying exclusive designs to companies as far afield as Tokyo.
“We moved to the Lake District from North Manchester in 2002 and relocated our design consultancy company to Kendal,” explains Diane.
“It was actually on a trip to Scandinavia that we looked at the contemporary giftware that was on offer to tourists and realised that there was nobody doing this sort of thing in a modern and fun way for the Lake District. We thought that it was something that we could potentially do.
“When we came back we set about thinking how we could do it, and we came up with the concept of the Herdy brand. We had the trademark approved and did a soft launch with just keyrings, badges and mugs at the Westmorland Show in 2007.
“The organisers had placed us next to the Herdwick sheep pens, which seemed like a good idea to us – unfortunately, on the day of the launch they announced the second outbreak of foot and mouth and a ban on moving all livestock, so all the pens were empty.
“Despite all this, we had a fantastic response and it gave us the confidence to invest more money into developing the brand.”
By the following Easter, The Herdy Company was ready to do business with a large array of gifts, kitchenware and even home-furnishings, all bearing that familiar white face.
With a small shop in Grasmere, as well as the ever-growing number of UK stockists and the inevitable venture into online retail, the company has grown at pace.
Diane says: “I guess we were a bit naive when we started out because we didn’t really consider that there may be a market for Herdy outside the Lakes.
“We found, however, that retailers who were visiting the area really liked our products and wanted to sell them in their own shops.
“Now we are actively trying to increase our foothold in places like the US and in Europe, and we are also looking at designing an exclusive range for Japan.”
Probably the company’s biggest success of late came when it was commissioned to create two products for Jamie Oliver’s party planning business.
Another big project has been the launch of the Herdy Junior book, a children’s story book that explains how the Herdwick sheep always returns to its roots.
But Diane insists that the company isn’t just cashing in on a pretty face – everything they do revolves around promoting the Lake District, while a percentage of the business’ profits go into the Herdyfund, which helps to safeguard the conservation of the Herdwick breed and helping to sustain rural communities.
She says: “It is absolutely about promoting where we are from, and all of our products come with a ticket with information about the Herdwick breed and the Lake District.
“While we moved here for personal reasons, because we were fortunate enough to be able to work from anywhere we liked, it was living in and being a part of the Lakes community that inspired us to create the Herdy brand.
“The Lakes will always form a big part of the Herdy story.”
Published by http://www.in-cumbria.com
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