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‘Lone wolf” businesswoman Jenny Harper is in her element with Patch of Blue

Jenny Harper
Jenny Harper

Each week, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Jenny Harper, owner of Patch of Blue Studio in Cullen, Moray

How and why did you start in business?

I have stitched since I was a young girl and in the late 1970s discovered patchwork.

Life and children got in the way and my hobby could never have become a full-time occupation.

I finally retired in the late 1990s, having had a variety of occupations, including curtain and soft furnishing-making for a local designer.

I also studied for a City and Guilds qualification in creative embroidery.

It was in Spain, during a personal development week, that I decided I really wasn’t ready to retire.

At the age of nearly 66, I came back from Spain and found there was a shop in Cullen, where I live, that I could perhaps start a business from.

How did you get to where you are today?

I took over the premises on August 1, 2015, and finally opened mid-September. I stocked the shop slowly and with great care, but always with fabrics – mostly – and ranges that I liked myself.

More than 18 months later, I consider the shop fully stocked. I hope I have fabrics that will please most, if not all customers, who range from patchwork ladies to those who make all manner of other items from bags to home furnishings.

Some ladies who dress-make have also found suitable fabrics in the shop.

Who helped you?

I have been a bit of a lone wolf with my business. I had conversations with Fiona Campbell, one of the original Puddleduck Patch Team, which previously operated in Cullen and very soon made an appointment to see Business Gateway.

They were able to give me advice on basic information, rules and regulations, and legal requirements.

And they also advised me to join the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which I did immediately.

FSB helped me set up my insurance, which was the first thing I put in place once I had signed the lease on the shop. It also helped me to get a great rate on my card machine, which was a big saving.

What has been your biggest mistake?

I don’t believe I’ve made any, although it’s early days. Perhaps they haven’t reared their ugly head yet.

What is your greatest achievement?

Getting the shop up and running, having it revamped, renewing the bathroom facilities and stocking up in six weeks. It was a very hectic but extremely exciting time.

If you were in power in government, what would you change?

At a local level, it’s ludicrous that I do not have to pay business rates but continue to pay water rates.

I would address this, if I could, perhaps by contributing in a way that is commensurate with the type of business and perhaps the number of employees.

What do you still hope to achieve?

I hope to continue to broaden my regular customer base. Also to expand my website to include more information regarding stock. This is an ongoing challenge, as I do it myself in quiet times in the shop and at home.

What do you do to relax?

I actually like to do some hand-sewing. Also, there is nothing I like more than a little gentle weeding on the allotment on a sunny day – and a barbequed sausage or two.

My grandchildren are also a source of great joy to me; I have nine, from Kathryn and Laura, both nearly 21, to Maisie, who is nearly six.

What are you currently reading, listening to, or glued to on the TV?

I am trying to catch up reading a backlog of Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine, which is a great source of inspiration to me.

I am glued to Grace and Frankie, which will come back soon with a new series on Netflix.

Also on Netflix, Designated Survivor is back soon with another series. I don’t watch too much live TV, tending to catch up when I have an hour or two to spare. A Place to Call Home, an Australian series, is a good one I like to keep up with.

What do you waste your money on?

I hope I don’t waste any money. I was raised in post-war England and still remember rationing so, although I’m not particularly frugal, I don’t think I ever waste money.

How would your friends describe you?

I hope they would say I was loyal and caring.

What would your enemies say about you?

I really hope I don’t have any. I try to maintain my equanimity at all times.

What would you drive and dream of driving?

I have a Honda Civic which I love, but wouldn’t mind a little, pale blue VW Campervan for weekends away.