From launching their own online retail site that boasts their stunning imagery and their unique designs, to creating bespoke ranges for household brands like Woolworths, Boschendal and Poetry, 2020 proved to be a very inspiring year for Barrydale Hand Weavers – despite the obvious virus related downtime.
“We’ve weathered a pandemic of biblical and historic proportions and still managed to grow revenue by 30%,” owner Arran Bastable said during his first week back at the weavery.
Joined by a well-rested compliment of weavers, he spoke with great enthusiasm about his plans for 2021.
From new product ranges, to hiring more like-minded individuals to join his already rapidly expanding team – the Scotsman is cautiously optimistic that in a year’s time, he will again be able to show just how much the business has grown.
“Our plan is to tap into a few new markets, particularly online, while continuing to deliver the same world class product to our national and international wholesale clients,” Arran said.
Arran’s excitement is almost contagious. He knows that the work from home culture is set to become the norm and he also understands that the hand crafted products that are produced in Barrydale will (for obvious reasons) continue to gain popularity.
Reflecting on a turbulent 2020
It has been more than a year since Arran and his wife Kate purchased the business from founder Carol Morris and although they knew that they were always likely to experience a few teething problems, the dynamic duo understood that they simply had to put their faith in the excellent team they had inherited.
That same team carried them through some very rough seas and they have since been handsomely rewarded through pay increases and other incentives.
Despite the trials and tribulations of an extremely tough 2020, Arran that he would go the extra mile to ensure that everyone at Barrydale Hand Weavers felt that they were part of his extended family.
It was a strategy that created unity in his team when the virus could have completely derailed his plans.
Through his engineering background he adopted a hands-on reward based management style that is working very well for the craft business.
He views himself as a big brother to his staff and values the trust his team has placed in him to guide them through the rest of the Covid-19 storm.
They do, however, need him to sharpen up his skills when the Barrydale Bowls Social League resumes (hopefully in mid February) as his bowling skills do not come close to the panache he displayed as head chef at their staff party.
The Scot prepared a sublime lamb curry potjie, pork chops, lamb chops, rump steak and – due to a special request – convinced mother-in-law Jean Minter to make a mouth-watering lasagne for that occasion.
He is equally confident that he has the right ingredients for Barrydale Hand Weavers products to remain a sought after dish at some of the country’s premier retail outlets.
What looms in the future
Having raised R300 000 through crowd funding and delivered the rewards to everyone across the globe that helped the business weather the worst of the Covid-19 storm, Arran confirmed that the process for his staff to own a 25% stake in the business is well underway.
He added that the business had received support from the UIF, CDI & SAFT and that they have invested in new equipment (looms, shuttles and bobbins) to further improve the business efficiency and growth potential.
“We’ve bought three new washing machines! We’ve fixed looms, built shelving, improved systems, had a pay rise and we’ve played (good) bowls,” he noted.
Arran confirmed to his staff that he is seriously investigating the use of an alternative, more spacious premises for the business, but for now, the goal is purely to build on the platform that has been established.
“Together, as a family we must approach this year ahead, inspired and hopeful of greater things to come,” he said.
“Every year has its challenges, but this team has now proven that it can overcome just about anything.”
As a business, Barrydale Hand Weavers is concerned not only with the preservation of an ancient process that results in beautiful products, but also in the empowerment, employment and skills development of their team – because that’s where they believe their future lies.
Or as they would say here in Africa – Woza Barrydale Hand Weavers Woza!