The Celtic marketplace is awash with young, bright entrepreneurs looking to leave a lasting cultural legacy. Recently we spoke with Halifax, Nova Scotia-resident Elizabeth McCorkell of Marmalade Lane about her professional aspirations.
What are your own roots?
I’m Canadian of Scottish descent.
What inspired you to start the business?
Since I have a Fine Arts degree, I always knew I would have a business of my own, whether it was selling artwork under my own name or a business like this. I’m a Highland dancer and a snare drummer, so being very involved in the Scottish community has definitely influenced my work. My first printed fabric piece was a scarf for myself printed with Highland cattle. It was based on an etching that I had printed on paper and sold at a dance event. It was very well received by my colleagues. I then started printing tank tops with fling steps on the back for my friends to wear to the dance studio and it has just grown from there. I produce items that really represent me and clothing that I want to wear myself.
What are the challenges of your profession?
Competing with companies that mass produce and sell cheaper products. I do all of my work by hand which is much more time consuming, but I enjoy the process and the aesthetic achieved.
What are the rewards?
I get a lot of compliments. People seem to enjoy seeing something a little bit different as well as a younger entrepreneur. It’s exciting for me to see people wanting to purchase my work.
Who is your typical client?
Since I’ve been doing most of my sales at Scottish events, my typical clientele are pipe band members and Highland dancers, as well as spectators.
What are your core products?
Pipe band hoodies – I have a bagpipe, snare, tenor, and bass drum design as well as other designs with a Celtic / Highland twist. The Highland gear, such as the Fling Tank, is very popular as is the plaid skull and cross-swords design; I print it on women’s and unisex tanks, shorts, scarves, and ladies’ tops.
What distinguishes you from your competition?
All of my designs are drawn by hand and handprinted. Some items I also sew myself, such as scarves and ladies’ tops.
What are your future plans for the business?
To keep growing. The goal is to have a sustainable business in online sales as well as continue to vend at Celtic events, maybe even a storefront one day.
How has the Celtic marketplace evolved in recent years?
In general I think there’s been an upsurge in buying handmade goods and supporting small business. The imported goods and food items that people expect to find at Celtic events are still available, but I think there are more unique choices, such as handmade jewelry and food items, being offered than there once was.
Are we doing enough to preserve and promote Celtic culture generally?
I think more can always be done. I’m right in the thick of things since I perform at many different events and venues, but I definitely think events like Highland games could be better attended.
What can we be doing better?
Offering something fresh and exciting is important as well as continuing to promote the unique traditional aspects of our culture. Of course effective, captivating advertising for Celtic events is also necessary.