Despite the difficulties brough on by COVID-19, USA-based Scottish Creations continues to do brisk business. Recently we spoke with company co-founder Hilary Creighton about her passion for her profession.
What is your own ethnicity/heritage?
I was born in Glasgow, Scotland and emigrated to New Brunswick in Canada when I was 6. The next 11 years I spent happily growing up in Fredericton, interspersed with a couple of years living in Stephenville, Newfoundland experiencing first-hand the lovely warm nature of the Newfies, and a year at a Scottish boarding school tucked up in the north on the Moray coast. I have the fondest memories of those childhood and teenage years spent travelling back and forth across the Atlantic between Canada and Scotland. As much as Canada stole my heart, my Mum missed Scotland, so back we went to Glasgow. Settling back down in Scotland, I raised my family in the historic old town of Linlithgow, just outside Edinburgh. Thirty years later I returned to North America, this time to Connecticut, USA to be with my husband, also a Glaswegian Scot! My brother still lives in beautiful Cape Breton in Nova Scotia and my Mum and 2 of our children live in Scotland. With these strong connections I am definitely a proud Scot but nicely rounded off with the Canadian and American influence.
What is the company’s history and mandate?
I am intensely proud of Scotland, our rich innovative culture and the people with their sense of humor. There are so many talented creative individuals, often based in some of the most remote parts of Scotland and the Islands, setting themselves up as small independent companies producing wonderful quality Scottish products. It bothered me that I didn’t see any of these fabulous products here in the US or Canada but realized that it would be difficult for a small independent to break into the North American market, as they would be up against the huge more established companies. We decided to start an online business with the main aim of supporting these individual and small family businesses, to offer them a chance to showcase their products in North America. At the same time, offering a chance for Americans and Canadians to connect directly with their Scottish Heritage in a more contemporary way ultimately often supporting the small towns and villages that their ancestors originated from.
How has it evolved over time?
We started out as an online store but very quickly realized that people didn’t know we were there, we were a needle in a haystack. How were people meant to find us when there is so much out there? We decided to try taking our products to the people by being vendors at some of the Highland Games here in the Northeast US. We had such a great time and met so many nice people, all with such nice comments to make about the products we carry, that the Highland Games have become a fixture in our calendar. TWe are now becoming known and growing fast and are happy to say that we have a new business partner. Donna is American, born to a Scottish father. She will tell you she is an adopted Scot. Back and forth to Scotland many, many times, she shares our vision to support the small talented individual artists and designers to bring a wee bit of contemporary Scotland to North America.
What are your roles and responsibilities there?
As Co-founder my role is to over-see all aspects of the company. Developing and nurturing our relationship with all our suppliers is very important to us, they are the reason Scottish Creations exists, and we want to make sure we represent them in the best possible way. We travel to Scotland and to the Scottish Trade Fair each year, sourcing new and different quality products, again only from individuals and small independent companies that meet with our mission. When you run a small family business, it is all hands-on deck. We both work on sourcing and buying new products along with all the admin that brings, however we do have a general split in our roles. Donna looks after all aspects of the Highland Games and I am more involved with the corporate side of the business.
What are the challenges of the job?
Time! Balancing running a business from home and spending time with our family which is spread across 2 continents is challenging! Luckily travelling to Scotland means we get to send time with our daughters who live there which is always a bonus.
What are the rewards?
Running a business is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it feels like you are always working and there is never enough time to get everything done. But there are some great plus sides, we get to travel to Scotland regularly and we love going to the Highland Games. They are wonderful events, everyone is having a great time, we get to talk about Scotland all day, and people are happy, even when it rains!
What are your core products?
This is a hard one as we do love all our products and, as we get to know our suppliers, they all feel like family to us. Our Harris Tweed bags and accessories are designed by Blair, a delightful young man from Glasgow. We have fabulous whisky products, featuring hand blown glass whisky water droppers and whisky sets displayed on the original whisky staves, designed, and created by Tom and Karen, a father and daughter team based in Bridge of Allan. Our hand painted tiles with iconic images of Scotland are designed and painted by Elspeth from her studio/kiln, which she converted from her garage in her back garden in Glasgow! They have all have been with us since the beginning and we are delighted that everyone loves their products
How do you differ from the competition?
Many of the companies selling Scottish items focus on well-known and respected Scottish brands featuring the more traditional side of Scotland. We wanted to bring something different to North America, the unexpected, new products that reflect today’s Scotland – its rich and vibrant culture – while focusing on the small independent designers and artists living and working in Scotland today.
How do you reach your potential clients?
We are always trying new ways to connect both in print and on social media, learning as we go on Facebook & Instagram to try to get our name out there. Celtic Life have been a wonderful support and helped us immensely to reach new markets. Travelling to the various Highland Games in the Northeast has also been a great way to reach new people. The New Hampshire Highland Games & Festival on Loon Mountain, Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival in MA, Long Island Scottish Festival & Highland Games, and the Scotland Highland Games in Scotland CT to name but a few have all been hugely supportive.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Celtic marketplace?
We have many new products on-line and to our shows over the next few months. Our Scottish Heritage is very important, especially today, as we become more and more interested in incorporating our heritage into our daily lives. There are just so many exciting new products out there and we are excited about introducing them to all our customers.
What can be done to improve that?
We believe the Celtic marketplace is vibrant and full of possibilities. The biggest challenge we have is managing shipping and import costs. That is something we always have to keep an eye on.
What are your future plans for the business?
As for the future, our plan is to keep on doing what we are doing, selecting the best of new Scottish designs and introducing them online and in person to as many Scots and friends of Scotland in the US and Canada as possible.