storyYou name it, there’s a good chance that The Celtic Market has it; unique and luxurious Celtic-themed products made by Scottish and Irish artisans. Recently we spoke with owner Jessie-Lynn MacDonald about her roots and her brand new business.

What is your own ethnicity?
My parents are from the Isle of Lewis, Scotland; my Dad from Stornoway and my Mum from Barvas. I was born in Livingston, Scotland as was my friend and business partner, Tommy. Tommy’s family background is Scottish and Irish. He has ancestral links to the Irish counties of Cavan and Donegal, and family in County Mayo. My family moved to Canada when I was seven. I had a hard time with the adjustment and spent most of my summers at home with my family on the beautiful Isle of Lewis. Tommy and I reconnected and rekindled our friendship via the internet in 2005 and decided to partner in business in November of 2013.

Why the decision to enter the Celtic marketplace?
We created The Celtic Market for a number of reasons. First and foremost we have a love for Scotland – the people, the culture, the products, and want to share our passion. And, want to promote authentic Celtic products. During my summers in Scotland I grew up seeing Harris Tweed being woven. I loved the sound of the weaving machines hard at work and I saw the hard work and passion the locals put into creating Harris Tweed and Harris Tweed products. With the rise of popularity of Celtic type products there has been a rise in products made from various places worldwide. We wanted promote the work of many smaller talented artisans in Scotland and Ireland. All of our products are made in Scotland or Ireland with the exception of certain products from one of our suppliers. As well, are both socially conscious and want to help/give in a larger capacity. In addition to supporting and promoting various charities and causes, we are supporting the work of a supplier who is equally as socially conscious and promotes fair trade. Some of her products are designed in Scotland and the work is hired out to smaller independent workers from poor communities to create the designs. This supplier ensures they are properly remunerated for their talent and have good working conditions. We believe the model we devised shows Scotland and Ireland in a positive light, benefitting the suppliers, while respecting our values and those of our customers. Finally, for me, it allows me to have a presence in my homeland and the place where my heart remains. Scotland is a big part of who I am, and to have a company that promotes all that I love is an amazing opportunity.

What is the company’s mandate? 
The Celtic Market’s mandate is to promote Scottish and Irish cultures, unique designs and products to contribute financially to smaller artisans, as well as the growth of the company. This is done by providing outstanding service, authentic, superior quality products, creating a community and giving back.

What are your core products/services?
We offer a variety of gorgeous high quality items, including Harris Tweed products – bags, flask holders, bow ties, brooches, iPad and phone covers, coffee sleeves, dog coats, etc; leather bags for business, men and women, women, men’s and children’s clothing and accessories made from Harris Tweed, Alpaca Fur, Cashmere, Lambswool, blanket and throws made from Alpaca Fur, Cashmere and Lambswool, Peat Cones, Celtic Jewelry, products for Celtic weddings such as bonbonnieres, tartan sashes, pins, ties, etc, organic soaps and lotions, Scottish coffee, teas, chocolates, tablet, etc.

How do you differ from the competition?
The Celtic Market differs from our competitors in a variety of ways. First and foremost we want individuals who purchase our products to have an experience that doesn’t end with receiving their product. We want them to engage in our Celtic community and our passion for Scotland and Ireland.  We want to know them, it is by really knowing our market that we will be able to serve them well. Our social media presence will be a key factor in our growth and continued presence in the community. Our product range is quite different from our competitors, and as previously mentioned, they are authentic. In addition, having a presence in two countries allows us to cater to our community in a different way. For example, having a presence on the ground in Scotland allows us to keep up to date with current trends and new products, as well as cater to our community from a local perspective. Our strong social focus is part of our personal and professional mandate. We are a conscious business and giving back whenever we can is important.

How important is social media for your business?
In today’s society social media is a must. We are using social media to establish/grow our brand recognition. It is our tool to reach a worldwide audience, showcase our products and most important create/be accessible to, and understand our community.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the Celtic marketplace?
We are on the cusp of our official launch. It’s been a long process with a lot of challenges outside the norm of starting a small business. Specifically with my business partner and I living in two different countries has presented many challenges as well as learning opportunities. For example, it’s been incredibly difficult to get a joint bank account without both parties being physically present at the bank. We have overcome a lot of hurdles and I am sure there are more to come. We are dedicated and excited to be where we are now. We have already established an amazing community of followers via social network avenues. We have received exceptional feedback on our products and service. We are nervously excited and ready to move forward.

What can be done to overcome the current challenges in that marketplace?
Each stage of business growth is a learning experience. We spent a lot of time and research developing our business model. This allowed us to determine our plan of action over the next five years, identify gaps, problems and areas for growth. We have a strong ethical mandate and will continue to use that as we move forward. We have been, and will continue to reach out for direction from small business experts in both Scotland and Canada. Asking for help, getting advice and assistance is paramount to moving forward. Having a local presence is a fantastic way to stay connected with our suppliers and a presence in North America allows us to better understand the needs of our customers.

What are your future plans for the business?
In addition to our official launch, we will be present at several Highland Games and Celtic festivals this year. We are excited about this as it gives us an opportunity to gain a market presence, to meet members of our community and gain a better understanding of our target audience’s needs. Next year we will increase our presence at various festivals, and Celtic celebrations. We will also continue to locate and support artisans from smaller, more remote communities to help expand their businesses and expand our product lines. In addition, as our business grows, we will increase our presence with charities and our ability to give back.