Border Embroideries of Greenlaw are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, with Billy and Shirley-Anne Smillie’s business growing to employ over 90 people.
It’s a far cry from the single head embroidery machine they set up with in their bedroom
The couple approached The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust, now part of The Prince’s Trust, 25 years ago, looking for funding and advice to get started. A quarter of a century on Border Embroideries now counts around 950 schools in Scotland and England among its customers and has moved to its own custom built premises.
Billy Smillie explained: “I’d always wanted to start my own business. A friend who managed a local knitwear factory suggested I start an embroidery business, as he got requests for embroidered wear that they couldn’t fulfil.”
Billy, then 24, developed the idea and approached PSYBT for help. The charity provided a grant and business loan, helping Billy and Shirley- Anne to buy their first embroidery machine. The couple later moved to a garage and then in 1999 to their own customised premises.
Billy said: “Over the years we adapted our business. The knitwear industry in the Borders declined but we’ve found new sources of revenue supplying schools in Scotland and Northern England.”
He added: “I’ve always enjoyed hearing young people’s business plans. I often think I learn more from the young entrepreneurs presenting their ideas and ambitions than they do from me.
“To any young entrepreneur looking to get started, I’d say, listen to the advice you’re given from people like Prince’s Trust mentors and advisors. I’ve been lucky to have had good advice and guidance and I think that’s played a big part in our success, that, and hard work.”
Border Embroideries employs 62 people across its factory and stores, with a further 35 soon to join to help cover the busy summer season.