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The Journey to Collective Success

11 June 2015
The Journey to Collective Success
Offering a unique handmade, handpicked gift shopping experience collaborating the work of 60 skilled local designer makers, Our Handmade Collective, is the brainchild of two friends Claire Riley and Natalie Entwistle. To mark the significant milestone of their second birthday, the proud owners spoke to Leeds Living and shared a look back at their triumphant journey…

Having first opened its doors in the Grand Arcade in June 2013, Our Handmade Collective has moved ahead from strength to strength as a successful independent business providing varied high quality and handmade gifts suitable for all occasions.

“Natalie and I used to work together. We both had our own crafting businesses and we used to work together really closely at various events and it all started from there,” stated Claire speaking about their humble beginnings and putting up shop at the arcade. Even though the two friends had discussed the prospects of furthering their businesses, and wanting to open a shop they had not been certain about the ways and the means forward, and how to make it financially viable. Claire continued:

Then, we heard about a company called Handpicked Hall that redeveloped old buildings and let independent businesses rent space within. They had already opened one in Ripon in 2012 and were looking to open one in Skipton and Leeds. As soon as we heard, we came in to have a look and fell in love with the Grand Arcade, and decided that this would be something that would work very well for us.

The little gift shop was opened on 13th June 2013 within three months of these initial musings. Having decided they could do much more with the available space, the duo subsequently invited friends from their crafting community to join them in providing some of the stock. Our Handmade Collective was thus born with the work of 19 makers including Natalie and Claire, reaching 45 in their first year and slowly building up to the current 60, including some of the best among Yorkshire’s rich tapestry of artists, designers and crafters from all walks of life.

Unique and handpicked, the store is brimming with gift ideas not available on the mainstream high street. What is more, they specialise in a different kind of shopping experience, in a relaxed, calm and unhurried atmosphere with friendly, knowledgeable staff who are always happy to chat. Speaking of their stock Natalie voiced:

We offer a lot of bespoke products. People love the fact that they can come in and buy something specifically made for them, something a little different. No one else does that. We do items such as birthday cards and wedding presents for instance; and each product is covered by an independent who can do it to match a customer’s exact need, which you never find on the high street.

The little gift shop is not only known for its unique and varied collection but is also an award winning shop, containing work of award-winning design makers who stock exclusive ranges at Our Handmade Collective. “We were voted the Best Place to Shop in Leeds for 2014 in the Leeds Love Affair Independent Business Awards which tells us that we are a success and that people really appreciate what we do. We are also currently Number 1 on TripAdvisor for Shopping in Leeds and have been so for 13 months now, which is quite impressive,” elaborated Natalie.

Our Handmade Collective have also been instrumental in regenerating the Grand Arcade and are the main fundraisers for the Potts Clock, which is undergoing restoration. It is the only arcade in the Leeds city centre which is full of independents and is independently owned. Speaking passionately of their home Claire explained:

We are lucky that we found the Grand Arcade, which is the home of independents; and over the last two years since we have been here we have been working with the other retailers in the arcade and have really helped regenerate it. It is currently at full capacity for the first time in over 30 years, but most are still unaware of all this.

To celebrate their second birthday which falls on Saturday 13th June 2015, Claire and Natalie have a fun filled day planned with live music by a local band, free fizz and cake and an opportunity to meet with and talk to some of Our Handmade Collective’s talented makers. Apart from a 10% discount on the products in store and other special offers and free gifts for people who spend over £15, a grand prize raffle will also take place in aid of the ‘Save the Clock’ fund.

Finally, having spoken fervently about their unique store, the past achievements and success during the past two years, the happy duo also shared their aspirations for the future concluding:

We would love to expand in the future and see Our Handmade Collective in other little towns across the country at some point down the line. All this would take a lot of hard work and effort, but we are always up for a challenge. If we weren't, we wouldn't be running an independent business.

For more details about visit: Our Handmade Collective

Kam is a Business Writer for Leeds Living. Having joined in April 2015 she writes for the Strictly Business section and specialises in business editorials.