Herald Entrepreneur: Family business adds bespoke touches to couples’ big day
Publisher The Herald
LYNN Johnston admits with a smile that she never thought she’d run her own business. A career as a police officer and three children kept life full and busy.
But when she started helping a neighbour run a small wedding decoration firm, Ms Johnston realised she had a talent for making customers happy. And when her friend decided to change direction, she and husband Steven made the decision to take over the business.
Since then they’ve grown Bespoke Touches from a tiny operator with “a few chairs and some sashes” into a thriving design and decoration business covering a wide range of events of every shape and size.
But it’s still weddings that mean the most to Ms Johnston, 43.
“I love working with couples towards the end product, that extra special big day,” she explains. “You work with clients over a long period – sometimes 18 months – and many have become friends over that time.
“In this job one of the most important skills is understanding what the customer wants to achieve. A wedding is one of biggest days of a person’s life and they look to us for advice on how to get things right. They only do it once – hopefully – and they are relying on us to make it special, which is a big responsibility.
“It’s a nerve-wracking moment waiting for their reaction. You hope so much that they like what you’ve done for their event. And it’s a great feeling when they post their pictures on social, say how wonderful everything was and recommend you to family and friends.”
Following an 18-month search for the right premises, the couple moved into a space at Storage Vault Work Space in Cambuslang in October, and this decision has been key to recent growth.
“In this business presentation is very important and having a showroom as well as a stock room has given us the opportunity to really showcase what we can offer clients,” says Ms Johnston, who has two daughters and a son and lives in Glasgow’s east end.
“It’s amazing to customers’ faces when they talk through some initial ideas with us and come back to see them realised in the showroom.
“Moving into to Storage Vault Work Space has also been great in terms of making new contacts and working with other businesses. We’ve already teamed up with the florist next door on events and hope to run open days with them in future.”
With husband Steven still working full-time as a fire officer as well as helping out with the business, Ms Johnston admits she often feels the pressure “especially when clients change their colour scheme at the last minute”, but says she relishes the chance to be involved in so many happy occasions.
As for work-life balance, that “comes with experience”, she smiles.
“We still have a young family, so being able to fit the business around that is important,” adds Ms Johnston. “Often we put in a full day and then we have to be ready to deal with enquiries from people when they get home from work. I used to worry a lot about that, but as you get more confidence, you learn to deal with it more easily.
“The most important thing is to be organised and have a reliable team of staff backing you up.”
And Ms Johnston has plenty of good advice for those looking to set up a business.
“It’s really hard work and sometimes things will go wrong, but you need to be able to pick yourself up and move on,” she says. “Don’t rush into things – concentrate on what you are good at and your reputation will grow. Go with your gut instincts and have confidence in yourself and your business.
“If you enjoy what you do that will show in your work. I absolutely love my work.”
Ms Johnston also recommends taking a moment to sit back and enjoy your achievements.
“You work so hard and sometimes forget to look at the bigger picture,” she says. “We’ve grown a successful business that is going from strength to strength. My mum often reminds me how proud we should be of that.”