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Ortak 1


Digital Enablement Grant allows Orkney jeweller to develop dedicated website for trade customers.

Ortak 2

A thriving operation

Ortak designs and handcrafts unique gold and silver jewellery from its base in Kirkwall, Orkney. Since receiving HIE support in 2014 to buy the intellectual property and manufacturing equipment of a previous version of the business, the company’s directors Alison Firth and Michael Gardens have built a thriving operation that sells direct to the public online, as well as through its own retail outlets in Orkney, and via numerous trade outlets such as independent stores, galleries and museums in the UK and beyond.


We knew we needed a more efficient solution and it had got to a point where we just had to bite the bullet.
Alison Firth, Director, Ortak


To date, the company’s primary interaction with these trade customers, who make up around 40% of annual turnover, had been centred on attendance at trade shows throughout the UK.

 “We would go to at least three trade shows every year,” explains Alison, “but it wasn’t ideal. It’s not feasible – or good for our carbon footprint – to produce catalogues comprehensive enough to showcase our full back catalogue of over 14,000 items. Many of those pieces aren’t even featured on our public facing website, so we had a real challenge in getting all our products in front of our trade customers.”

In addition, trade orders being placed through the public facing website required Ortak to manually process VAT chargebacks and also created complications for the internal management and reporting of different revenue streams. “We had talked before about developing a dedicated website for our trade customers, but it seemed like too big a job at the time,” Alison added.


In 2020, it was the cancellation of trade shows due to the UK’s COVID-19 restrictions which provided the opportunity for Ortak to rethink its approach to this key market segment.

“We knew we needed a more efficient solution and it had got to a point where we just had to bite the bullet,” reports Alison. Through a COVID-19 Restart and Recovery Digital Enablement Grant, HIE contributed £11,250 of the £15,000 cost involved in developing a bespoke e-commerce website for Ortak’s trade customers.

Having received HIE advice on cyber-security and funding to help with the development of the public facing website in previous years, Ortak chose to work with the same developer to design and build a new site to meet the needs of its crucial trade customers. In addition to offering access to the entire back catalogue of designs, the new site at www.ortaktrade.co.uk automatically accounts for trade VAT arrangements, allows buyers to view their order history to assist in repeat purchasing and links automatically to manufacturing systems.


“Trade clients are over the moon with the new site,” according to Alison. “Because they can now access our whole back catalogue, they no longer feel like they’re competing with our retail site in what they can offer customers. They can also make sure they have a different range of products than any other stockists nearby, helping them to stand out from the competition.

“It’s a much better and more efficient solution for us too. Now, when an order comes through, the trade sales website talks to our manufacturing system. It checks if we have an item in stock and if not, it will raise an order for us to manufacture it, without us having to intervene. We’re saving around 30 minutes of staff time on every order we receive compared to how we operated before.”

The new site will also make trade shows more efficient when they resume after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. “At trade shows, most orders are made at night back in your hotel room, when you have a chance to look over the full range,” explains Alison. “The dedicated website offers an easier way for trade customers to place these orders than in the past, allowing interactions at the trade show itself to focus on relationship building and new customer outreach.”

Orders are already flowing in from trade customers across the country, including bespoke collections to be distributed through Historic Environment Scotland. And, with a dedicated portal and smoother ordering process in place, Ortak is better able to serve this crucial customer base and to access more meaningful financial and trend data. As trade clients re-open and look to rebuild their businesses, Ortak is now in an excellent position to grow alongside them.

“We certainly wouldn’t have gone ahead with the trade website in 2020 without this grant from HIE,” reflects Alison, “but it was ideal timing for us. It means that we now have something fresh and new to show our trade customers as they re-open after lockdown and look to re-stock.”


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