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Kirsty Elizabeth

Kirsty Elizabeth Studios

After graduating in Fashion Design from Heriot Watt in 2013, Kirsty MacLennan spent seven years gaining experience working in the Scottish fashion, textiles and interior design scene. In 2018, she also began to teach Fashion at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Kirsty Elizabeth

Working with Impact30

A Fort William native, Kirsty, has found time to develop her real passion - a bespoke bridal occasion and evening wear brand. After years of planning and preparation, Kirsty finally took the plunge and launched Kirsty Elizabeth Studio in 2020, focusing full-time on the business for the first time.

Hearing about the IMPACT30 programme through a friend, Kirsty wasn’t sure if she would be accepted onto the programme initially because she was only in the very early stages of establishing her brand. But as soon as she spoke to the IMPACT30 team she was persuaded.

“As a start-up who was trying to piece all the parts of the puzzle together, I was told I was a prime candidate. To have had their support doing one of the biggest things I have ever done was such an incredible helping hand. It has been a real reassurance to know that I am doing everything right.”

Kirsty was accepted onto the cohort at the end of October 2019, just as she was making final preparations to launch Kirsty Elizabeth Studio. The timing couldn’t have been better.

“The value started from day one,” recalls Kirsty. “Straight away I got help to figure out who my customer would be. The programme mentors made me think about things that hadn’t occurred to me before.

“And I was tested from day one. There was loads that I needed to rethink and I came away from those first few days knowing that I had to get things in order because I really wasn’t ready.”

Kirsty’s initial idea was to produce bespoke bridesmaids’ wear, even though she ultimately wanted to make bridal wear. A discussion with her IMPACT30 mentor changed everything.

“I immediately started to question why, if I was going to be giving it my full focus, wasn’t I doing what I really dreamed of? So my business objectives and vision changed from day one. I focused on what I wanted to achieve and a whole new version of myself emerged in the months that followed.”

I would recommend any start-up who is considering applying for IMPACT30 to go for it. It’s a growth programme and that’s the only way you can go as a start-up.
Kirsty Maclennan, Kirsty Elizabeth Studios

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Coping with COVID-19

Having made great strides in early 2020, COVID-19 stopped Kirsty Elizabeth Studio in its tracks.

With few weddings taking place - but knowing she needed to stay on brand - MacLennan spent weeks brainstorming ideas for new revenue streams. She came up with the idea of making bespoke facemasks.

During this period she was checking in with her IMPACT30 mentors regularly, benefitting from relevant workshops and introductions to industry specialists who could help with the launch of her new product line.

It was during this time that the support MacLennan was receiving from others in her IMPACT30 cohort took on a whole new level of importance.

“This peer support became really important during lockdown,” says MacLennan “We were all able to join monthly group conference calls, webinars and workshops and could learn about how everyone was responding to the challenges. We learnt from each other’s mistakes and from those who had found new ways of doing things.”

Exceeding Expectations

Several months on from launching her new product, MacLennan is beginning to reap the benefits. Not only have her facemasks proven an extremely lucrative new product line but the huge exposure she has received through social media has grown her online audience exponentially.

“At a time when I was launching the business, I was suddenly receiving lots of attention for a different product,” says MacLennan. “People were buying my masks but they were also learning about my wedding dresses. It was free marketing when I really needed it.”

The experience has firmly established Kirsty Elizabeth Studio as an online business, allowing MacLennan to talk directly to prospective customers no matter where they are in the world.

With her debut bridal collection launched in July 2020 alongside the unveiling of a new website and brand identity, MacLennan’s progress since joining the IMPACT30 cohort has exceeded her expectations.

“I know that if I had taken this journey alone I wouldn’t have gone as far this year. Having those regular calls with my mentor and being able to say ‘I’m thinking about doing this, but I’m not sure if I can do it’ and receiving their reassurance really made me believe that I could.

“I would recommend any start-up who is considering applying for IMPACT30 to go for it. It’s a growth programme and that’s the only way you can go as a start-up. This programme will definitely benefit you.”

Having completed the transition from start-up to viable business, MacLennan is firmly looking to the future. She has plans to expand her team, adding specialists in different areas of the business. She also aims to grow her customer base and audience throughout Europe, having recently started servicing Scotland’s central belt and the South of France.

Group of young people from Impact30 programme

Impact30

IMPACT30 is part of the Northern Innovation Hub, a programme funded through the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal - a joint initiative supported by £315m investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, HIE and University of the Highlands and Islands. This programme also receives financial support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Innovation strategic intervention.

Find out more about the programme here

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