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November 30, 2023 —

Small Business Stories: TUSK

A casual chat in the garden flourished into a thriving family business – one that believes in providing a gentle yet inspiring retail experience. Here we tell the story of mother and daughter brand TUSK
Ochre cushion on a bed and other items from lifestyle store Tusk
Kitchen worktop with bread board and Ochre cushion on a bed and other items from lifestyle store Tusk

*Disclaimer: This blog post has been sponsored by the brand, but the content has been independently created by the 91 Magazine team. We only work with brands whose ethos is in line with our own and we believe will be of interest to our readers.

blue ceramic mug and other objects from lifestyle store Tusk

A sponsored advertorial with
TUSK

91 Magazine editor Caroline Rowland
Caroline Rowland
Editor,
91 Magazine

Photography

Georgia de Lotz
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For some, running a business with a close family member may not feel like an appealing prospect, while for others it’s the ultimate dream. That’s exactly what it’s been for mother and daughter team, Shelagh and Katie MacGregor, who together run lifestyle store, TUSK, from the Herefordshire market town of Ledbury.

It was a chance conversation in the garden back in the summer of 2017 that sparked their new venture. After studying textiles and print design at university, Katie had been running her own clothing brand, but when a shop unit became available in the town, the pair mused over the idea of combining their skills into one retail business.

woven basket and other objects from lifestyle store Tusk Ochre cushion on a bed and other items from lifestyle store Tuskillustrated art print on wall and other objects from lifestyle store TuskShelagh’s extensive experience in the restaurant and retail industries merged with a natural eye for interiors and fashion, so therefore paired perfectly with Katie’s design background. Their new idea also benefitted from the time they’d both spent working for a local independent shop – Ceci Paolo, in Ledbury – “We both worked there and learned the workings of a successful retail business,” explains Katie.

Everything fell into place quickly, and the pair opened their store in the November of 2017, right next door to Ceci Paolo. Starting out with a small range of Katie’s own clothing collection and a selection of beautiful homeware & jewellery, they got off to a flying start Katie recalls, “We had an evening launch party and sold almost all our stock, so we had to shut the next day!”

white ceramic jug and spotty bowl from lifestyle store Tusk ceramic wall-mounted holder for keys and jewellery, from lifestyle store Tusk blue ceramic mug and other objects from lifestyle store TuskKatie and Shelagh have loved becoming a part of the thriving independent shop community in the town of Ledbury, with other established businesses alongside them such as Hus & Hem and Tinsmiths. Their aim with the store design was to create a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere, where customers could browse and shop in a soothing environment. “There’s no greater compliment than when a customer says they feel peaceful in our space,” says Shelagh.

This goal has informed the evolution of the brand as Katie describes how what they stock has changed over time, “The brand has grown organically and has become a haven for all things calming, which includes wellbeing products from the beautiful Plum & Ashby and loungewear by Kent-based fashion label Chalk.”

Stocking British design is important to Shelagh and Katie, and their location is an invaluable resource for discovering new talent, “Herefordshire is a very creative county, so we are luckily spoilt for choice with local artisans,” comments Shelagh. Katie also occasionally flexes her creative muscle and designs capsule collections for the shop, applying her artwork to silk, bamboo & cotton fabrics.bedside table with jewellery, blue mug and Ochre cushion on a bed and other items from lifestyle store Tusk Ochre cushion and striped throw on a bed from lifestyle store Tusk

While the business has always had a website, it was the pandemic that really encouraged the women to elevate their online presence. This time of countrywide shop closures was obviously a challenge, but ever optimistic, the pair saw the chance to improve their digital offering as the silver lining to the situation. Brexit also caused problems for them with sourcing of goods from overseas, but again, they turned this into a positive: “Brexit pushed us to search for brands closer to home and discover some really talented British designers,” says Katie.

Whatever the challenge, working as a mother and daughter team means their closeness can overcome most things. “There’s a level of honesty we can have with each other that you wouldn’t necessarily have with anyone else,” Katie explains, “we can tell each other exactly when we don’t like something and not be offended or have to tiptoe around what we think!” Sourcing everything together means they are both equally as happy about what they are selling, and this shines through in the service their customers receive. “I think because we are a mother & daughter team and we really love what we do, our level of customer service has that extra care that bigger brands aren’t able to provide,” says Shelagh proudly.

Kitchen worktop with bread board and Ochre cushion on a bed and other items from lifestyle store Tusk ceramic bowl with spots Ochre cushion on a bed and other items from lifestyle store TuskSeeing how much visitors seem to enjoy spending time in their physical store makes all their hard work worth it, “We really love the day-to-day shop life and nothing makes us feel more proud than when a customer says ‘what a beautiful store’ or comments on how relaxed they feel,” Katie beams. It’s this therapeutic experience that the pair are aiming to replicate via their online store as their business heads into its seventh year. There’s no doubt their strong family bond and love for what they do will allow TUSK to thrive for many more years to come.

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Pictured is a selection of items from the TUSK range. Below are the details and links to the individual objects featured:

Basket with loop handle – £45

Oatmeal scarf by Chalk – £65

Rectangular cushion in mustard – £28

Striped quilted blanket – £48

Rabbit in kitchen art print – £28

Knitted dishcloths – £6

Cream speckled jug – £38

Spotted stoneware bowl – £28.75

Ceramic shelf – £16

Blue ceramic mug – £26

Slim ceramic vases – from £16

Jewellery – prices vary

Wooden serving board – £38

Checked tea towel – £7.50

To view their full range visit their physical store at 22 High Street, Ledbury, Herefordshire, HR8 1DS, or online at www.tuskcollection.com

Follow TUSK on Instagram to get updates and peeks behind the scenes: @tusk_collection

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*Disclaimer: This blog post has been sponsored by the brand, but the content has been independently created by the 91 Magazine team. We only work with brands whose ethos is in line with our own and we believe will be of interest to our readers.

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