Fashion: How Bury's My Doris became a hit brand
It's run solely by women, champions the talents of artisans from around the world and has gone from a Suffolk kitchen table to supplying 400 stores nationwide in the space of five years: let’s hear it for My Doris! Alice Ryan speaks to Katie Williamson, founder of the Bury St Edmunds-based brand
Many happy returns to My Doris! Five years is quite the milestone - even more so when two of those years played out during a pandemic. . . How do you feel to have reached this point? And how are you celebrating?
I’m delighted: establishing and running your own business is certainly a roller-coaster - particularly during a pandemic - but it’s hugely rewarding and exciting. We will celebrate with lots of tempting offers, competitions, giveaways and probably a giant cake!
To go back to the beginning: My Doris was literally a kitchen-table start-up, wasn’t it? Remind us how it began?
I wanted a career to fit around my children, now aged 10 and 12, and felt designing and selling jewellery wholesale would be a good way to achieve that; something that could be managed and run from home. But, of course, I had no idea it would grow so rapidly. We now stock over 400 shops in the UK and Ireland, employ 10 staff members and operate out of a big warehouse locally.
Your parents were part of the inspiration for the brand, weren’t they? Tell us about that.
My Dad’s nickname for my Mum is ‘my Doris’ and her sense of style and love of beautifully hand-crafted accessories inspires me. They have been a great support to me and have been instrumental in the business’s success.
We love the fact My Doris is a women-run enterprise. Why was that so important to you?
I’m passionate about women supporting women to reach their potential and be powerful and confident in their abilities. I want to offer a kind, respectful and collaborative environment where all team members love coming to work. I think that’s the key to running a great business.
The brand also supports artisans the world over, doesn’t it? How did that global approach come about - and again, why is it important to you?
I have always enjoyed travelling and seeking out artisan-led crafts and gifts. It’s important to us as a brand to help preserve the traditional skills and craftsmanship found in the world and to work collaboratively, respectfully and ethically with our suppliers in India and Turkey.
Along with its ethos, we admire My Doris for producing pieces which are both beautiful and joyful too! Was that always your goal, to bring joy with your collections?
Yes, we are all about colour, joy and fun. We don’t do neutral!
How has the brand evolved as time’s gone on? We know it’s grown a lot since the kitchen-table days.
Initially, the brand was a jewellery brand. However, we have evolved over the past five years to develop new lines, including cushions, enamelware, velvet pouches, keyrings, ceramics, and the list of new products keeps growing every season!
What are the best-selling items, season in and season out?
Our block-print reversible bags, hand-beaded earrings, smiley keyrings and purses have all flown out this season. I think people are loving the opportunity to get out and enjoy partying and holidays again this summer.
And what’s new? Any teasers you can share?
High summer has just launched online – it’s a blast of colour, texture and fun – and we are working hard on A/W22, which will launch in September with a fabulous capsule Christmas collection in the pipeline too.
How did the pandemic impact My Doris? And what does the future look like now?
It was tough for several months in terms of trading, but we used the time to get our entire catalogue online so our wholesale customers could order 24/7. It also meant the moment the retail sector opened, we were up, running and ready to ship stock to our customers.
We also launched our retail website (mydoris.co.uk) so individual customers could buy some My Doris favourites directly from us. Our cushion supplier in Turkey also turned his hand to making cotton face masks for us when the usual work dried up. We donated £1 for each mask sold to UNICEF and raised over £25,000 for their vaccination programme. So, we kept ourselves very busy - and grew the business.
Finally: what’s the reward, on a personal level, of running My Doris?
There’s a great sense of achievement in growing a business from my kitchen table to a supplier of 400+ shops in under five years and developing and nurturing a fantastic team who are amazing at their jobs, work hard and are great fun to be with. I also adore travel and going to meet my suppliers in India and Turkey – they are very much part of the My Doris family.
To mark the brand’s fifth birthday and celebrate the launch of the high summer collection, showcased on these pages, we are giving away a stunning My Doris jewellery set this month - containing two necklaces, two bracelets and earrings, and worth more than £100! For your chance to win, click HERE. Browse and buy the full collection at mydoris.co.uk
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More by this authorAlice Ryan