An ambitious drive to boost the success of a leading Orkney jewellery company is being backed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
HIE is providing a funding package worth £23,000 that will enable Sheila Fleet Jewellery to develop a creative new approach to its marketing efforts.
HIE development manager Maureen Shearer said: “This is an ambitious, forward thinking business with an excellent reputation for quality and customer service.
“Our support will help provide a strong new brand image for the company, ensuring continued growth and the development of new markets.”
Sheila Fleet Jewellery, an important source of employment in the islands, focuses strongly on design and craftsmanship and is keen to raise the profile of its jewellery.
“We're proud of what we've achieved so far,” said Martin Fleet, who runs the company with his mother Sheila and father Rick. “Now we want to build on that to create further growth in the business.
“We've developed some innovative ideas and the support from HIE will help and encourage us as we put those ideas into practice.
“We're confident that we have great design and a great product. Our aim is to up our game by taking our marketing to the same level.”
The company is developing a new website, a comprehensive new brochure and other promotional materials.
“We are a design-led business with a strong commitment to quality that results in great loyalty from our customers,” said Mr Fleet. “We have a tremendous story to tell and that will be at the heart of our new marketing campaign.”
Founder Sheila Fleet worked in the jewellery trade for 26 years before setting up her own business in 1993 in a garden shed at the family home in Tankerness.
Today, with a 50-plus workforce, it has grown to become one of Scotland's most successful jewellery companies and is Orkney's biggest employer outside the main towns of Kirkwall and Stromness.
At 64, Sheila continues to design each jewellery collection herself, with every piece created and hand finished by the team of craftsmen and women who work at a custom built workshop.
From the start she has always looked to the natural world – Orkney's land and seascapes – for inspiration.
Her new Pebble Collection, crafted from enamelled silver, draws on memories of playing with sea-washed stones on the beach near her childhood home in South Ronaldsay.
Specialist photography and graphic design companies are involved in the new marketing initiative, with the company also investing in the software and other equipment its in-house team needs to keep the website and other promotional materials up to date.
“We're confident that this is the right time to be making this investment in the future of our business - and that it will bring further success for the company and our workforce,” added Mr Fleet.
HIE, which has worked with the business over many years, is exploring opportunities for growth, including internationally. Up to now, Britain has traditionally been the company's most important market.
In a new drive to increase overseas sales, Martin and Sheila Fleet will be attending Inhorgenta 2010 in Munich next month, their first visit to a trade fair outside the UK.
A major international showcase for the jewellery sector, it is the second largest event of its kind in Europe and takes place from February 19-22.