Happy September! We simply couldn’t begin our array of interviews with incredible business women without our client, and founder of Pepper Alley, Gillian Rolland. A fruitless search left Gillian turning to a friend with a small leather workshop armed with a sketch and good intentions – from this the Clemmie tote was born. Then came the Flora, the Edie and the Polly… and the rest is history! In this interview, we chat about the origins of Pepper Alley, what the present looks like and what the future holds for the brand as well as sharing our favourite pieces for the season. How’s that for some Back to School Inspiration?
- Tell us more about Pepper Alley and how the brand began.
As well as the search for a gold leather tote bag, PA also came about because I was keen to set up an online retail store. I’ve long been fascinated with the process of running an online store – and was looking for a creative outlet. I decided on bags because I’ve always been a handbag devotee and was often disappointed that far too many on the high street, only came in black. It seemed that only the very expensive brands that most of us can’t afford, came in a variety of beautiful colours. With PA I’ve set out to change this and offer colourful leather bags at a very affordable price point.
- What does an average day look like for you?
There is no average day. Alongside running Pepper Alley, I freelance in marketing. When I have a contract, I’ll usually only have time to devote to PA at weekends. This means just keeping things ticking over. Between contracts, I do everything else. This can range from the basics such as checking the accuracy of listings and researching new trends in fashion and marketing, to updating my business plan, looking at new ideas and colourways for products and exploring new ideas and methodologies for reaching a wider audience.
- You have both a ‘day job’ and run your own businesses alongside. How do you manage both and what do you do to relax when the pressure begins to pile on?
I’m lucky enough to have a holiday cottage – two chapel lane – and I take myself off there for some R&R. It’s in Rutland, the east of England’s answer to the Cotswolds. The surrounding countryside is stunning – and great for recharging the batteries. Stamford, the local town, is also great for some retail therapy. It has great independent shops and small high street brands including Space NK and the White Company – as well as lovely country pubs and restaurants. It’s a great place to escape to.
- How do you see Pepper Alley in 5 years and what are you most looking forward to in terms of the brand? My hope is that the brand will continue to grow and be seen and enjoyed by many more people than it is today. What I’m really looking forward to though, is the chance to work with many more talented individuals and small businesses to help grow PA. Currently I’m working with Miss Squiggles, who manage our social media – and I’ve found it to be a really positive and educational experience. It’s important to me to bring in more talent to PA to provide the multitude of skills I know I don’t possess and I am looking forward to doing so as the brand grows.
- And finally, your favourite Pepper Alley product? It has to be the gold Clemmie tote, where it all began.