Tech

Riverside Lifestyle

Clare Scott-Dryden talks about her lifestyle brand and its first year in business.

Riverside Lifestyle specialises in artisan food and beauty produce made with home-grown, British organic lavender and olives from handpicked groves in Spain. It also has a carefully curated collection of luxury cashmere and merino wool goods, chicly rustic homewares and covetable personalised gifts. We chat to Clare Scott-Dryden as the company celebrates its first anniversary.

We are celebrating Riverside Lifestyle’s first birthday... It’s great to see how we have grown – from those first few bottles of olive oil and now we’ve got the chocolates, jams, marmalades, shower gel, homewares, cashmere and merino wool. It’s all happened so fast! There’s still a lot of work to do, so I’m keeping my nose to the grindstone a bit, but I’ll definitely be cracking open a few bottles of wine with the team!

For our customers we’re offering a 10% discount on everything to celebrate, too – they just have to enter code BIRTHDAYGIFT between now and 15th September 2013 and we will also provide FREE delivery.

With a new business you’re learning every day... It took some time for us to get our stock levels right. There was a lot of tasting and testing of our own-brand products before we put them up for sale, and even then we had to experiment with price points. What it has confirmed for me, though, is that giving that little bit more than people expect makes all the difference. Whether our customers are ordering an olive wood fruit bowl or a luxury merino wool throw, we give that little bit extra in our packaging and our customer service, to encourage them to come back again – Riverside Lifestyle is about helping people feel good, after all!

Social media has been great for us... We’ve got a lot of Likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter, both of which we use to give out discount codes, flag up sales and meet new people in our industry. My personal favourite has to be Pinterest, though. We have such beautiful products, like the tulip bath melt in the shape of a cupcake and the champagne chocolates in their presentation box – not to mention the house, so it’s been the perfect place to give people a glimpse of that. And every repin confirms for us that other people love the look of them, too!

I am inspired by... anyone who has the courage to start their own business. I love seeing people make things happen with hard work and determination, and I admire women who juggle families and careers – especially ones who have a passion for their own idea or product. It’s hard work making something happen, I know that as well as anyone, because you have to constantly keep on top of things and never give up. I have so much respect for anybody who can do that successfully, which is why Riverside tries to support small, independent producers like the local Hampshire mums who make our jams and chutneys, our cashmere designers in Kathmandu and our olive growers and crisp-makers in Spain.

The challenges of being an online e-tailer include... encouraging traffic to our site and recognising the importance of investing in quality photography were important lessons for us – but the biggest challenge was finding a way to stand out. We sell beautiful things, but we’re not the only ones – we had to find our own niche, our own philosophy and our own particular audience. What’s important to me is finding balance in life – between your career, the people you love and, yes, some ‘me’ time – and I realised that’s what Riverside Lifestyle is about too: encouraging busy, exhausted people to slow down, take time out and find more balance in their lives. Every time I consider stocking a new item I make sure I ask myself whether it fits that ethos.

As for any time management tips for a better work/life balance...
Write things down, divide your day into manageable chunks and don’t let pride get in your way. I write to-do lists, and I follow them methodically – including doing the bits I’m not such a fan of! Each day I get up early and do paperwork, then I switch off – in theory, anyway! – while I get the kids to school. Then I’m back at my desk until after school, when I take time out with the family, and then I tidy up any loose ends once everyone is in bed. During the day I network a lot and I call upon all sorts of people for advice – that’s when it’s important not to be too proud. I owe a lot of favours, but I’ve learned so much – it’s worth it.

As for apps... I love anything smart that saves us money. I use What’s App and Viber a lot for free calls and texts at home and abroad. I also love the KidStart app – you can shop online at most well-known retailers and get a percentage of every purchase back in cash. KidStart is about making it easy for families to save for their kids’ future – a really clever concept that’s got me hooked! If you want to try it out, it’s at www.kidstart.co.uk.

To describe my brand in three words... I would say either ‘relax, refresh, rebalance’, because that’s what our products help our customers to do, or ‘look after yourself’, because that’s what we’re trying to encourage them to do.

A favourite testimony from a customer was... one written in our visitors’ book at Riverside Cottage. It read: ‘I have never spent a more peaceful and enjoyable weekend away – this house and the grounds give you everything you need to relax and unwind. I sat looking out on the horses in the paddock, drinking my coffee and spreading your delicious lavender and raspberry jam on my toast.’ She had completely understood what I wanted people to get from a stay at Riverside, and clearly loved it just as much as I do.

A highlight of the past twelve months was... our first sale! When you start a new business on the back of your own idea, there are always moments when you question yourself – but that first sale was the initial spark of encouragement that this was going to work. We were on our way! It was a small purchase of lavender tea bags and lavender olive oil, but you should have seen the smile on my face as I popped the sprig of lavender in with the packaging and wrapped it all up!

I am motivated by... what I do – that’s where I get the drive to do it every day. It can be a challenge sometimes, but I’ve always thrived on that. I love enthusiastic people too, like our team of Hampshire jam-makers and the lovely local people who create and engrave our beautiful glass gifts – working with such positive personalities makes me feel energised.

I’m so happy with where Riverside Lifestyle is today... but there have been a lot of challenges along the way, and I know there will be many more to follow, so my advice to my past and future self would be to take each one a step at a time and stay positive – always believe in what you do and enjoy it – and at the end of the day, if some things don’t work out, remember that you’ve had an experience and had fun. That’s important – never take anything too seriously but always believe in yourself.

I think I know my strengths and weaknesses quite well: sometimes I rush at things when I could slow down a bit – my LinkedIn motto is ‘festina lente’, an old school saying that means ‘make haste slowly’.

The most exciting thing is our Christmas food range... I can’t wait for winter so we can start eating it in our house! We’ve got our signature mincemeat with a touch of lavender, and our Stir it Up Christmas Pudding – a ‘homemade’ organic pudding made simple. It comes with all the ingredients – even its own traditional six-penny piece – and all you have to do is to add liquid and stir it up! It’s all really delicious – I can’t wait for people to taste it!

My best trait is... when I get started on something, I don’t give up until it’s done. If something goes wrong, I bounce back – it’s important to be able to move past disappointment and not let it hold you back. I like people, too, which really helps – networking and taking an interest in others and their businesses is crucial to what I do, and it can teach you a lot.

Websites I like to browse to unwind include... well, The Kitchen Table blog at Riverside Lifestyle, obviously – it’s designed to help our readers relax and take some time out. I already know all the content of the articles themselves, but it’s always fun to check up on the comments. I also like to keep up-to-date with the news, so I have BBC News on my iPad; I browse www.childalert.co.uk for parenting tips; and I love anything to do with home design, that gives me chance to sit back and imagine my home redecorated…

1 September 2013