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An ethical start-up businesses on Tiree is now selling natural products to customers as far away as New Zealand and California.
Yvonne and Jason Lancaster launched WELAN in January 2021 making made-to-order woolly hats from a flock of orphaned sheep.
They now plan to establish a small wool mill on the Inner Hebridean island and create new job opportunities.
Three years ago the couple were living in London but seeking a better quality of life.
Soon after their arrival, they adopted seven orphaned lambs, followed by a further six the following spring.
Jason explained: ‘We believe that our sheep deserve to live long and happy natural lives just like us, so they won’t be bred or sent off the island for slaughter.
‘However, we realised we needed to find a sustainable and ethical income source to fund their care and potentially take on more orphaned lambs each year, so we came up with the WELAN woolly hat.’
Inspired by Yvonne’s childhood knitting, they spotted an opportunity to turn the sheared fleeces from the now matured sheep into a natural, ethical product.
As well as funding their growing flock, they said it has a positive impact on the environment.
Each hat is made-to-order and is unique to its owner. There are a range of styles from beanies to bobble hats available in a variety of naturally-dyed colours.
Limited-Edition wool from individually named sheep sees each hat delivered in an essential oil scented organic cotton bag.
Each purchase also helps support the flock with 10 per cent of profits placed into a fund to help more orphaned lambs.
The fledgling business has had support from the Pathfinder Accelerator business growth programme.
The programme is funded by the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal, the European Regional Development Fund, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Yvonne said: ‘The past couple of years have been a steep learning curve. We are really glad that we took part in the Pathfinder Accelerator programme.
‘It was a great experience and the mentors were a huge help to us in terms of our pitch and it was fantastic to see how other businesses do things.
‘The advice we received was invaluable and our business has gone from strength to strength thanks to the programme.’
On Thursday, March 11, the couple took part in a virtual online event organised by HIE held to mark the completion of the third year of the programme.
Taking part were other Pathfinder alumni hoping to learn from each others experiences.
The WELAN name is a shorthand for ‘We are lanolin’ because Jason and Yvonne keep the lanolin in their wool to keep it pure, as well as being shorthand for ‘We are Lancaster’ linking their surnames; while the latin for wool is lana: ‘We are wool’.
For more information visit https://www.welan-tiree.com/