The Rug House: How a Small Business Award Win Benefited Our Business
Not everyone can work with family - but for brother-and-sister duo, Paul and Clare Vallely, running a business together comes naturally. Founders of The Rug House in Newry, they’re an impressive team- expanding the business into the export market in recent years.
A Family Affair
Originally an exclusively online operation, the duo first found success by re-selling clearance rugs from local distributors on eBay and Amazon. Nowadays, however, The Rug House has expanded dramatically to include a strong exporting business. And from their expansive Rug House HQ, which boasts an impressive showroom and warehouse space, they manage everything in-house - from customer service to design and marketing.
Winners of the Exporter of the Year award at the Business Eye AIB (NI) Small Business Awards last year, the duo regard the win as an important achievement for the company.
Paul explains: “It’s been really beneficial for building our profile. And it’s wonderful for everyone here to know they’re part of a positive, growing business that has been recognised as one of the top in the country.”
The Export Market is Crucial
With customers around the world, approximately 3% of The Rug House’s orders go to Northern Ireland, with 2% going to the Republic of Ireland. All other orders are distributed to the UK, Europe, USA and the rest of the world. Paul says: “Exporting gives us an opportunity for huge growth and it’s a way that we can see the spread risk in the business as well so it’s absolutely fundamental to our plans.”
As a key sector of their business, entering the exporting category was an easy decision to make for the company. Clare says: “We found out about the awards from our AIB (NI) relationship manager. Once they told us about the possible benefits of winning, we were really keen to go for it. It’s been very good overall for staff morale and great from a recruitment point of view.”
Spreading The Rug House Name
She adds: “For an online business, it can be hard to get your name out there, so winning a SBA award is great for your profile. We’ve been surprised at the amount of people that have mentioned it in passing. We’ve found really good candidates coming to us asking if we would consider taking them on board.”
Paul is firmly in favour of other small businesses applying for the awards next year. He says: “The entry process for the Small Business Awards is very easy. It’s a straightforward application. You always like to believe you have a chance but you never think you’re going to win. It’s always worth applying and hoping for the best.”
New Business Ventures
With an innovative outlook, the duo are looking to the future. First up, the company took the canny approach of setting up a state-of-the-art photography studio in their Newry HQ. With customers keen to get sight of their products ahead of time, staff now photograph their products for their website and social media channels.
Along with the in-house studio, the company has also launched its new website. An important focal point for international customers, Paul explains: “We’ve put 18 months of development and planning into it, it’s our biggest and best website yet.”
He adds: “The site’s look and feel is much nicer and it’s already converting (sales) better. From a usability point of view in both the front-end and back-end, it has been a fantastic step forward.”
What the Future Holds for The Rug House
With a shared vision for the business, Paul says collaboration is key to a successful working partnership. He explains: “Siblings running a business together can go one of two ways and thankfully we’ve always enjoyed working together.”
And the business is now truly a family affair with their mother joining The Rug House as well. Clare reveals: “At the start, our mother was a bit hesitant about us going into business together. I think she was afraid it wouldn’t work out. But once she saw how well we work together, she got fully on board. She even joined the business herself!”
With a great team, a lot of passion and a solid plan for growth, the future looks bright for The Rug House. Visit their new website here: http://www.therughouse.co.uk/
Want to know more about how AIB (NI) supports small business?
If you’d like to find out more about the Business Eye AIB (NI) Small Business Awards, check out the website www.businesseye.co.uk