In today’s world, there are few businesses that can proudly trace their roots back to the nineteenth century. One thing that is certain, is that a company can only survive for this length of time if they have deep cultural ties and operate with integrity.
A shared history is a large part of what binds us into a community and imbues a group with a distinct identity. A history with a narrative thread also helps people understand what is happening around them.
Part of working for a company that has a long history, is benefitting from the traditions that are built into that company over its generations of operation.
For 140 years, Ulster Weavers has been at the forefront of textile design and innovation, combining high-quality products with traditional and contemporary designs to produce homeware, giftware, kitchen textiles ans Irish linens.
Part of the bigger picture
The history of an organisation can stimulate a sense of identity and purpose and advocate the goals that will resonate. At Ulster Weavers, a fifth-generation family business, we are proud of our heritage. So much so we have recently set up a ‘mini-museum’ in our office showcasing important pieces from our past.
This helps us to see ourselves as part of the story that is still unfolding and something much larger than ourselves. It has become a great talking point where stories have been shared from days gone by, as we are fortunate to have among us colleagues with a service span of 35 years plus and stem from a generation of Ulster Weaver employees! Who doesn’t love a great story?
Hearing how our business has evolved from a small factory floor and manufacturing company to a worldwide brand has been a wonderful way to motivate, provide direction, inspire desired behaviours, and spark innovation.
A common thread in all the stories told, is the fierce sense of pride and loyalty towards our brand and this mindset and set of behaviour are infectious. This attitude is apparent throughout the organisation. One such anecdote, when discussing hard times in textile industry in the late 90’s, recalled ‘it hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been fun’. The people are grateful to be here, and the leaders are even more grateful to have them. It demonstrates how our purpose extends beyond our profits.
From our headquarters & design hub in Holywood, our office in New York, our factories and outlet store in Banbridge to our many exclusive distributors across the globe, our passion and spirit is still evident in everything that we do.
Heritage is the legacy left to us by those who came before us
It is fair to say that companies with deep rooted histories are more likely to have traditions that benefit their customers, like better customer service and a concern for their reputation—not just because reputation is everything in business, but also because the reputation is not just theirs, it belongs to all the stakeholders and those that have come before.
The beginning of a great adventure
When Ulster Weavers was founded 1880, the core business objective was to be the provider the highest quality linens produced in Ireland. Named after the region that had become world famous for the creators of the finest linen, Ulster Weavers quickly made itself synonymous with Irish linen production and expanded throughout the late 19th and early 20th century.
During the 1960s, Ulster Weavers started producing kitchen textiles, a move that came to define us as a company. Starting with tea towels, the popularity of these items, due to their quality and interesting designs, quickly led the brand to expand into other areas of kitchenware, from aprons to oven gloves, tea cosies to doorstops, while retaining our focus on quality and quirky designs. This proved to be a tremendous success and suddenly we had new global fan base.
Relationships are key
Throughout our history, we have partnered with, and continue to supply to some of the world's most famous department stores to produce their bespoke range of kitchen textiles and homeware. We also have worked some of the most innovative and exciting designers around, together producing some of the most iconic ranges in our collection.
As well as famous brands, we have also worked with individual designers to help us bring new and interesting ranges. This includes big industry names like Clarissa Hulse, Madeleine Floyd, Sophie Conran and RHS. All who have collaborated with our in-house team to design everything from ultra-modern patterns to twists on traditional designs and seasonal styles, providing a depth of character unparalleled in the industry.
Our vision for the future
We have worked hard to build a company to be proud of, helping to brighten up homes for more than a century. Today we continue to grow and whilst continuing to service our loyal customer base with our more traditional ranges we have also a brand-new range of designs with a more contemporary twist. In recent years we have introduced two new brands to our family, Story Horse our travel, bags and fashion accessories brand and LoveOlli our home fragrance & gift brand.
We are fortunate to have our history as a management tool, as invariably it shapes the way we view vision, strategy, and entrepreneurship, and decisions made in the past often confine our available solutions for the future. Whilst we strive towards new horizons we never will forgot the journey we have taken to get here, and lessons learnt along the way.
It is good to talk!
A business simply cannot survive and flourish without a strong culture and robust set of values. Culture is created by leaders through the behaviours that are rewarded and corrected, and it is instilled by the people through their loyalty, pride and commitment to excellence. Upon joining Ulster Weavers as a recruit, you are not welcomed as simply a ‘new employee’ you are welcomed to the family. That speaks volumes. Nostalgia has a much more powerful influence on people than straight facts and statistics.
If your business has a great story, make sure you talk about it as we would love to hear it.