Carl Morenikeji tells us how a passion for craftsmanship led to his products being used in Hollywood movies
What do you currently do at ‘Scaramanga’
I am managing director and owner of Scaramanga. We’re a Scottish lifestyle retailer designing classic leather bags and leather accessories. We also source and restore vintage and antique furniture and interiors.
We sell mainly through our own website, but also Not On The High Street and our Fife store. We have a growing list of stockists across the UK, Europe and a few in North America.
We also supply restaurants, bars, hotels, interior designers and property developers with vintage furniture.
We’re a small group, so I tend to get involved with a wide range of tasks and activities.
No two days are ever the same – last Friday I started work at 8.30, usually I catch up with Georgia, our Operations Manager, and check everything is ok for the day ahead.
I reviewed some new leather bag samples for our Spring/Summer collection that arrived from the workshop and made some changes to the designs. I also reviewed our sales and marketing plans for London Fashion Week and Spring launch of our Japanese vintage furniture with Shannon, from our marketing team.
I also checked the progress of the container of furniture I bought on a trip to India in January. Later in the afternoon I met with Georgia again to discuss the training plan for a new member of staff who’ll be starting soon. I finished the day letting some of our key trade customers know about the Japanese furniture coming soon.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I spent six months travelling across India in1998 and fell in love with the traditional craftsmanship practiced and handed down the generations in artisan communities across India, particularly in rural areas.
I brought back an old leather satchel, handbound journals and a few small old wooden boxes from Rajasthan. People loved everything I brought and I felt there was an opportunity to start a business making leather bags and decorative items made by skilled craftspeople as well as sourcing vintage furniture.
So in 2006 I took £2,000 and a couple of empty suitcases to India and sought out craftspeople who would use the same traditional tools, techniques and methods to recreate modern leather satchels. 12 years later we offer a wide range of vintage inspired leather bags and accessories and vintage and antique furniture and an eclectic range of decorative homewares. Most importantly, we still buy from the same people.
Who do you admire?
Leonardo Di Vinci – a true visionary, artist, scientist, philosopher and innovator.
Muhammad Ali – one of the greatest sportsmen who ever lived, social activist and one of the most enduring sportspeople of the 20th Century.
My dad – he inspired me to start my own business as he did 45 years ago making handmade furniture.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Have more suppliers – to enable us to scale production quickly.
When our satchels took off 8 years ago they did so in a very big way. We were using a very small supplier and they found it hard to make enough to satisfy demand.
We thought we had found a reliable additional supplier and after placing a very large order we were let down by them. It took us another six months to find another bag maker and a further six months to get a decent supply of bags.
We lost a lot of business because we didn’t have leather bags to sell. We now have several makers capable of increasing production at short notice without issues. So we always have a ‘Plan B’ and if it’s a critical part of a business I have a Plan C!
What defines your way of doing business?
We are passionate about designing and making bags and sourcing furniture and interiors that we think our customers will love and strive to be very good at what we do.
We try to be as responsive to our customer needs as possible and be seen as experts at what we do.
We’ve gained a reputation as a vintage and antique film props specialist for Hollywood and British films – seeing our furniture appearing in The Hobbit, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Paddington 2, Stan & Ollie, Victoria and Abduland Maleficent.
We work with small-scale family run businesses around the world and aim to work fairly with them, so their businesses grow, prosper and their employees earn a higher than average wage and are well-treated.
I know what we’ll be selling in five and 10 years’ time will be very different to what we sell now.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Identify and know your target customers and watch trends like a hawk – doing as much market research on their lifestyles and needs is crucial.
Find out how they communicate with their peers. And keep it up to date.
Create a brand with clear identifiable brand values – create a set of messages that a customer will see and feel when they come into contact with your business. A small retailer can differentiate themselves with a well thought-out brand strategy.
Look to build long-term relationships with your key suppliers – mutual trust and loyalty will pay dividends on both sides once built.
Set yearly plans with goals and forecasts. Set goals that encourage growth from year to year, but don’t forget to add a plan that outlines how you will achieve your goals or it’s just a wish. Communicate your plan to others and review it regularly.
Look after your people – it makes sense as an employer to be good to your staff. Reward and recognise their hard work – you only achieve anything good through them and churn costs you time and money in recruitment costs and training time.
Do right by the world – ethical consumerism is a growing trend and people want to know about the products they buy.
Be inspired – make time to find inspiration. New ideas often come when away from the day-to-day running of a business. Often doing things a little differently will reap huge rewards.
Obsess about giving excellent service – it’s an essential these days as customers’ expectations are higher than ever. Excelling at service will give you an advantage over tardy competitors and help build loyalty and repeat business.