From Then - Til Now!
Second Nature Online has been running for over twelve years. We are based in the small Scottish town of Dumfries and our premises are home to six staff and more products than we ever meant to stock!
We buy from our favourite suppliers in the UK but we also design and import our own ethical, eco-friendly home textiles. Our own products carry the registered Second Nature Online brand and we are also a licensed GoodWeave importer and retailer.
The business has its own website (you're on it!) but we also have shops on Amazon, Ebay and Etsy We receive around 2000 orders a month and we despatch to customers all over the world.
These days, we look like a proper grown-up company, but it wasn’t always like that! In fact, it all started - in 2008 - with the sale of a single £7.99 rug on eBay.
From then - until now! Join us on a brief history of Second Nature Online.
2008 - 2010
You might say that Second Nature Online started by accident – or maybe it was an afterthought. Whatever it was, there was certainly no intention that it would become what it is today!
Back in 2008, Karen had a full-time job with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and she jointly ran a Fair Trade Bed and Breakfast at her home on the remote Scottish island of Islay.
Life was busy enough but, after furnishing the B&B rooms, Karen casually sold a leftover fair-trade rug for £7.99 on Ebay. A seemingly small event at the time - but one which is very much regarded as the starting point for Second Nature Online.
After that first sale, a few more surplus homewares were duly sold on Ebay – but instead of keeping the money, Karen used the takings to buy more stuff back in!
Alongside Ebay, she was soon to be found setting up stalls at local fairs. And if there were no fairs taking place, well you might have been invited to visit her dining room which had been turned into a weekend shop. Given half a chance, she would also turn other people’s dining rooms into a shop, and this led to a series of fair trade house parties.
Recycled products became a firm favourite, not least because Karen had already spent many years studying and working in the field of sustainability and recycling. Creating markets for eco-friendly products was bound to be a natural ambition.
2011 - 2012
Having tapped into so many lovely products, the Ebay shop was soon booming – but why stop there? Karen added to her markets by setting up an independent retail site and an Amazon UK store. As a result, more customers began to browse and buy from the online shops.
More sales meant more stock – and more stock needed more space! A box of stock soon became a spare room of stock …. and then two spare rooms …. and then the shed …. and the utility room …..and the garage ….. and other people’s spare rooms.
In 2011, Karen and her other half, Clayton, moved back to her home town of Dumfries and rented a 6 bedroom house with cellars. It still wasn’t enough. With pallets on the pavement, bedrooms full of stock and parcels in the hallway – something had to give.
Now before this turns into too much of a one-woman show, lets pause for a moment to introduce Clayton who is Karen's other half.
He is a full time firefighter with the Fire and Rescue Service in Dumfries but, as Karen's business started to grow, Clayton realised that his days off were about to become a thing of the past too.
And he was right!
2013 - 2014
By 2013, Karen had used up all of her own - and Clayton's - spare time! (Plus all available space...) It was time to get serious!
After 16 years with SEPA, Karen left paid employment, opened a shop in Dumfries, registered as a VAT paying business and employed two staff. After five years as a hobby business, it was time to grow up.
Second Nature Online was officially born!
Running a shop was very different to Karen’s previous job but it also gave them a base to continue growing the online stores. Progress was steady but the products they offered were still those sourced from UK importers and suppliers.
After five years, it was time to go solo and to focus on their big love - eco-friendly home textiles!
With that in mind, Karen and Clayton embarked on their first trip to India to meet producers, source some of their own products and meet the Fair Trade Forum.
Following the India trip, many products were ordered but importing that first container was a nerve-wracking experience! Karen had already rented a mini warehouse, but she also found a new obsession in the form of Marine Tracker. From Mumbai to Grangemouth – the first container journeys were observed on a daily basis.
Then finally - the container doors opened on Second Nature Online own label products. With 8000 rugs to unload, it was most fortuitous that those fine firefighters from Dumfries Red Watch were off duty and able to do the job!
They've unloaded every container since then too!
With so many new products, it seemed very timely when Second Nature was invited to take a stand at the Scottish Ideal Home Show in Glasgow.
It was the perfect way to launch their new ranges and it felt like another business milestone.
An important lesson was also learned - and that is to always take a trolley with you for setting up and dismantling an event because your vehicle will undoubtedly be parked two miles away.
They didn't take a trolley......
2016 - 2017
All businesses have their own unique journey but, along with growth and success, come other life events which can change everything.
In 2015, Karen’s Dad developed sudden onset dementia and needed his family more than ever. It was no longer possible for Karen to focus on the business.
With no staff to take over operations, the shop premises had to close – but, for the online shops, all was not lost since the world of ‘outsourcing’ was about to save the day.
Around this time, Amazon had begun to expand its fulfilment service whereby sellers can store their products in an Amazon warehouse and allow Amazon staff to fulfil any customer orders - both in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
Similarly, after some careful research, a Glasgow based logistics company (Commands) was also discovered and contracted in to help with storage and order despatch.
After mass packing and relocating of stock to Amazon and Commands, the day to day business of Second Nature Online was able to continue while Karen spent precious time with her Dad.
2018 - 2019
In 2018, the day to day business was still being largely out-sourced with everything else operating from the garage and the kitchen table (just like the old days!) - but it was time to get back to normal and to bring stock and operations back home again.
The hunt was on for new Second Nature premises!
An old town centre church came onto the market in Dumfries. This was the Former Baptist Church which was built in the 1870's and which had never been sold in all that time. Having passed through 150 years of trustees, it came into the ownership of Second Nature Online in October 2018.
With its large open plan hall, it was perfect for the job – swinging from the chaos of container deliveries to the precision of special event days!
Over the following year, the business status changed to a Limited Company and Second Nature Online became a registered trademark.
Three staff were employed in the team along with a full-time agent in India.
A visit was made to the GoodWeave offices in India and then to see some of the licensed GoodWeave producers, some of whom have gone on to become new Second Nature Online suppliers.
Around this time there also came an increasing number of requests to give talks about the business and to train other businesses on the basics of selling online.
Karen has since written various articles and been featured in others. She has even been to Number 10 as an advocate for small businesses!
Through a Scottish Government contract, Karen also began to write and deliver training to groups, and to individual companies all over Scotland.
Well what can we say about the year 2020? The year the world stopped! Some of our operations continued while some had to cease.
On the plus side, the year did start well when Second Nature Online became a certified GoodWeave importer. The first GoodWeave label products were soon under production in India – but then the COVID pandemic struck. Like many businesses, the team – and its suppliers and customers – were faced with many challenges.
At a practical level, the biggest challenge was the build-up of Second Nature Online shipments in India which meant that our premises were too small to store and process the backlogged containers!
The hunt for new premises was back on the cards. By October we had leased a shiny new industrial unit - and by the end of the year we had filled it in true Second Nature style!
So, there you have it! We’ve come a long way from the sale of that £7.99 rug in 2008, but every milestone has amazed us. We have learned so much from our travels and our experiences. We have crossed paths with many wonderful people.
For us the journey continues. So far, it’s been a blast - and incredibly hard work - but I hope that, alongside our suppliers, our supporters and our customers, we have all helped to make a difference in promoting the importance of ethical and eco-conscious trade.