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Image for article It was only supposed to be a side hustle...

It was only supposed to be a side hustle...

Image for article It was only supposed to be a side hustle...

Not even a side hustle really. I wasn’t looking for a hobby, or racking my brain for the next big business idea, I was trawling Pinterest looking for camper van necessities… stickers, bunting and fairy lights obviously! Then I came across a picture of some vintage American hiking patches, and the seed was sown.

Fast forward many sleepless nights learning how to use a graphic design programme (no I’m not a designer which might upset those who are more qualified and have told me they wish they’d had the idea first!). Our first collection of twelve patches depicting the Lakeland fells arrived four days before the Keswick Mountain Festival. Cue one “get me in quick” phone call. If I sold enough patches, I could buy all the stickers and bunting I wanted! I was in no way prepared for what was about to happen.

Retailers wanted our patches, and they wanted them in time for the holidays which was a matter of weeks away. I had no stock, no shop displays, no website! A quick upscale was required as our patches filtered into more and more stores, and our newly created website sold out. The business just seemed to take off overnight and I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants ever since!

 

Starting a business with no experience is challenging. Creating and nurturing a brand like CONQUER is infinitely more so. I have come to learn that although I own the business, CONQUER belongs to all the people for whom it has created meaning. It may be as simple as a child’s first fell, marking a marriage proposal or the place where the memory of a loved one remains. We are very close to our customers and they often tell us about of the significance of special places. People are emotionally connected to the outdoors, and it’s very humbling when something you’ve created becomes part of a bigger story.

The effort we put into customer connections has meant we have been able to support the Lake District through partnerships, money from every purchase contributes directly to conservation of the National Park. It’s easy to enjoy the outdoors and forget about the work that goes into maintaining that environment.

This year we have also been able to fund educational days for Mountain Leaders, supporting them to pass on knowledge about landscape and conservation to their clients. Given that we make patches, it’s great to be developing partnerships that are organic to what we do and who we meet along the way.

Caroline Fisher

Shop the patches here

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