Sally Robinson, the farmer’s wife who founded the hugely successful Ample Bosom company, answers FW’s questions as part of Farmlife’s “fashion special”
Q What inspired you to start the business?
A A gap in the market for quality, pretty lingerie for the fuller figure in an age range from 18 to 98. Age is no longer the reason not to look pretty and feel good.
Q What are the main challenges in running a fashion business in a rural area?
A Nothing in particular – just the same ones that exist for any other rural business, such as a shortage of skilled staff.
Q What is unique/unusual about your business?
A Me! I generally don’t conform to the norm and often use my hunch when making decisions. It’s worked well for me so far.
Q Who are your customers and where are they from?
A Ladies from all age groups (and sometimes some men) from the UK and around the world.
Q What problems did you have in setting up the business?
A Communications were – and still are – the main problem in a rural community. Good telephone and broadband remains a key problem in our area. BT, read this.
Q Where is the furthest away you’ve had orders from?
A Australia. Although we send orders regularly to other countries including mainland Europe, USA and South Africa.
Q What would you say to anyone wanting to set up their own fashion business from a rural location?
A Set up the best website you can afford, with good search engineering.
Q Have you had any high-profile customers?
A We never divulge customer information, but we have had well-known female MPs and a notorious madame to boot.
Q What has the reaction been from your friends and family?
A Mostly supportive, but in the early days sceptical as to whether my idea was sustainable.
Q What’s the best thing about having a business in a rural area?
A Fresh air and no traffic.
Q Who is more stylish: country people or city people, and why?
A Neither. In the age of internet shopping everyone can buy whatever they want at any price; however farmers’ wives have livestock and mud (not to mention budget) to contend with.
Q What’s the biggest order you’ve had?
A People regularly buy multiples of the same product, because of fit and quality.
Q What kind of reactions do you get from customers?
A Often it is a great relief to find a product which is comfortable and looks good. Larger, more mature women often prefer to purchase from the privacy of their home.
Q How easy is it to juggle your family/farm life with your business?
A My motto is “give a job to a busy person” – farmer’s wives are well skilled in the art of juggling.
Q Describe your business in three words.
A Hard bloody work!
Q What was your biggest breakthrough?
A My first press release when the world became aware of amplebosom.com.