Founders Blog – Richard Ince & Clare McCammont, Ince Umbrellas.
What is the origin story of Ince Umbrellas, how did it all begin?
Ince Umbrellas came together as a collection of Ince family businesses working in tailoring and making umbrellas back in the early 1800’s. Based in Spitalfields with family support in Clare, Suffolk. The move away from whalebone ribs and the invention of the sewing machine did wonders for us and the British umbrella industry, which grew rapidly in the Victorian era, with its peak during the Edwardian days of the early 1900’s. We still make umbrellas today based in East London and pride ourselves on being the last ‘mile’ for many City and West End brands & retailers.
Why did Ince Umbrellas become a founding member of the Guild 10 years ago?
We became founding members of the guild because we thought it was a brilliant way in which local businesses could come together and have a voice. The area of Bethnal Green and East London had changed so much over the previous 10-20 years that we no longer knew our neighbours, and we felt local businesses were getting lost in the midst of all the changes. With the focus shifting to be more on developers and big corporates, something needed to be done to address that balance and enable local, small business people to have a voice in their local area.
What has been the most valuable aspect of Guild membership for you since you joined?
For us, it’s been the increased awareness of local businesses via ‘The Map’, the local markets, and social media all enables the community to shop locally which has also increased our brand awareness. The representation of local businesses at the Council level has also been really helpful. The Guild provides a way for local businesses to express their vision for their local area, as well as protest against proposed changes that would adversely affect them and their local community. The access to local rent information which assists with rent review negotiations has also been very valuable.
How has your business changed in the last decade?
We’ve grown over the last 10 years and have doubled in size, assisted by the drive to re-shore fashion manufacturing. We’re pivoting our business to be more sustainable, and are working on our net zero goals. However, we’re finding the business climate a lot tougher with sky-high rents and business rates, a lack of local skills, and a general lack of understanding of manufacturing and making things in the area. Where have all the commercial makerspaces gone?
What would you like people to know about Ince Umbrellas right now?
We are very proud to be a part of ‘Made in London’ a book just released about makers and manufacturers based in London. Did you know there are over 4,000 of us? We are excited to be launching our new sustainable and virtually plastic-free umbrella very soon. We are part of the London Christmas Accessory Market happening on the 3rd & 4th of December. And we are in the ‘Make it British’ Christmas Gift Guide if people are looking for Christmas pressie ideas.