Gift from colleague leads to new business for Richmond father and daughter team

Berber's Marrakech satchels.

A chance gift from a colleague was the catalyst for a new business idea for a father-daughter team from Richmond.

Paul Harrison and Beki Stevenson are the team behind Berber Leather, a Richmond-based business that sells handmade high quality leather bags and accessories from Morocco.

Paul Harrison who owns another Richmond-based business edEUcation, gained his first contact with Morocco through a British Council educational project that he brokered, involving Carmel School in Darlington and a school in Nador, Morocco. This involved an exchange of teachers between the two schools.

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As a thank you gift to Paul for being a part of the project, the Moroccan teacher, Mohamed, gave him a beautiful handmade Moroccan leather satchel; perfect for his laptop.

Paul used this bag all the time, heading off to meetings around the UK and abroad, finding it perfect for all his electronics, paperwork and accessories. The more he used the bag, the more compliments he got about it.

And the more compliments he got about it, the more people asked where they could get a satchel like it. These compliments and questions got the cogs turning and the idea of setting up a micro-company was formed.

Berber Leather was formed in 2015 and since then the business has gone from strength to strength. Paul and Beki have expanded their range of products. Starting solely with two lines of satchels, they soon added a range of saddle bags and then purses.

Shortly after a new range of belts joined the Berber Leather product list. As of the end of 2017 they have over 30 products in various styles and sizes,that are all beautifully handmade in either Marrakech or Fes.

“We work with the suppliers to get all our items produced,” said Beki.

“We’ve spent a long time finding manufacturers that are able to work with us, to realise our designs but with their Moroccan influences.”

Beki Stevenson, left, with Mohamed and Paul Harrison.

The bags are retailed at a range of events, conferences and shows. This year the company sold bags at all the party conferences and now has proud satchel owners in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

As well as selling the bags at retail events, the company has expanded to suppling wholesale to shops, and their products can be found in local shops from the No 19 Gift shop in Richmond, right up to the Isle of Skye and down to the far end of Kent.

July was also a special moment for Berber Leather, which it was selected as one of Dragon’s Den’s Theo Paphitis’ small businesses of the week on Twitter, giving them a huge boost to their online presence.

Berber Leather is now looking forward to 2018, which includes a move to a new storage facility for the bags, a series of new shows up and down the country, plus further expansion of the ranges.

“Whenever we do shows, we listen to what our customers and potential customers are telling us,” said Beki.

“We have had a lot of feedback from people who would like to see our saddle bags in a larger size so that’s one of the new products we want to bring to our range in 2018. Of course, the best bit is the trips out to our suppliers in Morocco to make that happen.”

For more details on Berber Leather’s click here