East of India
In 1991, Anne Spratling and John Ayris from Kent were a young couple with an idea for a business but no money or experience.
Anne and John had just returned from a working abroad, and had brought back some beautiful wooden gifts made by a craftsman in Bali. The gifts proved so popular with family and friends that they thought there could be a market for importing them.
However, the couple soon discovered that they were not ideal candidates for a bank loan, especially not during a recession.
In the early nineties however, the job prospects for young people in Kent were bleak and Anne and John didn’t want to give up on their idea. They heard about The Prince's Trust through another local organisation and decided to approach us for help.
A few days later, Anne and John travelled back to Bali to meet the craftsman they had met previously and place their first big order. They named their company East of India and returned to the UK to wait for their stock to be shipped home.
For the first few months, Anne and John worked from a loft in John’s parents’ house and travelled around local shops and craft fairs to try and sell their products. Their big break came when they attended a trade fair in Birmingham and made the contacts they needed to sell gifts across the UK.
Currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, East of India has grown steadily every year and the company’s products are now sold in over 2,000 outlets in the UK, including John Lewis and Harrods, as well as in countries as far away as Japan.
With 38 employees now on the books in Folkestone and 400 people in Bali, East of India has also helped ensure the survival of traditional crafts in Bali at a time when most people support the tourist industry. The man who made the gifts that Anne and John originally brought home still works for the company and he has now enlisted the help of the whole village.
Anne said: “By giving us a chance and believing in our idea, The Prince’s Trust has helped create jobs not just for us but for hundreds of other people. Little did we know 25 years ago that the funding and mentoring we received would bring East of India to where it is today.
If you've received start-up support from us over the last 10 years, put yourself forward for our Tomorrow's Business Awards for the chance to win £3,000 and a series of one-to-work mentoring sessions and business-boosting workshops with industry gurus.