Melanie Clarihew Mackenzie and George

I’ve been an admirer of Mackenzie & George for a very long time – not only the products but the
Mackenzie & Georgegorgeous branding too. And you know what else? The people behind the brand. Here I chat to Melanie, one part of Mackenzie & George, and chat about her business.

Tell us about you and your background

Mackenzie & George is run by my husband Chris and I.  Our story starts all the way back to 1974! Chris’ father, Bill, had a belt factory for over 40 years, producing ladies couture belts for department stores and brands like Harrods, John Lewis, Austin Reed, Jaeger and many more. In 2008, Chris had recently finished university, and with jobs few and far between in that economic climate, he started selling some of his fathers belts at Covent Garden Apple Market. Long story short – the selling really sparked an interest in the making, and so Chris started learning how to make the belts (although he has been in the factory on school holidays since a toddler, so knew some of the basics). I had recently lost my job around the same time (I’m from a music/marketing/events background), and started helping Chris, and together we looked at working with different natural and long wearing materials and incorporating traditional saddlery techniques we taught ourselves via YouTube! Eventually we started to do a few craft shows for his parents, with our own mini collection on the corner of the stand, until we took the plunge and set up our own business in 2012 – Burghley Horse Trials being our first ever Chris & Melanie - Mackenzie & Georgeevent. 

What made you want to start a business?

A combination of a terrible job market and seeing an opportunity that really bought the best of our strengths together.  Although most people would think we’re mad living and working together, we get to share all the triumphs and tribulations, and see each other at our very best (and worse!). 

How is Mackenzie & George different?

Attention to detail. Each process is thought out to the tiniest detail. For example, you won’t find a rough edge on any single part of our products – each and every sharp corner and edge is shaved off and hand buffed before being inked and sealed to give the smoothest – and most comfortable – feel and look.  It’s details often overlooked, but makes all the difference to final finish of a quality product.

What makes Mackenzie & George products special?

We pride ourselves on exemplary materials (vegetable and oak bark tanned saddle hide, solid brass hand polished buckles) that we worked hard on developing with small family run manufacturers that Chris has known for pretty much his whole life!  In addition, we take great care to ensure our products are practical, wearable and will last for many, many years (we even guarantee it!). 

If you had to sum up your business in five words, what would they be?

Honest Timeless Quality Handmade (with) Love  (I may have cheated!)

Do you have a motto or ethos?

Wearability that lasts. It’s what we consider when designing and testing designs and improving our techniques

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring business owner, what would it be?

Get up early – it’s something we’re only learning now really; it’s amazing how much more you can get done with an extra couple of hours in the morning (an 8 week old baby is helping us keep to this!).

One thing that helps you run your business more effectively 

Shopify is amazing. We use it for our website and POS, and it is great having everything in one place, plus all the apps that integrate make it a really powerful tool.

Best thing about running a business?

Something different every day, and fully utilising every bit of grey matter! In one day, our roles can consist of fashion or graphic design, product and machine engineering, (sometimes quite complex) maths, copy writing, craftsmanship, accounting, sales, website design/backend, marketing and even painting/building stand props/workshops!

Worst thing about running a business?

Impossible to turn off. And no one to palm off jobs too. In our first few years we regularly worked 12- 18 hour days, and have gone to shows having been up (quite literally) all night finishing orders! Melanie - Mackenzie & George We’re a bit more on top of demand now, but desperately need an apprentice in the workshop.

One thing we might not know about you

At school, I was voted most likely to run my own business, but also most likely to end up in prison.  I’ve never quite worked out what the shared attribute I have that makes both those things likely, but glad I ended up doing the former! 

Where can people follow you or Mackenzie & George online

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