The story of FOLDE Dorset begins with an old photograph, placed on the wall of a Shaftesbury pub, and a conversation between two friends about what they would do if they could rewrite their lives.

“We thought we’d like to wake up, walk from our houses, up the hill, along Park Walk, which is very beautiful, to a shop,” says Karen Brazier (pictured above left), neighbour and friend of Amber Harrison (pictured above right). “We didn’t know what the shop would be, but wanted to wear aprons, like the shopkeeper in the photograph on the wall in our local pub.”

The photograph that inspired shopkeepers Amber and Karen

Less than two years after this conversation, FOLDE Dorset opened the doors of its shop, perched on the top of Gold Hill, a short walk from where co-founders Karen and Amber live.

Karen, 50, and Amber, 52, use Starling to manage their business finances. FOLDE Dorset sells nature books, art from Dorset printmakers and painters, local crafts and items to encourage people to explore Dorset, such as a field kettle for making a mid-walk brew. ‘Folde’ is an old English word for land or ground.

Taking a leap into business

Before starting the business, both women worked in high-pressure roles that involved commuting to an office. Karen worked as Marketing and Communications Director for a school and Amber worked as Head of Sustainability for a global IT and aviation business, often travelling overseas.

Amber Harrison in her shop FOLDE Dorset

“We’ve been able to use those skills in what we do now,” says Amber. Both co-founders run FOLDE Dorset full-time. They launched the business as an online shop in October 2020 before opening as a physical shop in April 2021.

Karen says: “In December 2020, we saw that the previous tenant of the shop we now have was moving out. It’s at the top of Gold Hill and we both thought, this won’t come up again. We gently enquired about it and before we knew it, we had the keys.”

Shopkeeping in Shaftesbury

The co-founders decorated everything themselves. “We brought in a lot of furniture from our homes and from people in the community. It feels like we have pieces of our family and the locals cheering us on,” says Amber.

The books, art and crafts in the shop are organised according to three themes: Land, Sea and Self. “Dorset is a county with a beautiful coast and beautiful country, which is what led to land and sea. Self is around the great solace you can find in nature,” says Karen. “It’s an alternative narrative to the one often presented by the outdoor leisure market of white men in Gore-Tex, striding purposefully or scrambling up mountains.”

FOLDE Dorset aims to open the possibility of spending time outdoors to people that might not identify with these images, both through what FOLDE sells and through Karen’s guided walks.

Greener banking with Starling

As people running a shop centred on connecting with nature, sustainability matters a lot to the co-founders. Amber says: “We’ve got a green energy provider, all our packaging is recycled or recyclable and we exchange packaging with other local businesses to increase its lifespan.”

Sustainability was a factor in the co-founders’ decision to open a Starling business account, with its debit card made from recycled plastic. “I didn’t realise banking could be so intuitive and pleasant,” says Amber.

“We’re in and out of our Starling accounts every day. We’re obsessed with the Saving Spaces feature, which we use to save up for paying salaries or suppliers.”

Karen adds: “The transparency is really helpful. I can see exactly when Amber has completed something. I’ve never used a banking app that’s as good as this one.”

Subscribeto blog updatesarrow-rightGrow your businessHelpful free business guidesarrow-right

Related stories

Latest posts