Scotweb 1995-2016 - our story
They numbered only in the hundreds in 1993 when I set up my first server at Edinburgh University. I was lecturing in Anthropology, and mine was probably the world's first environmental-awareness site.
By 1995, there was still no Google, eBay, or Amazon. But I'd a hunch this clever Internet thing might go somewhere. And the joy of growing piles of marking was waning.
One day, I attended a seminar about Scots abroad. It blew my mind.
Who knew there were ten times more Scots outside Scotland than inside? Or that half of all US presidents had Scottish blood? Or, curiously, that unlike the Irish, Italians, or Chinese we hadn't clustered, but spread out, quietly working hard and prospering? In fact Scots are one of North America's most economically successful immigrant groups.
So, thinks: if you live in the US Mid-West (for example) and are discovering your Scottish ancestry, where would you find your tartan? Hmmm... an idea was forming...
A friend and I asked one of Scotland' top kiltmakers to supply for us. They laughed - no one will buy a kilt without a personal fitting! But we launched Scotweb with them anyway: the first online Scottish store. In fact, it was probably the first bespoke clothing producer of any kind on the Internet (still a special-interest niche).
Soon we found partners also to supply whisky, bagpipes, jewellery, cashmere, and more. And we added lots of free content. It was a 'portal' in the jargon then.
By 2001, dozens of copycat sites had sprung up. Some stole our words and images. Most supplied shoddy imported tourist tat. To stay ahead, we needed to do better still.
So we took direct control of the whole process. We launched our own local product design, manufacturing and retail operation, at first still alongside some favourite partners. This let us guarantee exceptional service quality, and commit to authentic local production.
Then we discovered our hidden gem: the DC Dalgliesh tartan weaving mill. Now we could offer ANY tartan, made into any product, to the highest heritage standards. No one else on earth could supply anything like our range. Business boomed.
Soon we were their largest customer, especially after adding our world-beating online Tartan Designer. The chance to create your own plaid then order bespoke garments is pretty special, it seems.
When the mill's owner retired a decade later we bought the business. DC Dalgliesh fabrics and reputation were unrivalled. But when we stepped in, the company needed investment, and its products updated for modern demands. This took a few years. The benefits are now emerging.
Oh, and along the way, my wife (and business partner) also produced two gorgeous girls - our second confirmed the very day we agreed to rescue the mill. Somehow, we juggled.
So now, at last, we're getting back to our roots. If you're a long term customer, you'll have noticed only minor changes on Scotweb in recent years. Well, that's changing.
Welcome to CLAN. Watch this space: we've ten years of exciting ideas ready to roll out. We're back at the beginning.
Thanks for joining us on our journey!