When Amanda’s business partner retired from the business in 2017 she needed a new companion to travel to India with on the annual buying trip, and I was up for the adventure. Having recently graduated from a Masters in History of Art and Art World Practice, I was working in a climbing centre in Scotland and had the flexibility to take 3 weeks off work to join mum travelling around Rajasthan in North West India.

It was spectacular. Just a truly immersive experience of India, it’s beautiful variety of decorative arts and crafts, the delicious food, the wonderfully welcoming people and SO much chai tea! Like not the average bland chai you’d find in Starbucks, the real deal full spice, sweet tea. Something I really want to master making! For 3 weeks we travelled from New Delhi, to Udaipur (the city of lakes), to Jodhpur (the blue city), to Jaipur (the pink city) with visits to stunning temples and old forts along the way, including the infamous Taj Mahal.

Although I loved every minute, I was quite surprised by how much hard work is involved in the buying process. Long days with a visit to one business or workshop in the morning and another in the afternoon. Selecting every single thing one by one, making sure the quality is up to par, while simultaneously discussing prices, estimating our own profit margins, keeping track of the budget and not getting overwhelmed by the variety of what was on offer and the appearance of yet another stunning item after we had said “I think that’s enough now!” a dozen times. That’s all with 35 degree heat and relying on an occasional fan and a through-draft in the shade to keep you cool.

Working in a pair is very important for several reasons. A simple one is that we want a nice range of things in the shop so the fact that Mum and I have slightly different eyes for things works to our advantage. We have a rule that depending on what we’re buying we can each choose between 1 and 3 things that the other person thinks is awful. For example if I love a particular cushion cover pattern and mum thinks it’s bad, we don’t rule it out because we acknowledge people have a range of tastes. Likewise when saying no to something and feeling a bit under pressure it is great to have the support of a second person to help you say no, definitely not! Another factor is the maths side of things. We keep track of everything as we select, right from the beginning so we don’t get overzealous with our budget. So one person is constantly calculating as the other takes a leading role in sorting through items.

Finally travelling alone as a woman can be a challenge at the best of times. In India, being in a totally different culture where 90% of the people we are working with are men, and where it’s a bit unusual for them to be doing business with single women in the first place. Saying that, we have never felt unsafe on our travels, even when I was stranded there alone without mum for nearly 5 days, but that’s for another story! The people we work with are incredibly kind and we’ve forged excellent relationships with them over the years.

This was the longest time mum and I had ever spent solely in one another’s company, zero breaks. No big brother, no going off to work somewhere else, no friends visiting, no going off for a walk with the dogs. Just us. One of the most incredible parts of the trip was there was not one single argument or annoyance. The closest we got was me getting hangry waiting for dinner but that was directed at the situation not at mum! It was wonderful and really a significant time in our relationship, now as adult mother and adult daughter, not adult mother and stroppy teenager daughter! I hadn’t lived at home for more than a couple of very hectic summer months over the previous 5 years and it was very special for us to get this time together, growing what was to become a beautiful and successful business together.