Bespoke, sustainable, original: Lancashire's super Silver Mushroom sisters taking on the retail world
The year was 2011 and Rebecca Kane was sitting in her bedroom in her new house.
“It was a little cottage out in the Lancashire countryside and I was enjoying making it somewhere I’d look forward to coming home to,” says Rebecca. “I wasn’t that excited about the work I was doing at the time, so I just thought ‘what better time to try and start something new for myself?’”
That certain something was Silver Mushroom.
A budding home and kitchenware e-commerce business established to offer customers a bespoke range of carefully-selected products, the company was founded in order to give others across the UK that very same pleasure which Rebecca got from finding those perfect pieces for her new home.
Armed with a website designed by a friend’s dad, she got to work.
“I didn’t know a lot about what I was doing but I just dived in,” says Rebecca. “Starting out was petrifying - I kept a bit of book-keeping work on the side for 18 months because I was a bit scared to make that full transition - but I’ve learned along the way and it’s grown naturally.
“It can be nerve-wracking, but I believed in what I was doing and, once you get the ball rolling, it’s so rewarding.
“There are highs and lows in owning a business: one day you feel like you’re swimming in treacle, the next you look back and think ‘wow, I’ve grown all this myself’,” adds Rebecca, who lives in Darwen. “It’s important to take a moment to look back and think ‘I’m doing okay’ because you can get bogged down in living and breathing the business day-to-day.”
A real family affair - Rebecca’s mother and sister, Emmie Brookman, also work at the company and enjoy ‘bouncing ideas off one another’ - Silver Mushroom is also committed to sustainability.
Over the past few years, the company has made concerted efforts to stock products sourced from more responsible brands which last as opposed to less durable items.
“While it’s hard to say ‘I’m 100% sustainable’, everyone in the office has a strong desire to do their best to make those little changes wherever possible to help the planet,” says Rebecca, with the company also going to great lengths to make their packaging as eco-friendly as possible. “We’re continuously trying to improve - we’re all about quality rather than quantity.
“Knowledge is power,” she adds when asked if she thinks that customers value sustainability. “I think people will increasingly want to spend their money on things which are reliably-sourced.”
From casserole dishes and jars to soft furnishings and candles, Silver Mushroom’s range is inspired by the Lancastrian countryside and has gone down a treat with the company presented with an Excellence in Online Retailing Award at the Excellence in Housewares Awards 2021.
And they’re even starting to design and create their own line of products too with Emmie, who has a background in graphics and design, relishing the new creative challenge. In fact, her initial range of Silver Mushroom-brand doormats have proved very popular indeed.
But when it comes to challenges, few things have posed quite the same set of issues as Covid.
“No one in the world knew what to expect,” says Rebecca, with the company growing from six members of staff to 30 over the past 18 months or so. “In lockdown, we saw a huge increase in sales because people were doing up their homes, so we had to strap in because there was no long-term plan - it was just about fulfilling orders whilst keeping people safe.
“We had to be reactive and it was a rough ride at times with things like supply chain issues, but it was rewarding to be able to build our customer base at what was a stressful time for the whole world,” she adds.
“We’re grateful for that and we know we were the lucky ones.”