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Interview with Teresa Littlewood, importer of Turkish Hamam and Fouta towels to Hong Kong and founder of hkturkish.com.
How did you get started with this business?
I was traveling to Turkey on a regular basis and bringing back Turkish Towels for my friends, they were so beautiful I bought far too many and ended up with about 200 towels which we hand carried back to Hong Kong so I decided to sell them off at one of the Xmas fairs. I put a notice on HK Mums facebook page and was inundated with requests, it was then I realised I could introduce these towels properly to Hong Kong.
Whats your personal background?
I run my own business exporting camping equipment to Europe, I’ve been doing this for 10 years and before that I was Director of Sales for The Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay, I spent many happy years in the hotel environment before leaving after having my first child and wanting to spend more time with her.
What do you enjoy most about this business?
I love meeting customers and seeing them happy with the product, I also enjoy the sourcing in Turkey, who would not enjoy visiting one of the most fabulous exciting cities in the world! In the beginning I used to buy my towels from merchants in Istanbul and Kas but now I mostly buy directly from the factory in central Turkey. To visit the factory I had to fly an hour from Istanbul, it was quite an amazing experience to see how they are manufactured and made me appreciate the work that goes into these towels. For the evil eyes which I use on the packaging, I buy these from wholesalers in the backstreets of Istanbul, they are usually covered in dust so I have to wash everything when I get back!
What were biggest challenges faced building this business?
One of my big challenges is getting the word out, I have put the towels on facebook and Instagram and I am building up a nice database of customers, I use other marketing tools as well and I’ve got my own website (hkturkish.com). When new stock comes in I want everyone to know and the challenge is getting the stock on all the social media, it’s very time consuming but has to be done. I am not an expert on Instagram but my kids are giving me tips!
What was your most memorable moment so far?
Some of our towels are made using hand looms, I really loved meeting the ladies that work the looms. They were so proud of their machines, we could not communicate but it was good to see we are helping to keep an ancient tradition alive in the villages. Even with the mechanical looms, the tassels are all made by hand, I’ve taken videos to show it.
What are 3 things you want people to know about your business?
- My aim is to keep my prices as low as I can so everyone can afford a Hamam towel, I believe I am the best value in town and I can do this by not having overheads of a shop or staff, except my husband but he doesn’t get paid!
- Our towels are an environmentally friendly item, these towels are 100% cotton, they absorb water easily and dry very quickly in a light breeze, less water is needed when you wash them and they dry quickly with no tumble dryer!
- We package the towels beautifully with jute twine and an evil eye but I am moving away from the plastic bag due to environmental reasons and I will be bringing out a new way of packaging them in the next couple of months. I am thinking of rolling them up and having canvas bags made, I can have some nice artwork on them and hopefully the bags will be reused, it’s also a way of advertising so my aim is to make a really nice bag which people won’t mind using again.