Small Business Life

A sustainable, family-run small business in Tuscany – get to know Jill from UASHMAMA

Lyzi Unwin
Content Producer
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Jill Schumacher has been working on the UK arm of Italian family business UASHMAMA since 2020. They create gorgeous bags and homewares in equally gorgeous Tuscany, using natural fibres including organic and recycled cotton, paper, leather and wax.

UASHMAMA have a commitment to reducing their ecological footprint, reducing waste, and having a positive impact on the environment.

Studio Cotton founder Aime met Jill at Mollie’s Diner for a consultation as although she’s passionate about their incredible products, she hadn’t any previous experience in SEO (search engine optimisation) or managing a website. She wanted someone to give her a nice specific to-do list, and Aime delivered, as always.

We thought we’d find out how Jill came across UASHMAMA and started working with them.

 

1. Why did you start working with UASHMAMA?

My children were both in full-time education and I had been considering going back to work in some form, but hadn’t really thought about it too much.

I came across UASHMAMA on a visit to their Le Sorelle store in Lucca during a family holiday to Tuscany, and I immediately fell in love with the brand and their products, and noticed that they didn’t yet have a UK representative.

I got in touch with the Marconi family who run the business, and started a correspondence with them. After a few emails, I flew out to a trade show in Frankfurt in February 2020 to meet with them and share my ideas.

I became the UK sales agent for wholesale in April 2020, and became the UK distributor including retail in October 2022.

UASHMAMA was founded by the Marconi family in 2011 and is run by Marco Marconi, his wife Emanuela and their four daughters. They really make all their distributers and clients feel a part of the family, and I feel privileged to be part of it.

 

 

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A post shared by UASHMAMA (@uashmama)

 

2. Tell us about your pre-small business background

I studied accountancy at Dundee university, and worked for 11 years in public accounting and industry in Dallas, TX, gaining my CPA license while working. My last job in Dallas was in the internal audit department of the department store Neiman Marcus.

My husband and I moved back to the UK in 2008, and for the next 11 years I was a stay-at-home mum to our two children, before discovering UASHMAMA in 2019.

 

3. What are the origins of the UASHMAMA name?

UASHMAMA comes from the Italian for “wash,” followed by “mama” to represent the washable nature of our fabric, and as a tribute to Emanuela Marconi, the mother of the four sisters in the Marconi family, and all Italian mothers.

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4. What is your personal favourite product, and why?

My favourites are our laundry bag, and Tracolla bag.

The laundry bag is lightweight, with two recycled cotton handles, meaning it is very easy to transport between rooms and up and down the stairs. Plus it looks lovely in our bathroom.

The Tracolla is the perfect cross body bag and holds just the right amount for taking out and about. Again, it is lightweight, and the strap means it is incredibly comfortable to wear all day.

 

 

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A post shared by UASHMAMA (@uashmama)

 

5. What’s the bestselling UASHMAMA product, and why do you think it’s so popular?

Our Ice-Cube Beverage Chiller was recently featured in Delicious Magazine and Homes & Interiors Scotland, and has become our most recent best seller.

It’s a drinks cooler which takes up very little space in the freezer, and keeps your beverage nice and cold while outside or at the table. It’s sustainable and looks great!

The Giulia Tote is our best seller in the Wear category. It’s lightweight and capacious, with some handy interior pockets. It comes in a range of colours and metallic finishes, which look fantastic.

 

6. What’s the loveliest part of running UASHMAMA?

I love spreading the word of our amazing brand, and having customers tell us how much they love using their products.

I love receiving and packing orders, knowing that someone has a lovely parcel on the way, hoping it brings them joy when they open it.

 

7. Tell us about a significant turning point that positively impacted UASHMAMA

The trip to Frankfurt in 2020 was an amazing opportunity. I was able to meet the Marconi family in person and share my ideas for their UK business.

I think making the effort to take the trip showed commitment, and it was just a great opportunity to meet and discuss ideas for the retail side in the UK.

 

 

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A post shared by UASHMAMA (@uashmama)

 

8. What’s a terribly unlovely thing that you’ve experienced that might have had unintended positive consequences?

While working on the wholesale side of the business, Brexit happened. It meant my customers had to deal with VAT charges at the time of importing their order, which wasn’t always possible for our larger clients who work within purchasing departments.

This led to discussions with the Marconi family about how we could better manage this for our customers, which in turn led to me becoming the UK distributor and taking on the retail side of the business.

 

9. Tell us about a step you’ve taken to make UASHMAMA more lovely

I am aiming to offer the best customer service to our customers, by responding quickly to customer emails and questions, keeping the website as user-friendly as possible, and being responsive to our customers is a main goal.

 

 

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A post shared by UASHMAMA (@uashmama)

 

10. As recommended by you

We asked Jill to recommend 3 podcasts, blogs, or Instagram accounts that she’d recommend to other small business owners…

@studiocotton

Aime’s advice has been invaluable. I had no website experience before opening the retail site in October, and Aime has given me so much advice and knowledge through her weekly Q&As, the Studio Cotton Clubhouse, and our consultation.

@prdispatch

Rosie and her team offer the most amazing service in DIY PR. Having access to their resources has given me so much confidence in approaching the press, and their toolkit and community are invaluable.

@resilientretailclub

Catherine is so incredibly knowledgeable and approachable with her advice. I joined her free sales challenge in January and learned a lot. I am currently reading her book Tame Your Tiger, which is all about product based businesses, and is full of really useful information.

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