Yello Interviews: Matthew Best and Gabrielle Farley, Co-Founders of ‘Tuft Binds Studio’
by Karen Rollins Mar 13, 2023
Entrepreneurs Matthew Best and Gabrielle Farley are the co-owners of Barbadian-based rug making company ‘Tuft Binds Studio’.
The business partners officially launched their brand in August 2021 and have been supplying custom made rugs and wall pieces for a variety of clients while gradually building a reputation for precision, quality, and excellence.
Yello asked Gabrielle and Matthew to tell us more about themselves and what they have learned so far on their entrepreneurial journey.
They explained how they came up with their business concept, what it takes to make their products, and how they deal with the challenge of sourcing supplies.
Describe yourselves using three words.
Gabrielle – Ambitious. Diligent. Funny.
Matthew – Ambitious. Practical. Intuitive.
Please tell us a bit more about your backgrounds.
Gabrielle – I grew up in Lower Carlton, St James. My older sister and I were raised by my grandparents. I was always a very inquisitive child. I loved to read books, magazines, and play video games.
I have vivid childhood memories of beach days and a highlight was summer camps at NIFCA (National Independence Festival of Creative Arts). I thoroughly enjoyed the activities they provided.
As it relates to my education, I attended The Alexandra Secondary School and the Barbados Community College (BCC) Hospitality Institute. I recently achieved my bachelor’s degree in Management Studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI) – Cave Hill campus. So far, my jobs have been within the hospitality industry and heavily focusing on operations and customer service.
My interests include wellness activities, travelling, art and reading. I believe in maintaining a healthy work life balance.
Matthew – I grew up in Waterford, St Michael in a family house where I was raised by my mother. My childhood days were rich, spending priceless time with neighbourhood friends, experiencing all kinds of boyhood activities.
I attended The Combermere Secondary school. I then went to the BCC Hospitality Institute before furthering my studies at UWI (Cave Hill campus). My interests include art, animation, movies (horrors, thrillers, and mystery films to be precise) and travelling.
What were your initial career plans / ambitions?
Gabrielle – I always envisioned myself in a leadership position which is why I studied management. During my career path I have had progressive positions which has led me to a role within human resources.
Everything I have learnt has been a great foundation for my side business. Alhough I have a huge interest in entrepreneurship, I am still keen on upward progression in my career.
Matthew – My career plan fresh out of secondary school was to gain a skill and become an entrepreneur as I always had a desire for it.
However, I spent some more time studying and gained experience in the tourism industry before branching off into different multi-disciplinary skills, such as pool technician, graphic designer, and facility management.
When / why did you decide to start Tuft Binds Studio?
Tuft Binds Studio was formulated in October 2020 and launched on 14 August 2021. Matthew pitched the idea after seeing how popular custom rug designing is overseas and we saw it as a good opportunity for us and Barbados.
The ability to create rugs with any design was a huge motivation, as well as the exclusiveness of the product.
We did a lot of planning, brainstorming, and practice before we launched and that has helped us greatly in introducing the products to Barbados.
Tell us more about the products you currently provide and how they are produced.
Tuft Binds Studio currently manufactures custom handmade rugs and wall pieces in three sizes.
The process starts with the customer’s design. When their image is submitted, it then has to be converted to a vector image, before we can draw the design onto the canvas.
When customers need assistance with bringing their idea to life, we will brainstorm and create the design from scratch (Matthew’s graphic design background is a major help in this area!).
The design is drawn onto a canvas according to the size of the rug and tufted using a tufting machine which weaves the yarn into the cloth. The rugs are made from quality blends of yarn, and we bind it with strong adhesive glue to a leather backing. The final step is to shear the rug to cut out excess wool and level it and carve the design for more definition.
Making a rug is not easy, as the process is very expensive, and the quality and neatness of each rug is diverse but seeing the finished product and the reaction from the customer definitely makes it worth it!
What is the biggest challenge you faced starting the business? How did you deal with it?
Financial management was a challenge but from the perspective of pricing to match the economy, instead of the appropriate pricing for the product, and most importantly the labour that is involved.
Initially, we wanted to focus on getting the brand and products out there to build demand, however, taking into consideration how expensive the supplies are, we had to make changes. We created a cash flow chart to predict our sales and profits and made slight adjustments in the suppliers and the price of the product.
Another issue was supplies as most of the tools we use are imported. This was difficult as taxes and duties are very high in Barbados, however, we use local shipping providers with the best rates to suit our needs.
Who is your typical customer? How do they order your products?
Our typical customer is generally anyone who has a love for creativity and wants to brighten their space with a custom rug. Currently we provide items to locals, but we have had customers in Canada and the UK.
To order a custom rug, customers can access our order form located in the bio of our Instagram page @tuftbindsstudio. We are currently working on our website which is due to launch later this year.
What are your plans for the business over the next 12-18 months?
Our plan for Tuft Binds Studio is to continue growing and building our brand. The vision we have for the business is not limited to only offering rugs as we have some exciting products to launch this year. We also want to participate more in local exhibitions to reach a larger audience in person, so Barbadians can see, touch, and experience the products.
Additionally, we would love our brand to be known regionally and internationally, ensuring that each household has a Tuft Binds Studio custom rug.
What is your proudest career achievement so far?
Jointly, our proudest career achievement has been owning and operating our own successful business. It is definitely hard work and a great accomplishment!
Which local, regional, or international entrepreneurs do you admire?
Locally, we admire Davis Driving School, Imagin3D and She Markets. Internationally, Rihanna, Bill Wave, and Bill Gates.
What do you love about Barbados?
Gabrielle – I love the beach, especially at sunset, and of course the cuisine. Our culture is also very unique with festivals and buzzing night life.
Matthew – I love our cultural richness. The safety benefits from our geographical position, and the food.
What do you do / where do you go on your days off to relax?
Gabrielle – Going to the Globe Drive-in to watch a movie is something I like to do in my free time. I also take time to enjoy a sunset, read a book and meditate.
Matthew – I usually go to the beach or take a drive to the countryside.
What is your philosophy / motto / approach to life?
Gabrielle: As someone who loves quotes and philosophies, it is hard to choose a just one, however, I love the Oscar Wilde quote: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”.
Matthew: My motto in life is “ambition reveals direction” which speaks to me because growing up I always found ways to channel any passion to better myself, in a positive way, with what little I had.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger selves – what would you say?
Gabrielle – I would tell my younger self to always know your worth, focus on education and save HARD! Everything will make sense someday and keep reminding yourself everything really does happen for a reason.
Matthew – I would say listen to your intuition more, instead of shying away from taking a risk in life and thinking of it negatively. Risk is the doorway to opportunity.
Order a Tufts Binds Studio custom rug or wall piece via direct message on Instagram @tuftbindsstudio or email [email protected].