Midlothian couple enter Dragons’ Den with whisky barrel photo frames

Kristen and Ross Hunter' now export their picture frames to the US and across Europe. Picture: IAN GEORGESON
Kristen and Ross Hunter' now export their picture frames to the US and across Europe. Picture: IAN GEORGESON
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A MIDLOTHIAN business which makes and sells picture frames made from old whisky barrels will make its TV debut on Sunday night on BBC Two’s Dragons’ Den.

Kristen and Ross Hunter began crafting a range of unique photo frames out of reclaimed single malt whisky barrels at the end of 2015 after sadly losing their dog, Tess.

While in America, where she is from, Kristen began searching for the perfect frame to put a picture of their beloved pooch in as a gift to her husband.

She found one fashioned from barn wood and brought it home, sparking the beginning of the couple’s new kitchen-table enterprise.

Ross said: “It was rustic and I really liked it but Kristen thought it was expensive but cheaply made.

“When she came home she said we could do better than this and make it Scottish.”

The pair came across an old whisky barrel in a salvage yard on a visit to Perth and 
immediately took it home to start building prototypes.

Whisky Frames, based in Rosewell, now exports to the US and across Europe and was last year named start up entrepreneur of the year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.

Now, each of the artisan frames are stamped with a unique number that tells the buyer which distillery the barrel originated from.

After being put forward to face-off the business tycoons, Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, Jenny Campbell, Tej Lalvani and Touker Suleyman, the couple travelled to Media City in Manchester where they had to pitch producers to see if they made the cut.

They did and filmed the show in mid-May.

“We’ve been on tenterhooks for the last six months,” said Ross. “We did a formal interview in front of the cameras and were delighted to be selected.”

The couple entered the den with the hope of securing enough money to expand the firm and increase overseas exports.

Kristen said it had been a daunting moment when they faced the TV dragons in a bid to win investment for her 
company: “We were the first to go in so we were really quite nervous,” she said. “There were some nerve-wracking points, but we had a really good conversation with them and it was a very exciting day.”

What started as a “lifestyle” business soon grew after a Christmas market – where they sold out within hours – showed the couple that they were on to a good thing with the handcrafted frames.

When Kristen was eight-months pregnant with their second daughter, she started working full time on the 
business, signing up to the Scottish business accelerator Entrepreneurial Spark.

Designer and CEO of Armadilla, a luxury accommodation pod provider, Ross said: “Kristen really saw it as an opportunity to make it more than a lifestyle business.”

They were “bowled over” by the response from buyers at their first trade fair in 2016 and quickly secured stockists at home and abroad.

After professional pitch coaching and endless run-throughs in the car, the couple can finally reveal the results on Sunday.

Ross said: “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Every time we had a moment to ourselves we ran through it.”

It’s been “very difficult” to stay tight-lipped but the couple are hosting a screening at their workshop for their friends and family.

Ross said: “When the lift doors open that’s when it hits you. You see them and you’ve never met them before and there’s no take two.

“The adrenaline kicked in and we were well prepared. We went into auto pilot and after that we relaxed a bit more.

“It was certainly an experience, I wouldn’t want to do it again.”