WHEN fashion graduate Eleanor Paulin was considering who to go into business with, only two people really sprung to mind: her big sisters.

Three years later the family venture, Paulin Watches, has a growing fanbase at home and abroad, and their stylish products are about to go on sale at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

It’s clearly an exciting time for the Glasgow-based business, with sales growing as far afield as Japan and an expansion into clocks and lamps already under way.

But what inspired siblings Eleanor, Elizabeth and Charlotte, who originally come from the Black Isle, north of Inverness, to invest their creative energy in watches?

“All three of us have always been artistic,” explains 25-year-old Eleanor. “I studied fashion, while Charlotte graduated as a painter and I suppose we viewed watch design as meeting in the middle.

“Charlotte and her partner Lewis had visited the Basel watch show in Switzerland – the biggest and most prestigious exhibition of its kind – and they saw a gap in the market for simple, design-led affordable watches.

“People can use a multitude of digital gadgets to tell the time these days, but many still prefer a watch, especially since they are an accessory has well as having practical use. Men don’t have many options when it comes to jewellery and accessories, and I think that’s why so many enjoy choosing and wearing watch.

“It took a lot of time and effort to turn our ideas into reality, but the success of the business shows it was a good call.”

Indeed, it took the sisters two years to bring their ideas to market, as the design, manufacture, packaging and promotion strategy took shape, and prototype designs were tried and tested.

The firm, which employs five people, now sells both online and from a shop in Glasgow’s West End.

“Setting up and running a business is a big journey and it’s been a massive learning curve for all of us,” adds Ms Paulin, who studied at Edinburgh College of Art. “It’s been important for us to be both a digital retailer and have a shop. It can be tough to carve out a presence online because there is so much competition.

“The shop has been great for building brand awareness and getting feedback from customers. Last summer we launched our smaller women’s watches range after speaking to female customers and it has sold really well.

“Often people like to look online then come into the shop and see the watches up close, try them for size, get a feel for the quality. It helps give them the confidence to buy.”

The Paulin sisters share the design and management duties, with Eleanor taking responsibility for running the shop on a day-to-day business. And she has embraced the many new skills she has learned along the way, and enjoys the responsibility that comes with being an entrepreneur.

“I had a design background but no management experience when I started and it has definitely been a case of trial and error,” she smiles. “I’ve learned so much about how to bring a product to the market, getting the timing right, launching at the right moment. With a six-month development period for every design, you don’t want to miss crucial deadlines like Christmas.

“But working with my sisters makes it easier. It’s good to know you always have someone around you can rely on .”

The young entrepreneur also enjoys the creative freedom that comes with being her own boss.

“You can decide to diversify when it suits you and take decisions on behalf of the brand,” she adds. “I’ve been working on new product lines recently and it has helped keep things really exciting. Growing as a brand, seeing your identity go from strength to strength, gives you confidence and drives you on.”

And she believes artists and designers from every sphere can monetise their creativity with the right planning and support.

“Get as much advice as you can from people who have done something similar,” Ms Paulin advises. “Most importantly, however, work hard and be confident in yourself and your designs.”