Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

St Andrews Business Spotlight: Interview with James Urquhart, Managing Director of Ensemble

Recently, Her Campus sat down with James Urquhart, the Managing Director of Ensemble and President of the St Andrews Entrepreneurs Society. Ensemble is a St Andrews-based rent-the-runway style business. With a focus on affordability and sustainability, Ensemble is emblematic of the forward-thinking mindset that has become the focus of many student-led initiatives in St Andrews. 

Ensemble was bought by the Entrepreneur Society a little while ago, correct?

Yes, we transferred over around last September.

I’m sure there were many challenges you faced while presiding over the business. What has been the most memorable or difficult challenge you faced, and how have you overcome it?

Obviously we’ve been in lockdown all of this year, so I guess this is quite a good year for a transition. There is not much business activity, given that all the events people would normally rent dresses for have been cancelled until probably late summer. That has given us quite a lot of time to get things organized. I’d say the biggest challenge with the transition was the system with which we record the dresses. The previous owner was very familiar with how all the dresses looked, so then we had to learn and become familiar with that system. But it wasn’t anything particularly tricky, it was actually a fairly easy transition especially due to the circumstances.

How has the COVID pandemic affected Ensemble?

It has impacted Ensemble massively. It’s essentially taken away all business until restrictions ease. The idea is that we rent dresses for events. If there are no events, no one rents dresses and there has been practically nothing happening. We can’t even host any events of our own due to the pandemic. So it has put everything on halt until the pandemic is over. But like I said earlier, it has given us much more time to organize under the new management.

What has been the most rewarding or fulfilling aspect of running Ensemble?

I would say the sustainability aspect of it is really interesting. Obviously, a large part of it is reusing dresses that might have otherwise only been worn once, and it hugely widens the choice people might have for going out to events in terms of what dresses they want to wear. I find the sustainability aspect of it is the most rewarding part. 

How do you envision the future of Ensemble? Where do you think the business will stand in 5-10 years-time? 

Since the Entrepreneur Society took it over, a part of the idea is to keep the business student-run, so once I leave, a different student will take over. So, the idea is the business will last forever and always be student-run. Part of the reason the Entrepreneur Society took it on is that it’s a great way for people to gain experience managing or running a business. Obviously, there is very little risk for them because the business is run by the society. What I would like to see in 5–10 years-time is perhaps it being expanded across more universities to give more people opportunities to learn about how to manage a business and also to expand our services and increase sustainability across Scotland.

What stood out to you about Ensemble that made you want to be a part of it?

It’s great to give people experience in managing and running a business, and it has already done quite well in St Andrews. Hopefully that means that it’s something that will stick around, that people can join and learn more about. We thought we could add to the business and help expand it and maximize its potential; it ties really well into sustainability too, so I feel like it hit a lot of key points for us.

A huge thank you to James for taking part in this interview. Her Campus wishes him and Ensemble the best of luck in the coming months where, hopefully, nights out and balls will become realities once again. 

Facebook: Ensemble

Contact: Ensemble email 

Eva Ferguson

St Andrews '22

I am a junior studying Social Anthropology and Art History at the University of St Andrews. Some of my passions include writing, classical music and traveling the world. When I'm not busy you can usually find me baking, walking in nature or finding yet another DIY project to tackle!
Similar Reads👯‍♀️