A couple have lost hundreds of pounds after ordering products from a Lancashire business recommended by influencer Ms Hinch – only for the business to disappear.
Hazel and Gordon Thompson spent £260 on bespoke baby gates from The Rustic Mill Company but now fear they have been left out and embarrassed as all trace of the company has disappeared online. The company’s social media pages no longer exist and an email address used in previous correspondence is no longer active.
Hazel told LancsLive the matter was reported to Trading Standards, with the couple hoping to get the money back through their credit card provider. However, she is worried that others may not be able to do the same based on how much they paid and wants to warn others not to fall victim to this as well.
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Based in Thornton-Cleveleys, the Rustic Mill Company is run by husband and wife team Martin and Catherine Ollerenshaw. The small business received a dramatic boost in attention when Instagram influencer Ms Hinch posted about a product she bought from them on Instagram. With four million followers on its page, the post sparked renewed interest and orders and led to the couple talking about moving into a 2,000 square foot studio.
Speaking last year, the couple explained how their fortunes changed overnight. They explained, “We started the business in a small shed in our backyard in January 2020, back when we were advertising and selling our products through Etsy, making a few small sales.
“During the first lockdown, we expanded our business slightly to a larger cabin also located in our back garden, still advertising through Etsy and only having a small follower count of around 100 on Instagram. Then the unthinkable happened in September 2020 when Mrs. Hinch purchased one of our bespoke stair gates for her beautiful home.
“She then posted her new door on social media and tagged our business in the post. After that our phones were incessant with thousands of messages, people also asking to get a door like Mrs Hinch’s. We weren’t expecting this, and while we did our best to respond to everyone, we just couldn’t keep up with the volume of messages.
Martin explained that he and his wife Catherine have done their best to respond to messages while taking pre-orders for their bespoke doors. Their social networks grew from a few hundred to 17,000 and they expressed their gratitude to Ms Hinch for her act of kindness.
They continued: ‘We couldn’t believe the experience and to this day we are forever grateful to Ms Hinch for the exposure she gave us. Within 48 hours, that number had grown again to 25,000 subscribers and messages were still circulating and other public figures were contacting us to inquire about our products.
“We were shocked to find that shortly afterwards Mrs Hinch bought us another door for the ground floor of her house. Again, once this was put on her Instagram page, our followers grew with the posts and inquiries. This time we were a little better prepared, although nothing could prepare us for the volume of messages we were getting again, thanks to exposure.
Hazel, who works in procurement for a bank and lives in Scotland with civil engineer Gordon and their nearly one-year-old son, was among those who placed an order. On March 3 this year, the couple paid £260 for two of the doors – and in emails seen by LancsLive, the company responded to check measurements and discuss fittings.
However, when the scheduled delivery arrived in May, they had heard nothing else and decided to check on the progress. Gordon said he emailed the same address from previous correspondence, but this time it was no longer active and the message could not be delivered. When they tried to find their Facebook and Instagram pages, they said everything was now gone.
Hazel said: “It’s incredibly frustrating. Gordon spent almost an entire day online, searching, trying to find out where they went and what happened. We spent quite a bit of time trying to talk to them.
“Money is scarce for everyone. I don’t want anyone else to go through the same thing. »
LancsLive attempted to contact the Ollerenshaws but received no response.
The Rustic Mill Company remains an active company on Companies House, with Martin and Catherine Ollerenshaw listed as directors of the company. The company was established in September 2020 with no company updates since inception other than confirmation that they are both still directors of the company.
On Etsy, The Rustic Mill Company is listed as no longer selling on the platform.
The Rustic Mill Company Instagram account – instagram.com/therusticmillcompany – no longer exists.
When LancsLive emailed The Rustic Mill Company, we received the following auto-reply: “Your message was not sent to [email protected] because the address could not be found or cannot receive email. E-mail.”
The company’s Facebook page – facebook.com/Lancashire.co.uk – is also a dead link.