During a deflationary cycle, success for a small business is often just surviving. However home accessories and clothing retailer Inside has boomed, quadrupling its outlets since launching a debut store in Ap Lei Chau six years ago. 'We are very strict on the quality of our products,' says co-owner and director Catherine Eve. 'And this also helps us monitor workmanship and to be able to make quick decisions about changes of, say, colour or material.' To cut down on the time and expense of constant trips to India, where 80 per cent of Inside-branded homeware products are made, the husband-and-wife owners have decided to base their family in New Delhi. Ms Eve's keen eye for design has been honed by years of experience in textile retailing in both her native Britain and Hong Kong. After acquiring a head for business - her major at university - she began a career with textile designer Zika Ascher, then worked in the press office of Liberty in London, a department store famous for its quality fabrics. After arriving in Hong Kong in 1990, she was soon working at now-defunct soft furnishings retailer Design Selection. Ms Eve's husband Glenn Trotman, with a background in finance, manages back-of-house operations. It was at Design Selection that Ms Eve decided to set up her own label. 'I learned a lot about furnishings there and specifically about hand-embellished fabrics, which was to become the inspiration for Inside,' she recalls of a pivotal point in her career. 'I also learned quite a lot on how to run a business and how not to run one.' Ms Eve, the creative force behind Inside, found 'the look' she was after in traditionally hand-stitched, appliqued and embroidered Indian textiles. She set about implementing her own designs and colour schemes using the highest quality of cottage industry production she had encountered while at Design Selection. 'There was very little of this kind of textile in Hong Kong at that time [mid 1990s],' she says. 'The interiors market is very different now, with fabrics appearing more widely at a higher level, thanks to companies like G.O.D. and Muji.' Inside was launched as a company in 1997, with concessions in local department stores. 'The response was immediately positive,' says Ms Eve, though she admits that this was part of a learning curve. 'We were in BHS [British Home Stores, now defunct in Hong Kong] and I refused to drop our prices when the rest of the store was having a sale - we did really well there, our sales were unaffected. But Wing On was a store where our products did not move - the wrong market.' Location was a key issue when deciding to take the plunge and sign retail space. Ap Lei Chau's Horizon Plaza is a furniture and homeware shopping destination where space was relatively cheap. Inside's office space was also located here. In 1998 Inside opened an outlet in Central. 'We went for the Prince's Building because it suited the profile of our customer, who may be young but usually professional with a taste for quality,' she says. The store picked up a regular flow of clients who provided valuable feedback on product selection. 'Bed linen, one of our most popular areas, and one of the most challenging, as there are so many sizes of beds used here, led us naturally to night dresses and dressing gowns. 'Some customers then urged us to make more clothing, which we did. We just got these women's jackets in two weeks ago and they have nearly all gone,' says Ms Eve, gesturing to a clothes rack. The Prince's Building store underwent an expansion in 2000. Stores in Repulse Bay and Discovery Bay made up the retail quartet, opened in 2000 and last year respectively. Is this small empire, which more recently has grown to include children's clothing, jewellery, leather furniture and aromatherapy and Ayuvedic health and beauty products, not too much work to monitor from afar? 'It couldn't be easier,' says Ms Eve, who has just installed a very hi-tech and efficient point-of-sales system, controlled from India but able to network anywhere in the globe. Inside is now working on a plan to franchise retail outlets globally.