Everyone’s favourite potter EMMA BRIDGEWATER
‘Make sure that people want, really want, what you have to sell’
What sparked the idea?
I was struggling to find a cup and saucer for my mother’s birthday. Everything was too formal or too clunky or just didn’t seem right. I realised I’d found a gap in the market – pottery for a relaxed, colourful mismatched lifestyle. I knew I wanted to start a business and this was my eureka moment. To this day, our design process centres around creating products that we would like to see in our own homes.
How did you get started?
I sold some very early pieces in the Jubilee Market in Covent Garden, London. They went quickly, which made me realise I was on to something.
What’s been the toughest challenge?
I was resolved to stay in Staffordshire and keep old techniques alive. Labour costs can be higher, but there are many practical advantages to making close to your market.
What are your golden rules?
Make sure that people want, really want, what you have to sell. Then surround yourself with experts. Starting or running your own business is not for the faint-hearted.
And the secret of your success?
Listening carefully to customers. I think you can tell quickly if your product is resonating. Our business is about our customers. It’s about their kitchens and their lives. Sometimes a design we thought would be a resounding success doesn’t deliver the results we expected, and we learn to move forward to the next thing. I have been very lucky to work in a place that knows its business – setting up in Stoke-on-trent at the heart of the pottery industry proved the perfect learning environment for me.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t listen to advice too much! If I’d listened to any sensible people, I would have abandoned my plans early on. Everyone said, ‘Don’t go into manufacturing, don’t stay in Stoke-on-trent – everyone is going abroad.’ Had we not decided to manufacture here in the UK, it would have been a real tragedy.