Tell us a little about yourself, background and what you do currently.
I’m originally from a small town in South Wales and am 30 years old. I moved to London after getting a degree in computer science from Bristol University and begun working as a IT consultant for a medium sized consultancy catering for the asset finance industry. After a few years working in the city I had saved enough to take the leap and start up my own business. I left that job, with a few ideas but no solid business plan and spent about 3 months investigating ideas and writing a business plan. I launched Grannies, Inc. in October 2009, a truly unique knitwear company specialising in bespoke knitwear handmade by grannies in the UK.
How did you end up starting up Grannies, Inc.? From where did you get the business idea for the company?
Coming from an entrepreneurial family, I’ve always known that I would start my own company at some point and after 2 years working as an IT consultant I decided to take the leap. I learned to knit during a university year abroad in California 6 years ago, where it had become a craze amongst celebs. The girls in the apartment opposite mine would always be knitting and were happy to teach me. I soon picked it up and have been knitting ever since. I am also a very keen skier and passionate about fashion on the slopes so I always used to knit my own beanies (and for friends). This is where the original idea came from, we launched with just beanies as our product but expanded to other knitwear accessories last winter season, allowing customers to create one-of-a-kind knitwear designs that really makes them stand out from the crowd.
The idea to employ grannies to knit the products came from when I was looking for knitters for the company. I was thinking about who I would approach and the idea of working with the older generation came up. I wanted to develop the company into an ethically British brand, promoting British wool and manufacture in the UK so having a team of grannies hand making our products was a great fit. It offers grannies the opportunity to earn extra income from doing exactly what they love and customers the knowledge that their product will be lovingly hand-made for them by an expert knitter.
What is your advice to women who want to succeed in professional life?
I would advise women to spend time working out exactly what they want from their professional life, write down some solid goals and review them every year. It might take a lot of soul-searching but if you have something to work towards then it will make decisions along your career path easier to make (will the outcome of this decision help to achieve my goal or not?). I have my goals in business written down and pinned to my wall in front of my desk.
It is a constant reminder of what I set out to achieve.
What has been the biggest challenge in your life?
Without a doubt setting up this business. It is a constant challenge but it is a labour of love.
I feel it was a brave move to jump ship from a very comfortable job and stable income to start Grannies, Inc. but I’m thankful every day that I did because I’m a happier person now.
What’s been your greatest achievement personally?
I have always had a huge fear of public speaking and earlier this year I was invited to speak at a conference in Berlin on the subject of post digital fashion. I will do anything for my business and after a month of deliberating I finally decided that I had to say yes. The months running up to the conference were awful, feeling sick every time I thought about it but somehow I put together the presentation and delivered it successfully (according to the feedback I received), albeit with knocking knees!
I would say facing this challenge is one of my greatest personal achievements.
Grannies, Inc. has a unique business idea based on creative design of knitwear. How do you find combining creativity into business?
I love that my business has a creative streak. I didn’t have any previous experience in knitwear designer but I am a creative person and have designed all the knitwear ‘templates’ on the site. Having a hand in the design side of things helps me keep a very diverse business schedule combining tasks I love to do with some I’d rather avoid. On top of allowing myself to be creative on a daily basis the whole ethos of the company is that anyone can be creative, given the right tools to do so. This is what we are trying to do at Grannies, Inc. – provide people with the tools and inspiration to be individuals.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be travelling around the world, ski instructing in the winter and exploring all summer.
Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life?
Probably my dad, who came across to the UK from Canada in his early twenties and started his ethical office cleaning company from scratch in London. He was a very entrepreneurial man, always full of ideas and never afraid of what people thought of him.
What does the future hold for you?
I’m full steam ahead with the expansion of Grannies, Inc. at the moment and have a clear idea of where I want to take the company. I have a my first book coming out in October, “Grannies Inc Guide to Knitting”, which I’m very excited about and I would one day like to start-up a series of knitting schools around the country to support the UKs hand-knitting industry to keep the age-old craft alive and kicking.