Is it true you couldn’t find a birthday present for your mum so you made it yourself, and from that, you set up your own business which is now a hugely successful pottery business?
Yes that’s true. I wanted to buy
my mum a cup and saucer but, unable
to buy anything she liked, I decided to
create my own... but that was only after a
lot of hard work!
I was born in Cambridge and had
two siblings. My parents divorced when I was eight, my mother Charlotte remarried and had two more children. My father Adrian did the same, which meant eventually there were eight of us.
After the divorce we moved with
mum to North Oxfordshire. She was always surrounded by feisty women – scientists, academics, actresses – and it was a great time when feminism was taking root.
At the same time my dad was an
entrepreneur in publishing. Through him I grew up knowing what it is like to set up your own business - the love-hate aspect of it, the creativity, the ups and the downs.
I had been to a strict convent school,
then a village school. But when we moved I went to Oxford High School and stayed there until I was 18. Academically I was always a bit under the radar – I wasn’t rubbish but I never had any spectacular
success. I just loved sport and ran and swam enthusiastically. At 16 I was just as enthusiastic about smoking behind the bike sheds, so that ended any sporting ambitions I might have had. I got A-levels in English, History and Humanities.
I then went out to work. My dad,
quite rightly, stopped giving financial support. My then boyfriend introduced me to some women who were setting up their own knitwear business. I was a real dogsbody - making lunch, walking
the dogs, running errands. The women who ran it were real role models, showing me, like my dad had done before, that you could start up a business from scratch as long as you had a passion for it.
For a while I wanted to be a Literary
Agent and applied to the big agency Curtis Brown. A great lady there, Felicity Bryan, told me to go off and write a novel. That was the only way I could learn how to
handle other people’s work. And, she said, if the novel was successful, I wouldn’t want to be an agent. It was great advice. To know any business you have to be hands on, you have to pull your finger out and do it yourself. The literary career didn’t happen, but it was advice I carried through.
Hover to reveal!
In 1985, thanks to my failure to find the right birthday present for my mum, I set up my own pottery business. I used my own designs.
I was lucky in that my husband
Matthew Rice, a wildlife enthusiast, came up with his own bird designs. Together we set up our factory in Stoke-on-Trent,
the home of English potteries. It had the history, but at that time it was facing serious decline. We moved in when others were moving out and we are proud
to have helped bring back the potteries.
We are now amongst the biggest
in the area. We now also have three shops in London and another in Edinburgh.
MY ADVICE TO YOU IS...
Don’t send out hundreds
of CVs to potential employers ‘spraying and praying’ I call it. The chances are you won’t get a reply. Instead find a company or a trade you really want to work for and target them. If you know your stuff and show people that you are
passionate about it, the chances are you will get a job. Those are the applicants we take on.
Even in an economic
downturn there are still things
that people want to buy, services which people need. Don’t just sit around waiting for a dream job, you have to get out there and make your opportunities
I was not the most academic
person, but I was the most determined. Just go for it.