Celebrating Our Friends Of Joules Sellers

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Tom at an early show

Small businesses need our support more than ever and we’re proud to have so many independent businesses to call our Friends. This December, we’re celebrating all our amazing Friends at Friends of Joules and Tom Joule himself sat down to answer some of their questions. After all, we started out small too…

What were some of your biggest landmarks, particularly in the early days of the business?

– asked by Chrissie at eatsleepdoodle

The joy of your designs being produced and coming to life is a feeling that never goes away. You feel complimented that people like and want to buy your products and this spurs you on to create even more things they’ll love.

Another thing I’ll never forget is how the 2001 Foot and Mouth epidemic changed my business when it forced country shows to close (much like shops are now). The following year, I collected the names and addresses of everybody who walked into my the marquee and that was the foundation for our online business today that Joules, and now our wonderful Friends, are able to enjoy.

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Eleanor Tomlinson

I always think that (most) mistakes can be the best way to learn and improve yourself and a business… What has been your best (happy) mistake and which (if any) do you wish you could go back and change?

– asked by Eleanor at Eleanor Tomlinson

I couldn’t agree more! We’ve had loads of little happy mistakes at Joules –products that a designer might not be happy with, that turn out to be bestsellers, for example. It’s taking a moment to think “hold on, there could be something in this” even if it’s not quite what you thought it would be. With mistakes, the worst thing you can do is bury your head in the sand. Deal with it, remember the experience and move on. Use that experience so you don’t make the same mistake again, especially since as the bigger your business grows, the more costly those mistakes become. As long as you’re learning, just keep moving forward.

What advice would you give yourself as a child?

– asked by Emily at Stib

Trust your gut! Believe in yourself, it wasn’t until my thirties that I truly trusted my instincts. If you want something go and get it, you’re the best and only person who can get you to where you want to be so just go for it!

What makes a good Friend of Joules? Why do you choose who you choose?

– asked by Nat and Dan at Fred & Noah

It’s people like the wonderful sellers and businesses we already have. People that make a wonderful product, that’s good quality, good value but which most importantly has something special and original about it. We look for things where you can tell someone’s put their heart and soul into it. We want to share the best with our customers and we’ve got pretty good at just knowing when something feels right.

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Fred & Noah

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What is your advice about growing a business – that crunch point where you have to go for it and start taking risks?

– asked by Kay at The Den Kit Co

I suppose it felt like I was taking risks from day one! My advice would be to believe in yourself, and your product and your customers will give you the faith you need to take risks. Find the norm in your industry and challenge it. Running your own business can be a lonely place but push on. Sometimes the “crunch point” will be unexpected and you’ll be forced to take risks (take the current situation) but if what you’re doing is loved, that will spur you on and give you the courage to explore new ways to market and new product ranges.

Did you also have an entrepreneurial spirit growing up? What led you into clothing, retail and fashion?

– asked by Zoe at Spotty ‘n’ Stripy

 I don’t think I was ever going to do anything else. I grew up surrounded by clothes. My dad was a sales rep for a sportswear company and he used to send me off to school with kit bags to sell to my friends for a fiver! I loved clothing and founded Joules when I was 21 so I think that entrepreneurial spirit has always been there.

That’s what I love about Friends of Joules too – we get to work with these incredible small businesses and you can see that they love what they do. I’m so proud to be able to help them by giving them a platform to share their wonderful products with our wonderful customers. 

If you had to pick one quality that is best to overcome adversity and doubt in business what would it be?

– asked by Eleanor at Eleanor Tomlinson

It would have to be tenacity. It can be tough starting your own business but it’s that determination and persistence that will see you through. There’s nothing like seeing all your hard work pay off.

Picture by Edward Moss
All rights reserved.
Aston University

The Den Kit Co

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Spotty ‘n’ Stripy

Since starting Friends of Joules and working with hundreds of other business owners, is there anything you’ve learnt that stands out to you?

– asked by Nat and Dan at Fred & Noah

Yes! There’s so much that we’ve learnt from working with our Friends. I think the most important thing is to maintain that personal connection with your customer, no matter how big you are. So many of our Friends have an incredibly supportive customer base built on hard work and genuine relationships. It’s really inspirational and wonderful to see.

When did you do you first business plan?

– asked by Kay at The Den Kit Co.

I started the business in 1989 and did my first business plan in 1990. I had to do it to demonstrate to a bank that I could buy a business – I bought a brand called Simon Charles which then helped me to set up shop on the 12 best sites at the 12 best country shows. It really transformed Joules into a major player on the shows circuit, and it just kept growing from there.

Joules started as a stand at country fairs, how did you know when it was time to scale up, to sell online and open your own stores?

– asked by Zoe at Spotty ‘n’ Stripy

As with a lot of small businesses, it was actually an unexpected situation that meant I had to change how the business worked. The foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001 meant that all of the country shows at which I made my living were cancelled, and I had to think on my feet to find new ways to get the products I was selling to the customer. Who knew that in 2020, something like that was going to happen again? Not just the cancelling of shows, but the closing of retail. It’s at times like this that thinking differently can really help to catapult your business forwards, even if it’s unexpected.  

Thank you so much to Tom for answering our questions but most importantly to all the wonderful independent business that we’re proud to call our Friends.

Make sure to follow the link below to discover all their wonderful creations and for pretty gifts galore!

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