Alice and Ed from British Accessories brand ‘Alice Made This’ share their tips and tricks for starting a business with your partner.
1. Hello Alice and Ed! Can you tell us a little bit about your brand Alice Made This and how it began?
Hi! Alice Made This started when we were struggling to find cufflinks for our wedding. We couldn’t find anything refined or contemporary that suited our tastes so we decided to do something fresh with men’s accessories. Each of our collections, which now includes Women’s, is made in Britain using a different industrial process. We started by working with an Aerospace factory that usually make aeroplane parts and now we work with 8 factories in total, including an expert ropeworker, silversmith and nanotechnology factory. All our pieces are precisely designed for a clean, graphic finish and use honest raw materials.
2. How did you both meet?
We met at a friend’s 21st birthday. We spent the summer hanging out whilst we were both at University and then went our separate ways back to our respective Universities. Three years later we met again working together for McLaren’s F1 event company at Monaco grand prix. We had both got the job for some extra cash through the same friend that had initially introduced us! Thanks Jamie!
3. Before you created Alice Made This, what were you both pursuing?
Alice - I was working in design, but in furniture and product design. I worked for Tom Dixon for four years before moving to work in industrial design for a wonderful agency called Forpeople. Both these companies taught me some great skills, in terms of designing and developing products and managing people. After this I moved into consulting so I had the ability to flex between product design, design strategy and product development. I was fortunate to have some wonderful clients including Red Bull, Ilse Crawford, Debeers and worked closely with Terence Conran for a few years. I feel very lucky.
Ed - I spent a decade working in the City. I enjoyed the pace of it but have always had a natural interest in men’s fashion. When Alice was looking for a business partner, it made total sense for me to transition across to Alice Made This. It was nerve-wracking to put all our eggs in one basket but we figured that if it failed we could always return to our previous industries or move forward with a broadened skillset.
4. We are really impressed by your relationship, what would you say are the best and worst things about working with your partner?
Ha Ha… Where to start ;)!! Best things are travelling together and the fact that we share the same values and have common goals. Trust is key in business and this goes without saying.
I (Alice) really enjoy that we totally understand what each other does. I think if Ed was still working in the City and I was running AMT, he wouldn’t understand why I was always so busy and why everything took so much time! It is a lot of fun to share this journey, both the highs and the lows, with someone you love. It is very special and I think fairly unique.
The most challenging things are the work/ life balance. We are both grafters (like most business owners) and we can find it hard to put things down. Having the children forces this which is a great thing, but we still have to check ourselves and put the phone away on the weekend so we optimise the precious time we have with them.
Being 100% professional with each other can also be challenging at times. It is much easier to argue with someone you know very well. We also know how to wind each other up. But this can work in our favour too as this depth of understanding has created a very honest and authentic foundation to Alice Made This which we value a great deal.
5. Starting a business together must be the ultimate test for a relationship. Can you reveal how you make it work?
The first year we worked together was a tough one. We were growing the business whilst learning on the job. Ed moved from a very different industry to one where there was a never ending to do list and his wife breathing down his neck. He started to take over what had been under my control for a year previously.
The best thing to happen was having Juno our second child. It forced me (Alice) to handover areas of the business whilst she was tiny as there weren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. I took ownership of the creative side and Ed the business side and it worked well! On paper, of course it would, but I just needed to lose the control freak in me! The nature of our skill sets allows us to work well together. We split responsibilities across the business working with various team members and partners. Ed looks after business, sales, logistics and digital and I lead the creative and design, the brand strategy and the development and production. There is enough cross over to have a granular understanding of the business, but a lot of individual ownership to allow us to crack on and be efficient with what we do.
6. How do you delegate tasks to each other and what role in the business do you each have?
We have a Monday morning meeting every week with the studio team and then a one on one management meeting with just Ed and I every Thursday (in principle). This works well, allowing us to delegate tasks and take an overall snap shot of the business weekly. It allows us all to plan, praise and voice concerns together.
7. You work closely together each day; does this make it difficult to switch off from work at home?
Yes! But at least we both understand the reasons why each of us is busy! Every January since we started we have a resolution to try and put work down a bit more and every year we push ourselves further so this tends to be brushed under the carpet! Family is our priority, and a big part of why we are doing the business, so we recognise when downtime is needed. I think it took us a while to stop feeling guilty that we hadn’t finished our to-do list. I don’t think I will ever get to the end of it!
8. Has anything surprised you, or have you learnt anything about your partner that you may never have known if you weren’t in business together?
We both have a deeper respect for each other by working together.
9. How do you both switch off after a long day?
Ed – I have got into the habit of doing some yoga in the evenings. I am also the household chef! Mainly because I like food and I find cooking relaxing. Live music and mountain biking are a less frequent, but a great way to switch off.
Alice – Bathing the little ones and reading stories with them is something I look forward to each evening. My luxury is a piping hot bath, shutting the door and switching off for 20 minutes. I find running a great way to destress but I could and should be more consistent than I am.
10. If you had to describe each other in 3 words?
Three words to describe Alice – Bright, ambitious, creative (and stubborn!).
Three words to describe Ed – Intelligent, warm-hearted, social
11. Valentine’s Day is just round the corner, tell us, what does the perfect partner mean to you?
The perfect partner is someone who brings out the best in you.
12. Lastly, we would love to know what you both think is the key to a happy and loving relationship?
Honesty and adventure!
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