Welcome to the busy world of successful British business owner Catherine Tough
Catherine Tough Textiles has taken the traditional craft of knitting and turned it on its head to create a truly individual British business. Established 13 years ago by namesake Catherine Tough, the business manufactures a unique range of homewares and gifts, including doorstops, cushions and hotwater bottle covers, as well as charming lavender-filled animals. All products are machine-knitted by Catherine and a team of up to 9 knitters in her North London studio, and sold through her own website as well as to retail outlets such as my website Juno & Tess.
I was delighted to chat to Catherine recently to find out what an average day looks like when you’re running a successful small British design business.
What is your morning routine?
I’ve got two children so my working day usually starts at about 6am when I try to sneak out of bed and do some admin before the rest of the house wakes up. As anyone with young children will know, this doesn’t always go to plan and I’ll often be joined by my youngest who seems to know exactly when I’m up, no matter how quiet I am! If I’m lucky I can work for about an hour or so then it’s a whirl of activity before we’re all ready and out of the door.
What time do you get to the studio?
I normally get to the studio at about 10am and go through my emails looking out for any new wholesale orders, checking who’s paid, who needs to be invoiced and responding to any general queries. Then Chloe, my studio manager, and I will get on with knitting the products so orders can be processed as well as making up any one-off samples that customers have asked for.
Is lunch a grand affair?
I share the childcare with my husband so lunch is usually a quick sandwich before I head home at around 1pm to relieve him of the kids. Then it’s time to focus on them, helping the eldest with homework, preparing tea, and getting them both into bed before I settle down and do the night shift!
Ah yes – the nightshift. What does that consist of?
It’s generally the time when I focus on PR and social media. For example, I’ll update my Facebook page with our latest news and images, and respond to comments from customers. I’m in bed by 10pm most nights.
And the weekends – can you grab any downtime?
No rest for the wicked as they say! I’ve had a Saturday stall at Broadway Market in Hackney for the last seven or eight years now and I’m there come rain, hail or shine. I love chatting to our customers and the stall is a great way to test their reaction to our new product ranges.
Any challenges with ‘making it British’?
Small businesses are always looking at the bottom line and at one time, we did outsource some of our knitting to a factory in Turkey, but the quality just wasn’t there. The time we spent repairing what they sent back to us far outweighed any cost saving. I pride myself on providing our customers with a top quality product. Keeping our production in the UK means we are able to do that.