Keeping it in the Family | Lulu B & Addison Ross
2020 has lead many of us in different directions to where we previously expected and for Lulu B and Addison Ross the result has had very happy consequences. For both of us our eldest children were at the launch of their working careers as lockdown began coinciding with our unexpected boom in online sales, the choice was clear, both brands needed more help and both offspring were keen to join us in our family businesses. We thought it would be fun and interesting to hear the pros and hopefully not too many cons of how working with family is going!
EMILY & HARRY
WHAT WERE YOUR PLANS BEFORE COVID HAPPENED TO US ALL?
HARRY: I graduated from Edinburgh Uni in May of 2020, my original plan was to work in industry for 3-5 years with a view to joining the family business at some point in the future, however as you know the world suddenly turned up side down and at the same time Addison Ross suddenly grew by 300% over night which was very exciting so I just had to start immediately!
EMILY: I had just launched a catering business; Naturally Ginger, and was busy learning on the job how to run my own business! A challenge I was loving but on reflection, it was the branding, marketing, and strategy side of this entrepreneurial venture that I enjoyed the most, and I feel I am able to creatively explore these fields with Lulu B now and I love it.
YOU HAVE BOTH GROWN UP AWARE OF YOUR PARENTS BUSINESSES BUT WHAT HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT THE BUSINESSES THAT YOU DIDN'T REALISE BEFORE? HAS ANYTHING SURPRISED YOU?
HARRY: I have been very fortunate to have been exposed to Addison Ross from a very young age. I have been doing trade fairs since I was about thirteen so I had a lot of surprises back then! In terms of coming into the business full time, what has surprised me the most is how natural it feels. Many of my peers are horrified at the thought of working with their parents but we are a very strong team. Other than that, I have just started to realise more and more what an amazing opportunity I have to help grow an already established business, taking advantage of the constantly changing digital opportunities.
EMILY: When I was growing up I saw Lulu B as a shop; and thought Mum's role was predominantly selling on the stand. Now, I can see selling is only a part of her role and by no means the extent to what she does. Mum juggles the selling with the buying, marketing, branding, accounting, strategizing, pr...the list goes on! It is hard to believe she has built and grown this business mostly on her own over the last 20 years, especially now seeing that we still both have a full-time job role and workload with double the woman power!
WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED THE MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH YOUR PARENTS/MOTHER AND WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST CHALLENGE?
HARRY: I think that what I have enjoyed the most is the mentorship and access to every aspect of the business. If I were doing a graduate scheme I would have nowhere near the exposure and responsibility I've been given by my parents. The greatest challenge of working with parents is learning to communicate in the right way, separating the parental relationship from the professional one is impossible but at the end of the day I think they mutually benefit each other.
EMILY: It feels very natural working alongside Mum; throughout my teens I would join her on the fair circuit, produce marketing materials and I even built her first website in 2013. It is lovely getting to work together every day, especially now I don't live at home...I feel very lucky we have such a great relationship! I would say our biggest challenge would definitely be knowing when to stop talking shop...especially when it's just the 2 of us!
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT ABOUT BUSINESS FROM YOUR PARENTS AND WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE TAUGHT THEM?
HARRY: I have learnt a huge amount about operations and accounting. These are very important skills for any industry. In terms of what I have taught, I would say is much broader. I can comfortably claim that I exposed them to the ways of modern digital marketing and social media whilst I was still at uni, now I am more focused on helping to constantly improve the back office systems, and finding new target markets.
EMILY: Mum has built Lulu B by making authentic relationships and I really admire this. I can see the respect that all of our suppliers, fair organisers, fellow small businesses etc. have for her and know these strong relationships have grown due to how mum interacts and communicates with all of these parties and can see this has really great repercussions for Lulu B and how we are perceived as a brand. I think through building our new online platform, I have shown Mum the opportunity to grow the business and brand on a larger scale and further our customer reach from the fair & pop-up circuit.
WHAT HAS WORKING FOR THE FAMILY BUSINESS TAUGHT YOU ABOUT ENTREPENEURSHIP?
HARRY: I can honestly say I know in excruciating detail exactly what it takes to create and run a business, it is no mean feat. Everyone can have a great idea but execution and logistics are 99% of it.
EMILY: I have definitely learnt that entrepreneurship does not exist 9 till 5 and that everyday there is a different role to take on. It is also evident that there is a direct correlation between what you put in to what you get out.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR YOUR FAMILY BUSINESS?
HARRY: I am very ambitious and I would hope Addison Ross is a household name in the UK within this decade.
EMILY: I am very excited about the future of Lulu B and looking back on what we have done this past year; I believe we have the potential to grow Lulu B into a global brand. We are looking to work directly with manufacturers and bring out our Lulu B Label collection which is very exciting and a big step for Lulu B! Another of our main focuses here is to move towards being as sustainable as possible; across all our suppliers, packaging and also how we operate in our offices too.
LULU, DAVID & SARAH
DID YOU EVER EXPECT TO BE WORKING WITH YOUR CHILDREN?
DAVID & SARAH: It was always a possibility but we never made it a focus. David has always said to both our children that if they ever wanted to they could use our business as a platform for anything they would like to do. Obviously Covid was completely unexpected and it seemed a natural choice for Harry at the time to join us, fortunately it has all worked out incredibly well as he needed a job and we also desperately needed the help.
LULU: No....although Emily has always been the second member of Lulu B - whether working on the stand, helping me with my digital presence or giving a second opinion when deciding on branding decisions etc...she has always been involved; but honestly I never really thought Lulu B would grow into a family business! Coincedentally though, my Father, Brothers, Uncle and Cousin all work together and so I grew up in the presence of a Family Business.... It feels very normal and comfortable for me.
WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED THE MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH YOUR CHILDREN AND WHAT HAS BEEN THE GEATEST CHALLENGE?
DAVID & SARAH: I think one of the greatest benefits is trust, Harry has the same ambitions and passion for the business as David and I, he has also seen us working all hours to build the business so he's well aware of what it has taken to reach this point. The greatest challenge is turning off the parent switch from time to time.
LULU: I have really enjoying working as a team (much more fun than working alone!), and having someone to bounce ideas off - ideas that we can discuss and develop.........or dismiss! It is also very refreshing to have someone taking on the jobs which fill me with dread...social media, website design, accounts etc. I think our skillsets compliment each other very well!
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE GREATEST BENEFITS TO HAVING YOUR CHILDREN WORK WITH YOU AND WHAT ARE THE HOPEFULLY SLIGHT DISADVANTAGES?
DAVID & SARAH: The greatest benefit is that we get to see so much more of Harry than we would if he was working for somebody else which is lovely and I suppose the disadvantage is that we have a tendency to talk about business all the time which I'm sure is a complete bore for our daughter Izzy who is only just starting Uni this September so she's on a different chapter of her life at the moment.
LULU: We have a shared vested interest to grow the business and I feel this drives both our ambitions! We both have different strengths which allows us to divide the workload easily: I predominantly deal with suppliers, fair organizers, and the product, and Em mainly handles e-commerce, marketing and PR opportunities. The main difficulty is not talking shop at Sunday lunch!
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR YOUR WORKING LIFE AS WE COME OUT OF LOCKDOWN?
DAVID & SARAH: We are very much looking forward to getting out and back to seeing our lovely stockists at Trade Fairs and visiting our factories in various parts of the world. There's nothing quite like face to face when it comes to both design and selling.
LULU: I'm looking forward to seeing and interacting with our Lulu B customers again, one of my favourite parts of the job. But we will now concentrate on the larger Fairs, such as Spirit of Christmas, because, now we have the entire collection on the website, our customers can buy all Lulu B online. Once we are able to travel, and visit suppliers we want to concentrate on more product development........including our own Lulu B label. Lots of plans and exciting times ahead!
So in summary working with our families has been a hugely positive experience for both of our brands, thank you Lulu and Emily for a gorgeous day shooting at your London headquarters and for sharing your Family Business experience with us!
To view Lulu B's gorgeous jewellery visit her website www.lulub.co.uk.
1. Navy Lacquer Jewellery Box
2. Pale Pink Lacquer Jewellery Box
3. Medium Turquoise Scallop Serving Tray
4. Large White Scallop Ottoman Tray