Meet the Team: Behind the scenes with John
For this week’s blog post I’m turning the spotlight on my husband John, co-founder of Kettlewell and in many ways the backbone of the company. While I’m sure everyone knows who I am (try as you might, you can’t keep an irrepressible Spring personality down), John prefers to take a more low-key approach – he’s the hands-on, cool and collected Summer, who quietly gets on with those arguably less-glamorous but just as important aspects of the business, freeing me up to concentrate on doing what I love best: creating colourful clothes. Without John and his logistical know-how, there’d be no parcels of joy going out into the world. Here’s a little insight into what he does on a daily basis to keep the rainbows coming…
What part of the job do you enjoy most?
I really enjoy the physical aspect of my work: checking the stock, arranging the warehouse – I don’t even mind getting the Hoover out! I also enjoy the shoots and factory visits, spending a day in Istanbul or a night in Porto, drawing inspiration from the people, products, colours. Those are the moments when you get your best ideas. We’re really missing that at the moment.
Talking of the warehouse, there’s been an exciting new addition to Kettlewell HQ in recent months…
Yes, we have new compressing machines that crush all our cardboard, paper and plastic bags on site and turn them into compacted bales which are then collected monthly for recycling. It’s all part of our wider green initiative to reduce our carbon footprint.
We try to take our environmental responsibility very seriously at Kettlewell and are always looking at ways to reduce our environmental impact, whether it’s using only sustainable fabrics for our clothes; fully recyclable bags made of LDPE 4 plastic (low-density polyethylene) to send out customer orders; or catalogues that are suitable for kerbside paper recycling. Of course, we’re not 100% perfect but we are constantly looking at ways to improve. We’ve yet to find a better alternative to the transparent inner sleeves that our clothes are sent out in as our warehouse staff need to be able to see the difference in the hundreds of colours we stock. We also have requests for our mailing bags to be made of brown paper rather than plastic, but there are always pros and cons of different materials. When we find a solution that is both practical and robust enough to survive all weather conditions and journeys, we will be sure to make that change.
How does it work having your wife as your business partner?
Melissa is very much the initiator and I’m the facilitator. She says she throws the ideas up in the air and I catch them!
Of course, we have the occasional disagreement, and I wouldn’t recommend it for most people, but it works for us, and part of that success is having different, non-competing skill sets. It wouldn’t work as well if our areas of expertise overlapped.
How are you dealing with the combined challenges of Brexit and the Covid pandemic?
Brexit has highlighted a number of challenges when it comes to stock and delivery times, which we are working through and doing our best to alleviate. We hope it will mean that we won’t adversely affect our factories and customers in the EU. We are still waiting for definitive guidance but in the meantime we are treating Europe as the rest of the world, which means that EU customers are currently paying no UK VAT but, we believe, local custom charges and taxes instead. We are hoping that a duty paid delivery option will be available soon.
As we’re now on our third national lockdown we are better equipped to deal with the challenges, but I do miss the collaboration you get when everyone’s in the office rather than working remotely from home and we can easily fire off questions about products, words and pictures. One thing that has struck me, though, is the amazing job the Royal Mail has been doing throughout the pandemic. They are a national treasure, and that doesn’t get highlighted nearly enough.
Your older brother Ben has been the photographer on all your catalogue shoots since Kettlewell launched. You’ve obviously got the working-with-siblings thing down to a pat…
I love working with Ben because it allows us to have three weeks together each year on photo shoots that we wouldn’t usually have. Our imagery is down to Ben’s influence and for that we are incredibly grateful. He’s also wonderful with the models and a very good friend to us.
When you’re not busy running Kettlewell, how do you like to relax?
I’m not very good at doing nothing. I’m on the go all the time and I’m at my happiest when I’m chopping wood, mowing the grass and generally being out in the open air. We are very fortunate to have 12 acres with a pond and a wood of 1,200 trees that I planted with a view to one day becoming energy sufficient. We are also lucky to live close to the coast and I love getting down there at the weekends when we can.
Where would you like the business to be in five years’ time?
I’d like to see expansion in Germany and the US, but most of all I’d like to be still selling our colourful clothes to all our wonderful colourful customers.
Connie’s clean-up for Costa Rica
Our popular Connie Sweater was named after gap-year student Connie Doxat on our warehouse team. She is currently conducting a series of local litter clean-ups to help for the UK-based charity Raleigh International in Costa Rica. As well as being a genius idea and great for the community, it is also helping to reduce the environmental impact of plastic pollution from roadside rubbish. Well done, Connie – we’re proud of what you’re doing!
You can follow Connie’s clean-up progress on her blog at https://cleanupforcostrica.wordpress.com/