Getting into business with your family can sometimes spell disaster, but two women reveal to Charlotte Pearson their recipe for success.
When you marry into a family, you can’t always be sure what you will find. But for sisters-in-law Sarah Smith and Kate Lancey-Smith it resulted in another perfect partnership.
“We always talked about doing something together,” Sarah explains. “I went on maternity leave and then took voluntary redundancy.
“I just said to Kate, rather than talk about it over cocktails, we should start a business.”
So in 2013 Kate and Sarah, whose partners are brother and sister, officially launched Eats, Knits & Weaves – a business that plays to both their strengths.
“I have been knitting since I was born,” laughs Kate, aka ‘Ms Knits’. “I have always done it, my grandma taught me how.
“I also taught myself to arm knit which resulted in the Chunky Monkey scarves which are very popular. They have a very chunky, fisherman feel to them.”
Meanwhile Sarah takes care of the ‘eats’ side of the business with her cakes, biscuits and fudge.
“I am known for my cakes,” she says. “People often phone me up asking for a celebration cake.
“Initially I wanted to just do biscuits, but when people ask you to make a cake it doesn’t make sense, business-wise, to say no.
“With the fudge that just sort of happened. I had some condensed milk left over and knew I had to do something with it otherwise I would keep dipping into it.
“So I created the fudge and it just worked. We do hand-printed decoration in a whole range of patterns which really makes the fudge unique.”
After posting the results on social media it went crazy and she reveals the fudge, which come in peanut butter and salted vanilla flavour, are a best seller.
The pair admit from the start they wanted Eats, Knits & Weaves to be a business and not just a hobby.
“I think my husband saw it as a way to earn some pocket money while on maternity leave,” Sarah says.
“But we recently got interest from a big London department store and since then he has taken it all a bit more seriously.
“They are going to stock our fudge for Valentine’s Day. We have been working with them to create something unique. It is very exciting.”
It is not just the different sides of the business that works so well for Kate and Sarah, their personalities work in harmony as well.
“Kate is very organised,” Sarah reveals. “She does all the accounting and taxes, which I have no idea about.
“She can also have about 15,000 ideas in half an hour and I help to tame it down and see what can work.”
“Sarah is great at researching and finding out what the next big thing will be,” Kate adds. “We weren’t sure if we would be able to work together, but it works really well.”
“We take criticism, but we also give it as well,” Sarah explains.
“Sometimes she will have an idea and I’ll go ‘that won’t sell’ and she will either say ‘yep you’re right’ or go ‘no, I know it will’.”
With 2015 fast approaching the pair are looking at strengthening their online presence.
Starting with launching their own website which is a fusion of customised biscuits, fingerless gloves, cakes and a range of their upknit items.
“It has been an enormous learning curve,” Sarah says. “We have never run a business before so built the website ourselves and the Etsy.com shop.”
Talking to them it is clear they are very passionate about what they do.
“It is about taking something traditional, like fudge or a telephone table, and giving it a twist,” Sarah smiles.
“One of the commissions was the telephone table. It was dark wood and we painted it a new colour,” Kate reveals, “gave it a bit of a pop with the yellow and then knitted a new cover.”
It does not end there as they also do knitted lampshades and shawlies.
“This isn’t the knitting your granny would do,” Kate enthuses. “It is giving items a modern spin. I use chunky wool and contemporary stitches to give it a modern twist.”
Although they don’t live in the same city, Kate lives in Hove while Sarah lives in London, the two use modern technology to keep in touch.
“Every Monday we have FaceTime to talk things over,” Sarah explains.
“The thing is though, we do it once the kids are in bed so it can be ten at night and afterwards I just feel so excited and hyper about it all,” Kate laughs.
As an artisan brand both Kate and Sarah produce high quality, quirky products.
“The wool I use is 100 per cent British,” Kate says. “The fingerless gloves are acrylic so they can be chucked in the wash.”
“We do gluten free cakes,” Sarah adds. “I use free range eggs and Madagascan vanilla pods.”
With Christmas around the corner the pair have a range of festive treats to add a bit of Eats, Knits and Weaves to your home with knitted Christmas Ringos and Hark biscuits.
“I’m also thinking about Christmas cake,” Sarah teases. “But not in the traditional way.
“I’m thinking of doing them as a sphere and decorating them like baubles. I’m not sure yet if it will be for this year or next but it is an idea.”
With exciting plans for the future it seems this tight-knit business pair are set for bigger and brighter things.
For more information, visit www.eatsknitsandweaves.co.uk
December 5, 2014 Business and Investments