We chat with Anneke Short, the co-founder and designer at The Camden Watch Company.
Anneke explains how she, along with her husband Jerome, founded The Camden Watch Company after training in Switzerland. She now runs the business along with ‘managing’ her two young children.
Please explain who you are, what your business is, and what it does/aims to achieve?
Anneke Short, co-founder and designer at The Camden Watch Company. We’re a British watch brand and we design affordable watches inspired by the Victorian heritage and vibrant presence of Camden Town.
What time does your day usually start and end?
We have two small children, so my days have shifted from being centred around late nights to early mornings. We’re usually awake by 7 at the latest, work will start around 9 and then throughout the day it’s a few hours work, a few hours play, and then I’m back in front of my computer when the kids are in bed around 7.30.
What is your favourite part of your job and what is your least favourite part?
I love most of what I do, but my absolute favourite is when I first see a finished product in the flesh, it’s such a great feeling to finally see the end result of what is months if not years of work all come together. My least favourite part is the admin, it’s extremely boring and I never feel like I have accomplished much when doing admin but the truth of the matter is that it’s a vital part of running a business.
What inspired you to start your business? (And what made you want to be your own boss?)
I don’t know if I could really pinpoint one thing… Creativity? Ambition? An idea that I wanted to see come to life? I never set out to become my own boss but being able to make all my own decisions and act as a driving force for the company definitely suits my way of working.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I have always worked in watches, I trained in Switzerland where I met Jerome (co-founder and husband) and at the time when we launched The Camden Watch Company, we already had our own design studio. The brand was a way of showcasing what we could do, we never set out to make it a full-time thing, but it really struck a chord with people and it quickly turned into the main focus of what we do.
How did you fund your business?
At the time, we worked in a shared office space that was running an accelerator course, and at the end you could pitch for a £10k loan. We did the course, managed to get the loan, and that plus some of our own funds was enough to get us off the ground.
What has been the biggest challenge for your business?
I think it goes without saying that the pandemic has been a huge challenge for us, and one that’s not over yet. We have three The Camden Watch Company stores in London that have been closed for the best part of a year and that has been extremely challenging for us. Our stores aren’t just somewhere where we sell our products, they’re a marketing tool as well so we’ve had to adapt a lot over the past year. Brexit is also a minefield in and of itself, and the fact that we’ve had to contend with both these things at once has been tricky, to say the least.
What do you feel are the biggest obstacles to growth for SMEs in the UK?
It depends on the business but for a business like ours, business rates, and rent in London, is ludicrous. They are a huge barrier to entry to anyone looking to set up their own space. There is something wrong with the system when the people renting out space make a heck of a lot more money from it than the people using it to sell their wares.
Have you made any mistakes along the way and how did you overcome them/learn from them?
I think we’ve made our fair share, we’re not afraid to try new things and take risks and that inherently means that sometimes you will get it wrong. Sometimes it is a timing thing, sometimes it’s out of our control but you have to always take away as much as you can. I would like to think that every mistake we’ve made has helped make us a better business.
What previous experiences have helped you in starting your business?
Very few, I suppose. I had run my own team of designers whilst out in Switzerland, so that helped us manage the human aspect of the business, but ultimately it was just about doing it and learning as we went.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to anyone looking to start their own business?
Wow, I’m not sure, I guess you’d need to ask the people who I’ve given advice so far! I think it would simply be to just do it, take that step. If you are always on the cusp of launching your own thing but never quite got around to starting it, do it, otherwise it’ll be a constant source of frustration and regret.
Would you do anything differently if you could start again from scratch?
I’m not sure I would change much, to be honest. That’s not to say that we’ve done everything right, far from it, but everything that we have done has taught us something, pushed us forward, helped us grow in one way or another. It’s easy to look back and think ‘oh, we shouldn’t have done that’ or ‘I would have done that sooner’ and the likes, but so long as you keep that in mind moving forwards it has served a purpose.
What do you do to relax away from the hustle and bustle of work?
My husband (co-founder Jerome) and I both love to cycle, but as we have two little humans at home it’s hard for us to get out together. We still go independently, and other than that, essentially I like to create – I draw, I cook, I garden, anything that gets the creative juices flowing and if I can get my hands dirty doing it then even better.
What would you be doing if you weren’t running your own business?
It would definitely be something creative, and nothing too constrained. I like to have the chance to experiment and try new things and I love creating something from nothing.
Do you manage to achieve a good work/life balance?
Absolutely, this has been a huge factor in the way we run our business. We were never in it for the ‘get rich quick’, in-and-out style business. It was always about creating something good and solid, and the life that could offer us. Of course, it doesn’t always work out, but we have a huge amount of flexibility in when and where we work and I wouldn’t change that for the world.