Emma Watson is the owner of Little Hotdog Watson, a kids hat company. She lives in Norwich with her two children aged 8 and 4. She runs her business from her home and lectures in Fashion Marketing and Business at Norwich University of the Arts. She loves getting outside into the fresh air with the family, sunshine adventures, roast potatoes and starts her day playing wordle.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I studied Fashion Textiles and Business and fell in love with the innovative side of the fashion industry thinking about how new products and technologies can make positive change. I moved in research and trends before eventually becoming a menswear buyer on the British highstreet. I loved developing and creating products that had a purpose and bringing new ideas to the collections. The high street and industry changed significantly through my career and I started to consider ways I would do things differently. These ideas became foundations and values for setting up my own business Little Hotdog Watson in 2015. Little Hotdog Watson is a kids hat company. Our aim is to help families get outside into the fresh air.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
The idea for Little Hotdog Watson came on our first family holiday to Portugal with our then 3.5month old. I had dreams of that picture perfect family moment, sunny days at the beach, relaxed walks with the buggy. The reality was that the sun was very hot, the bugs very bitey and my beautiful big headed babe didnt have a hat that fitted properly, stayed on and her protected her. That was the aha moment. Create a product that looked good, protected little heads and was comfy to wear. That night I bought the url for LittleHotdogWatson.com. A year later after much research and product development we launched sunhats. Woven with 75% solar energy, that are UVA and UVB 50+ protective, Mosquito Repellant and temperature regulating to keep little heads at the perfect temperature.
How did you achieve awareness?
Achieving awareness has very much been an organic approach as there hasn’t been money for big budget campaigns. Instead I focus on three key things;
- Word of mouth – it’s hard to quantify but it definitely works. What do I mean by this? I live and breathe the values of the brand. I work transparently, share the journey, regularly ask for feedback and focus on customer service. We also do a lot of nice things for the heck of it. Like sending gifts or treats. People share and recommend us to family and friends because of this as well as our fab products!
- Building relationships with a share over sell – strategy – the aim is to help families get outside and enjoy the fresh air so thinking of ways that are fun to do this. Whether that’s our 7 day fresh air challenge, sharing places to visit or even encouraging creativity with design challenges we want people to enjoy hanging out with us on social and feel inspired.
- Asking for help – you would be amazed what can be achieved just simply by asking for help. When we first launched there was £0 budget. We made a short 30 second video about our hats. I emailed family and friends a link to the video and a short message about the launch I asked them to share with two people they thought might like / need kids hats. That video got 10,000 views (which back in the day was big) as a result the Guardian spotted us and included us in an article.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
When I started the business I took a business plan to my local bank, spoke to the manager and took out a business loan. This was an important stage to develop the product. Over the years I’ve explored the different options for investment but my view on my business is perhaps different to others. My idea for growth isn’t about volume and more about making a positive impact to change the industry. Often growth can mean compromising of products or values and that’s not something I would do. When I began the business I carried out a survey asking how much parents spent on hats and how many hats they bought. The survey showed that often people spent very little money on cheap quality hats but then replaced them up to 4 times a year. That’s how some big business make money. Our hats aim to reduce that 4 hats to one. Sell less, last longer.
What are the key successes?
As a small business owner the successes that make me really smile are a mix of childhood goals and magic moments. Selling our hats in Selfridges, our hats being in Vogue, Winning Best Kidswear brand and many more. But the moments stick with me too. The first time I saw a kid out wearing our hat. I literally ran over to chat to the parents, that gets me everytime. And honestly seeing some amazing pictures and knowing you’ve been a part of some pretty magical family memories.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
So many challenges! The last few years between Brexit and Cov-id have been full on. From moving from a fat growing business in retail in Europe and China to moving back to B2B with a UK focus. The biggest thing I’ve learnt is go with it and be flexible. You can’t control everything but being small you have the advantage of speed so you can try things out. I also try to read situations and think like a customer rather than a brand. During the early days of cov-id many big brands went into panic mode, hitting the sale button. But in reality customers didn;t want to shop. They needed reassurance, distraction and support. I spoke openly about how there would be no hard selling and that the focus of social media would be on working through it together. I shared parents stories of their days, funny dancing videos at home and kept my DMs open to listen. The result was people stuck around without feeling pressure or guilt. It was a good lesson in remembering to be human first.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We launch the new SS23 collection at the end of February filled with fun, hand drawn illustrations and a new reversible style.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own
The most important thing is to do it your way. As cheesy as that sounds, stand out be yourself. Don’t get lost in the comparison game. Also, find your network. Look for other people at a similar stage to share the journey with. It’s a very unique journey (a bit like having a baby – each business will be different) but stages will be similar
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
- Be yourself, as silly or as serious as you are.
- Have a clear focus. I make hats. Do one thing and do it well
- Be flexible. Things change fast in business, the more rigid you are the more stressful it will be
- Be kind. To yourself especially. It’s easy to be tough on yourself, much harder to be kind. Celebrate the wins!
- Do it yourself. Know it well. Then outsource it. Your focus should be on the things you’re good at, not what anyone can do.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Ooh tough question! Hard to choose
- David Hieatt – brilliantly wise, humorous and does things his way. His Do book series is brilliant
- Michelle Obama – her intelligence, her approach to issues, the way she articulates herself and stays calm no matter the situation.
- Brene Brown – her talk on courage is fabulous
- The late Vivienne Westwood – a game changer in the industry, forthright, fantastic and unapologetically herself.
- I’m going to add another two female founders who are friends and amazing Leigh from Monty & Co for creating a fully circular brand and Claire owner of Play Hooray whose business creating activities for children.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value. Albert Einstein
“I really think a champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall.” – Serena Williams
“Don’t ever make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on hope and possibility. Make decisions based on what should happen, not what shouldn’t.” – Michelle Obama,
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links so our readers can connect with you?
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