Be Kind To Yourself — it’s easy to focus on what’s gone wrong or what else you could have done rather than think how much you’ve achieved. If I’m having a bad day I think how would I give a friend a pep talk to get them through it.
Emma Watson, is the owner of Little Hotdog Watson, a kids hat brand that focuses on making getting outside with the kids more stylish and less stressful. She lives in Norwich with her two daughters and runs her business while also lecturing in Fashion at Norwich University of the Arts.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Thank you for inviting me. Prior to setting up Little Hotdog Watson my background was in research and trends working for big brands and understanding global trends and movements and then I moved into product development. I worked in menswear for most of my career on the British high street and it’s highly likely you’ll know someone who wears something I created.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I was on our first family holiday in Portugal with my eldest (she was 3.5months old at the time) I had dreams that this holiday would be like the movies and all those instagram perfect pictures and it wasn’t. It was stressful, the sun was really hot, the bugs bitey and she wouldn’t keep a hat on. I wanted to be enjoying the trip but couldn’t because she wasn’t protected. That was the ‘aha’ moment I thought I could solve this problem. I bought the URL to Little Hotdog Watson that evening and that was the start.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I’m definitely not a natural entrepreneur. I’m someone who likes structure, planning and a clear path. The complete opposite to the life of an entrepreneur. However, I am an ideas person and I’ve always developed new ideas but within other companies. I’d gotten fed up with the way the fashion industry was going and then becoming a parent was the turning point. I was exposed to the kidswear market which was so heavily gendered and outdated and I felt I could create a problem solving product that also created positive change in the industry. Becoming a parent also made me braver to take the step into the unknown and become an entrepreneur.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
My husband set up his first business at 23. He had an idea and went for it. He sold that business and then set up another business. I’ve seen first hand how hard it is to make it work, the hours that go into it and all the other things that go alongside it when you start and you’re waiting for the first pay check to come in. He absolutely inspired me to see that it’s possible but I also went into my business with open eyes and prepared to work hard.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Little Hotdog Watson stands out because we have a very clear goal to bring innovation and style together to make getting outside easier. Our hats are completely unique. For example, our sun hats offer triple protection from UV, Mosquitoes and Sweaty Hat Hair.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Stay Cool — it’s taken me a long time (perhaps it’s age!) to do this. If (and it likely will) something goes wrong I sit with it and think on it before replying. I never reply to an email whether from a customer or team straight away. This gives me time to think what’s the best scenario and work out how to get there.
A good listener — I’ve worked in businesses where you could have the best idea and it literally doesn’t matter as no-one is actually listening. I can’t tell you the number of things that have been turned down that went on to become main staples (novelty Christmas jumpers being one!) I’m naturally inquisitive, I like to ask questions, listen and then go forward whether that’s from customers or interns. Our hats were sent to 100 families around the world before we went to production. I asked for feedback and it genuinely helped shape the hats. Our return rate is so low because the product is so good and that’s customer feedback.
A creative learner — I enjoy being creative and learning and the two go hand in hand. I’m at my happiest getting stuck in, learning something new and putting it into action whether that’s creating copy, exploring new types of packaging, designing a new print, keeping that fun inside the business is important. Businesses change so much, especially the marketing elements that there is always something new to learn. For example, Pinterest as a social media is one of the most fun to learn and grow and now we have close to 800K monthly views.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
This is a great question. The advice I receive all the time is why don’t you just add more products or bung in a few t-shirts or keep adding in more and more collections. I started to explore this and spent a fair amount of time and money on it before quickly coming back to realising two things 1) That’s not what Little Hotdog Watson is about. I want to create considered production that lasts the antithesis of fast fashion 2) The person(s) were sharing with me what they know and their experience versus understanding that I’m carving a new path and that’s absolutely fine to do.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Lead by example. Leave loudly at the end of the day. Don’t wear your long hours as a badge of honour and most importantly listen to your team and be kind. Kindness is everything. The night before I flew to get married I was sitting at my desk in my old job at 10:30pm at night. You don’t get that time back and it stays with people. It’s not about buying people an xmas drink, it’s about making sure they are seen and heard. Tell them to take the day off to take their kid to their first day at school. Stuff like this matters more than businesses give it credit.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Firstly, know your industry inside and out, be open about the changes that need to be made and what you would do as well as speak proudly about what it does right. Build your networks locally at events and share relevant articles on Linked In for industry recognition. For building this with customers speaking with them directly use the power of social media to build trust and put a face to the name and instagram is great for this.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
More than ever consumers value transparency. They care about who they purchase from and small brands have an advantage over bigger brands here to share their story and connect. This will become even more important in the next 5 years.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Trying to do everything and spreading yourself too thin has to be the most common mistake. Take social media. When I started I wanted to cover all the bases but it’s too challenging so instead secure your brand names on all the platforms for future use and then focus on one platform that is relevant to you first.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
A ‘regular’ job will always differ to the highs and lows of an entrepreneur but the risk and reward is so much greater. For example, in my previous job if a product didn’t sell well I was accountable and worst case I would lose my job but as an entrepreneur you are responsible for more than just yourself. Oftentimes other livelihoods depend directly on you too. The same for the highs there’s nothing quite the same as something you built doing well because all of the risk and emotion that you put into it has been worth it.
It’s definitely a roller coaster being an entrepreneur.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
One morning I woke up to my phone beeping off the hook. It was around 5am and I thought something awful must have happened. Instead Giovanna Fletcher had posted pictures on their holidays wearing our hats. We did the same number of sales in one morning as we would do in a month. By the same token I can remember as clear as day the first time I spotted one of our hats out and about a kid I didn’t know Ie not a family member). I actually ran up to the mum and introduced myself. It made it feel very real and exciting and those moments are magical.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
When I first launched the business it got off to a flying start, a little video I made went slightly viral for 2016 and we were included in the Guardian. I was so excited. A few weeks later the Brexit vote happened and sales virtually stopped overnight. The country was in turmoil and it was a frightening time to launch a business. I had to think quickly as to what to do next so I pivoted my business model and aimed for growth outside the UK and launched in China. It was a challenging time but it worked out for the best.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
1 . Be Kind To Yourself — it’s easy to focus on what’s gone wrong or what else you could have done rather than think how much you’ve achieved. If I’m having a bad day I think how would I give a friend a pep talk to get them through it.
2. Take a break — I was programmed into thinking sitting at my desk is the solution to everything. It’s definitely not. Time out, a long weekend helps you to come back energised and better able to adapt. It’s your business to set the rules so take a break if you need to.
3. List of 3 — short lists that are attainable within your day and don’t add anything new till you’ve completed the list. This stops overwhelm and helps to actually get through the workload.
4. Build a network with people who are in a similar boat to you — to share ideas and vent for want of a better word. My group I found from attending networking events and it’s incredibly helpful to have someone to celebrate and commiserate with who truly gets it.
5. Perspective — everything on this journey as an entrepreneur is a learning curve. Whether it goes well or badly you will have learnt something that you can use in the future.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is more than a set of characteristics; it’s about understanding the principles of what makes you resilient as well. There is a theory around the domains of resilience. Essentially think of a juggler with 6 balls. Each ball represents something important in your life (family/friend support, health, etc) If you drop a ball your capacity to be resilient lessons.
Learning this was so helpful to me because somedays if something went wrong it wouldn’t bother me so much and other days it would knock me sideways. So now I think ok which of the balls/domains is a bit out of kilter and what can I do about that. For example under health is diet, fitness and sleep. Well I have two kids and one is 2 and a tinker when it comes to sleep. So if she has a bad night’s sleep I’m more likely to ignore going for a run and eat something fast food like. Nothing wrong with that but it will make me feel less resilient so acknowledging that helps and if I know I’ve got a challenging day I’’ try to counterbalance that with going to bed earlier the next night or grabbing a 15 minute rest at lunch.
My point simply is that we can all be more or less resilient at different times and that’s ok we can build our resilience levels up again.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Growing up what I’ve always seen is my parents keeping moving forward. Neither of them dwell on things. If something goes wrong we work out why and move on. You can’t change the past and you have to live in the present.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
I couldn’t honestly tell you I’m 100% positive all the time but I’ve gotten better at analysing risk and understanding risk and failure are two separate things and not always linked. This has helped me negotiate a lot of big decisions.
One of my favourite mottos from my previous employment days is ‘it’s only clothes’ and that perspective is very important. As long as everyone around you is ok, everything will ultimately be fine.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
A positive attitude is really important to providing confidence for customers and the people you work with. A positive mindset isn’t about glossing over things though it’s about re-framing the thought process so you can move forward. For example, a lot of businesses, especially new businesses, don’t like sharing ideas or asking people what they think. This is largely due to not wanting negative feedback.
This isn’t how I approach things at all. I ask a lot of questions and then I sit with the feedback, understand the point of view it’s given from and filter into relevant and less relevant.
For example in the beginning when I was developing the sun hats I had extra technology on them to show how strong the UV’ was . I thought this was really cool but the majority of families I spoke to just weren’t bothered by this tech — they felt if it was summer and hot they would put a hat on their little one. It was common sense. Some people articulated it really well why it wasn’t important and some just said ‘ stupid idea’ but the underlying points were the same. I could have thought my ideas were not good enough but instead I listened and took that advice which saved time and money.
It’s re-framing the questions to gain a positive outcome so instead of feeling like taking risks it’s experimenting. It’s instead of feedback, it’s new ideas. Re-framing the thought process is key.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
I can’t say I have quote for inspiring greatness because that’s subjective for some that will be wealth and others health but a quote that always stays with me from a boss when I was early into my career and that is;
‘You are your own DJ, if you don’t like the song in your head, you can change the record.’
As an entrepreneur this is advice I re-visit frequently. As an entrepreneur the journey isn’t a straight line and there will be as many low as high points. It’s important that in those low points you can pick yourself back up and changing how you speak to yourself is key. From thinking “I’ve failed” to ‘I’ve experimented” language is powerful, especially how we speak to ourselves.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!