Off the back of an exciting win at the WeWork Creator Awards London, we spoke to Emily Mathieson, Founder of Aerende, about success, style and sustainability.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
A love of interiors and sustainability led me to realise that there was a gaping hole in the UK market for a business that combined both. And, when voluntary work in a homeless shelter made me aware of just how hard it is for some people to access the therapeutic and practical benefits of making things with their hands, I realised I wanted to integrate social impact too.
Give us the elevator pitch
Aerende is an online store selling timeless homewares and gifts, handmade in the UK by people facing barriers to employment. We provide opportunities for marginalised makers and their supporting organisations while creating the opportunity for customers to make their homes fairer, more sustainable and more beautiful. That’s why our strapline is life-improving homewares – good for you, good for the makers, good for the planet.
Describe your experience of the Creator Awards
It was completely crazy, totally inspiring and brilliantly energising. Getting such a huge vote of confidence has been a massive motivator in terms of moving the business forward. I’m now buzzing with ideas and options.
What’s been your biggest achievement to date?
We’ve had a few, including being picked by Appear Here as winner of its Spaces for Ideas competition in 2017. Being recognised by WeWork feels equally important. Knowing that some of the most dynamic companies on the planet have recognised and supported the potential of Aerende is a huge accolade and one we’re very proud of. But our ongoing biggest achievements is when our makers feel proud to have an outlet for their craft and when our customers tell us how much Aerende is transforming the way they live and shop.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Developing a business model that has never been done and working out solutions to the challenges that poses.
What’s your team structure like?
One member of staff managing everything with a small amount of finance support outsourced to freelancers. All of our maker organisations are independent but commissioned by us to create Aerende’s products.
What was your dream career as a child?
Prime minister. I always had a plan to change the world. I just hadn’t realised then that one way of doing that is to put information and opportunity into the hands of ordinary people and then watch them create the change they want to see.
Name one past failure that contributed to your success
Being made redundant twice in one year (including from Esquire) early on in my career created a useful lack of regard for conventional work models and a resilience that has stood to me ever since.
What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own business or applying for a job at a startup?
Not taking a salary isn’t a good way to start a business. Paying yourself in candles (in my case) doesn’t put food on the table or do wonders for your self esteem. And it stops others taking you seriously.
Why is London a good place to grow a business?
London has an energy all of its own and an entrepreneurial atmosphere that is contagious. People here really are open to new ways of doing things and that’s helpful for an interiors brand that’s breaking the mould.
What’s your ultimate ambition?
For Aerende to become a household name while staying true to its principles and triple-bottom line operation.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your business?
That being ethical is not a barrier to style and quality.
What’s one thing you want to learn or achieve in 2019?
To employ key staff who can assist with the financial and operational sustainability of the business.