Wow, 5 years, we can hardly believe it. With each year that goes by we have to stop and think about what we have achieved and how far the business has come. Each year presents new challenges, ideas and goals and each year comes with its triumphs and also its regrets and failures. This has been a tough year and an exciting year, much like the four years that passed before it.
We have both moved house and added to our families, two more gorgeous little girls, Eadie arrived just after Christmas and Al had his second little girl, Nancy in March. With five little girls between us, new homes and a business, life is never dull and it never stops...
To mark our fifth year we thought we would post the Q&A we did the previous year for Issue #2 of our Magazine. Issue #2 was entitled, Siblings & Succession and we had a great time talking to other businesses owned and run by siblings and listening to how to they work together.
A huge thank you to all those who have helped and supported us over the last year and the last five, here is to five more...
We hope you enjoy the interview.
Alastair Matthews and Nikki Sanders of Such & Such
SS - How did Such & Such come to be?
Nikki: The initial idea for Such & Such came when Al visited me in Vietnam. Al was working as a lawyer but feeling unsatisfied and looking for a change of direction, meanwhile I was thinking about setting up my own business. Over the next two years we researched and refined our ideas, and the result was Such & Such. We both love design and are both creative. Most importantly we both wanted to do something we felt passionate about. We loved hearing the stories of the designers and makers we discovered during our research, learning about their inspiration and the craftsmanship involved in the creation of each great design piece. We knew we wanted to get these stories across and create a shopping experience where people felt more connected to what they were buying, turning items from consumerist objects into cherished belongings that customers will keep for a lifetime.
SS - When you began working together, what did each of you bring to the business in terms of skills, passions, personalities and past experience?
Nikki: I think one of the reasons we work well together is because we approach things in quite different ways. We each took very divergent career paths before Such & Such, and these experiences have definitely influenced the way we work. I studied Fine Art at University and continued to work as a painter before going on to study Interior Design. I then worked as a lighting designer before heading to live in Vietnam. I think I am probably a bit of a dreamer and am constantly coming up with new ideas and plans. But implementing these plans is not my strong suit. Al is very creative, but he is also very good at taking an idea and working out how to put it into practice. When we were growing up Al was always very inquisitive about how things worked and he would always be taking things apart and putting them back together. These skills combined with his training in Law means he is great with the detail.
SS - How has your upbringing influenced what you do now? Are there parts of your life where you feel you’ve followed in your parents’ footsteps?
Nikki: Both of our parents are very open-minded and encouraged us to pursue our interests. If that had not been the case, I don’t think we would have had the courage to set up Such & Such. Mum has always been very interested in art and design, and that interest has definitely had an effect on us, in terms of discussions around the dinner table, looking at things in certain ways, an appreciation for well-designed spaces and the objects we surround ourselves with. Dad has always worked incredibly hard and been successful in business, and this has similarly had a huge influence on us. It made us realise that if we put our minds to something we can turn an idea into a reality. Dad is meticulous about the detail and I think this is something we have come to really appreciate since we set up Such & Such.
Al: I leaned towards taking quite a traditional approach to my career, as a result of schooling and other influences. After finishing University I was unsure what I wanted to do and ended up going into Law. My mind-set was that a career was about earning money and interests were left for your spare time. It was only later when I started to really think about how I wanted to live my life, where my passions lay and what I sought to achieve that I re-assessed what I was going do for a living. I knew it would be a challenge but I wanted to pursue something that really interested me and which I would enjoy trying to achieve. My parents are extremely encouraging of the path we have decided to take and I guess that kind of influence throughout our upbringing has probably led us to where we are.
SS - Can you remember when you first started appreciating good design?
Nikki: We were pretty lucky that we got to travel quite a lot. Mum & Dad took us to lots of design museums and art galleries and all these experiences opened our eyes from quite an early age.
Al: I was always more interested in how things were made and worked. My Grandfather had a workshop in his loft and would build clocks and little boats amongst other things. He taught me how to whittle and I remember one of the first things I made was a wooden sign with the name of our house carved into it. I always enjoyed tinkering around with anything electrical. I had an electric train set which I would build tracks for and numerous remote control cars that I would take apart so that I could figure out how they worked. I would take apart old record players, speakers, VCR players, pretty much anything that I could get my hands on that had screws on the back.
SS - You put a lot of energy into telling the stories behind the products that you sell. Why is storytelling so important to what you do?
Nikki: Nothing beats a great story. Stories can connect people as well as offer a form of escapism. One thing we have always done as a family is tell stories, and we were encouraged to read or watch movies together.
SS - What makes working with a sibling different from working with anyone else?
Nikki: We completely trust each other and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We can be really honest with each other, without worrying about hurting the other’s feeling. We can have a bust up but it is all forgotten the next day.
Al: You have a trust and understanding of each other that you can only have with a sibling. The only downside is that work has the potential to takeover. I think it is important to make sure the relationship does not become all about work and we are pretty good at switching from one to the other. We can be discussing orders and website developments one moment and what we are going to get our sister for her birthday the next.
SS - Can you describe a typical workday and a typical day off?
Nikki: A typical workday will start with a big mug of tea and emails. We both work from home and usually speak in the morning to chat through what we have to do that day. I will then wrap and send out the orders that have come in the previous evening. We will then get on with other aspects of the business, from working on our Journal, this magazine, sourcing new products and interviewing our designers and makers, keeping on top of stock levels and placing orders, paying invoices, pop up shop planning, uploading new products and keeping on top of the website… We meet up regularly to go over projects, plans and potential new products, and recently we have been working on refreshing our website with Bread Collective. No one day is ever the same.
A typical day off will involve family, friends, food and maybe a good film. We both love spending time with our little girls. Al has a baby girl called Marnie who is just about to turn one and I have two girls Bessie who is four and Anna who is two, so our days off are pretty ram packed. Al also has Frank the dog so his days off always involve a long walk. I love to run or do some yoga as it makes me feel sane. We both love to cook too.
SS - Can you describe a tradition you’ve inherited, and a tradition you’ve created?
Nikki: Whenever we go home we go running, often as a family, which may sound a little strange but actually it is one of my favourite things. We grew up in the Peak District and both our parents ran when we were little so I suppose we watched them do it and then we all at various different stages in our lives have got into running. I married a runner so he has joined the morning runs and our eldest little girl has recently started showing an interest so we promptly bought her her first pair of trainers.
Al: One day of the weekend will involve sitting down for a big meal. My wife and I both like to cook and try out new recipes, we are usually a little too busy to experiment in the week so the weekend is a good opportunity to enjoy cooking and enjoy a nice meal together.
SS - What are your dreams for the future of Such & Such?
Our plans for Such & Such are endless and constantly evolving as the business grows.
The dream is to own a barn or warehouse space with a shop, café and yoga studio. We would love to run workshops and create a space where people can come to relax, work and shop. Until then we are always looking for great new products and designers to work with, and longer-term pop up spaces. We are also working on our own range of products, which we are hoping to launch in the not too distant future...
Images by Jim Marsden & Lulu Ash
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