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Emma Bridgewater's potted history
By Jason Martin
BBC Oxford

Emma Bridgewater
Emma relocated from London back to Oxford with her husband and 4 children

Emma Bridgewater's pottery empire produces one million products and has an annual turnover of £7 million a year.

But it had remarkably humble origins in North Oxford.

"I was looking for a present for my mum in Summertown and I couldn't find something to fit with her kitchen" Emma recalls.

"Everything was either too formal or too clunky. Then it struck me in one of those rare marvellous moments...

"I suddenly saw what was missing and what I wanted - so I went off to make it myself."

Such determination was a key factor in establishing Emma's pottery as a viable and successful business model because as she herself admits, success was by no means guaranteed.

"If it didn't work out I'd have to convert the money invested into a loan, get a job, and pay it off" Emma explains.

Emma is quick to acknowledge the generosity of numerous people who gave help, advice, and their time but it was ultimately a combination of good fortune and her designs - simple patterns, flowers and quirky words - which were "just the right thing at the right time."

Despite the dedication and commitment to ensuring the success of her business, Emma was equally determined that she wanted to start a family and is keen to emphasise the importance of pre-planning to get the most out of both career and family.

"I remember having a clear plan. I knew I wanted to get married and have a large family. I had four to six years to make something happen and then I was going to be impeded."

True to her plan, Emma met and married her husband and now business partner, designer Matthew Rice, and started a family a few years later.

In terms of her business model, Emma is extremely passionate about the need to celebrate and preserve Britain's industrial heritage, something she describes as "a big thing missing in all our lives that I strongly believe we need to hang on to."

Indeed, she attributes much of her own success to studying the history of "our marvellous ceramics industry" and embracing its strengths and traditions.

Emma's success story has recently come full circle as she has relocated from London back to Oxford with her husband and four children. "It's so exciting to be back here. I love it. I spend less time driving and more time on a bike which is ideal."

However, her entrepreneurial spirit continues to flourish and she confesses that they're scoping out opportunities in Oxford where "we can offer a brand experience with a fantastic place to eat in the middle of a vegetable garden with chickens and ducks and geese."

Asked what advice she would give to any aspiring entrepreneurs Emma is adamant that "if you find adversity stressful then running your own business probably isn't the best option" and advises that "you should think hard and find something that suits your temperament."




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