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Meet Rosie and Caroline, Directors of home furnishings company, Wicklewood

Caroline and Rosie, Directors of Wicklewood

This is part of our series about how owners of small businesses are leading their companies through the coronavirus crisis. Read more at tide.co/blog/coronavirus
To share your story, message us: hello@tide.co, Facebook or Twitter.

Over 800 Tide members run homeware and/or textiles stores. Tide members Rosie Axford and Caroline Downing Nadel are co-directors of home furnishings company, Wicklewood. Caroline founded the company in 2015 and Rosie joined in 2017.

Until very recently, the company operated online only so were able to keep trading as usual during lockdown. In fact, they saw an increase in sales as people treated themselves to homewares and bought gifts online.

We spoke to Rosie to find out what makes the company different, how the coronavirus crisis affected them, and about opening their first bricks-and-mortar shop in December.

Hello Rosie 👋 Tell us about Wicklewood. What do you do?

Hello! We sell small things that can make a big impact on your home’s interior. Things like rugs, cushions and one-of-a-kind accent pieces.

We founded the company on strong design principles and we’re inspired by Caroline’s great-great-grandmother, who travelled to Guatemala in the 1930s collecting textiles. We work with artisans around the world who use classic textile techniques such as hand-weaving, loom-weaving and block-printing, then we assemble items like cushions here in the UK.

You mentioned design principles – tell us more about them…

We believe these principles apply to all our designs:

  • Made to move
    ‘Settling down’ and ‘forever homes’ are increasingly outdated concepts. Everything we sell is made to move – from room to room, or house to house.
  • Made for more
    We design our products to complement each other. Our colour palette ensures every piece sits well alongside the majority, if not all, of the collection. We encourage people to change up their home more frequently – you change your clothes each season, why not your home? So we’ve made our cushions and quilts dual-sided so you can flip them over for a new look.
  • Curated for you
    Because people are busier than ever, we curate ‘sets’ of products for people who lack time or design confidence. We also have an online Design Concierge service.

Wicklewood - three room designs

What motivated you to start the company?

The inspiration came from the fact that we moved a lot in our twenties and wanted our rentals to look like homes. At each new place, both Caroline and I sought to decorate in own style, to make it feel special and different to every other rented apartment.

We were both frustrated that we couldn’t find affordable design options that we could change with each season, move or mood. So that was the idea that led to us found Wicklewood: to give people easy ways to transform a simple space into a beautiful home, whether for a lease or a lifetime.

Where do you get your materials and supplies from?

We design everything ourselves in our London studio. We partner with craftspeople around the world to bring our products to life. The way our products look is important – but so too is ethical production: using artisan techniques and paying fair wages.

Can you give us an example of the craftspeople you work with?

We work with a women’s co-operative in Guatemala who weave all our Guatemalan ‘Jaspe’ fabrics. And craftspeople in India hand-block-print our quilts and hand-make our inlay boxes and trays.

Every year, we pick different artists to work with. This year, we’re collaborating with two UK-based makers for our ‘At Home’ collection.  We launched this programme during lockdown to support artists in the UK with little or no work.

In your industry, whose work do you most admire?

We love to support brands that have a similar mindset to us. We love Mola Sasa – they collaborate with indigenous communities in Colombia. We have a collection coming out with them in Spring 2021 – watch this space!

What do you wish people knew about what you sell?

That we design it all ourselves. Well, Caroline does! And that we offer original, transformative and sustainable items that celebrate global craftsmanship, pattern and colour.

We give our customers the tools to make any space – from a maisonette to a mansion – feel like home. And we want Wicklewood to be synonymous with colour, quality and conscious design.

Who are your typical customers?

We call them ‘The Modern Nomads’ – women, usually aged 25 to 45. Today, people are settling down later, creating an era of modern nomads, people who move frequently and often internationally.

How do you market the company? I spotted that your products have been featured in magazines – is that part of your strategy?

We do our own PR. It’s a lot of work but it’s great when it means we see Wicklewood items featured in a magazine or newspaper. What works well for us is our weekly newsletter – this generates the most sales. This year, we’ve started advertising on Instagram. Our advice would be to ask for help in areas where you’re less confident. It’ll save you hours and the return on the investment will be worth it.

What have been your top-sellers for Christmas this year?

Cushions. Always cushions! Other than that, our framed vintage Indian textiles flew off the (virtual) shelves, as did the hand-carved wooden Bozo Fish from Mali… Oh, and frog jugs from Mexico. People always love animals in their home!

If someone were to buy you a Christmas gift from your own collection, what would you like to receive?

One of our Amy Balfour hand-painted mirrors. We’re both completely obsessed with them!

Have you had to delay or change any plans this year?

Yes – a lot! We were going to open a shop in May in London but that was postponed until December.

We’ve also seen the effect the pandemic on some of the countries we work with, such as Guatemala, Mexico and India. The artisans haven’t been able to get together for work, and it’s tricky to transport the goods into cities to be shipped.

However, this year has reminded everyone how important ‘home’ is. People are investing more in their homes and being more adventurous with their purchases. And we love that!

You’ve just opened your first physical store – congratulations! Tell us about the shop – it a pop-up for Christmas or will it be more permanent..?

It’s permanent – our official flagship store and showroom. We couldn’t be happier to have finally opened the doors to our shop and the response has been amazing.

It’s in Stratford Village in Kensington, London and is surrounded by residential homes, making it a great destination for getting away from the desk for our neighbours who are working from home!

It was a big step for us. Although we’re digital-first, we know it’s important for people to see and touch our collections and so we know the shop will be a success.

Do you have a mentor or someone who helps with business decisions?

Yes: Liz Downing and Anne Dubbs. They’re the founders of Blithfield, our sister company and Caroline’s mother’s company. They’ve taught us so much over the years and are great sources of help and inspiration to us.

What websites do you use to get business advice?

We like FT.com because it has lots of useful articles that get us thinking in different ways.

Do you have a tip for other people thinking about starting their own business?

Yes! It’s the best thing we’ve ever done. Here are our top three tips:

  1. If you’re driven and believe in your idea then do it
    It’s hard work but starting a business doesn’t have to mean sleepless nights. We work hard and play hard – and we love it. 
  2. Find a business partner
    Caroline worked on Wicklewood for two years but didn’t launch until I joined in 2017. Finding someone to bounce ideas off every day has been very important for us.
  3. Ask for help
    Our motto has been: ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get.’ People are often more willing to help than you’d expect.

How are you feeling about Wicklewood’s prospects for 2021?

Optimistic! We’ve opened our shop and welcomed new members to the team. We’re looking forward to hitting the ground running in 2021.

How did you hear about Tide? Why did you choose us?

You were recommended by a friend who also has a start-up. He said that Tide were great for supporting small businesses – so far you’ve proved him right. We love that the Tide app integrates with our accounting software.

If Tide could support you more, what could we do?

Open a USA version so you can come with us when we expand to the US!

I’ll pass that on…! Thanks for talking to us, Rosie.
We wish you a very merry (and beautifully decorated) Christmas and lots of luck for 2021. 💙

Connect with Wicklewood

Have your say

How is the coronavirus affecting you and your small business? We’re keen to hear from you – get in touch with us on LinkedInFacebook or Twitter.

All photos courtesy of Wicklewood

Suzanne Worthington

Senior Writer

Tide Team

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