Radical Tea Towel Company – A Thriving Family Biz With Strong Ethics

Today I’m back with another Behind the Biz interview.

If you’re new to PGT then you may not have come across my Behind the Biz series before.

The concept is simple.

I discover fun and exciting businesses, chat with the founders and share their stories with you.

Today I’m talking to Luke, one of the co-founders of Radical Tea Towel.

Radical Tea Towel is a family run biz. They create political and social statements for your kitchen and home. All of the designs are done themselves and everything is manufactured right here in the UK.

Let’s get straight into the interview!

What inspired you to start Radical Tea Towel?

We wanted people to feel a sense of connection to their radical history. Democracy, the NHS, the welfare state, free speech and free love – these things didn’t come about by accident, but most of us don’t really know the stories behind them. We’ve always loved history and politics, and we realised we could educate people through everyday items like tea towels, aprons and mugs. My Mum decided she wanted to send a political tea towel to a communist elderly relative, and that’s how she came up with the idea.

How did you approach your first stockist?

We didn’t – stockists began approaching us when they came across our tea towel designs on social media. It was a natural fit for museums and book shops looking to expand into non-book items.

Please share a business high with us.

We were mentioned in a tiny column in the Guardian Weekend Magazine a few months after we launched, after a friend wrote in to recommend us. We only had our first ten designs on the website, but sold out almost completely that weekend. That’s when we knew the business had real potential.

Did you have any doubts about starting a family business?

Of course. We knew there’d be different priorities between us, and arguments about what to do. But our differences were also a strength – we all brought unique skills to the table (design, organisation, marketing). And through the inevitable tough times, it’s often your family you can most trust and rely on to support you.

What did you do before starting Radical Tea Towel?

I was an operational manager for London Underground. Mum was a supply teacher, and Dad a town guide publisher.

Did you always plan to set up your own business?

I’d really wanted to do that since my early 20s. I’m not sure Mum had that plan, but she was used to helping my Dad with his small publishing business since about the year 2000.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Stop listening to legal people, bankers, accountants and friends before you’ve actually sold anything. Instead, put 20% of your effort into designing the product/service, then 80% of your effort into getting your first sale. You can deal with the admin later. Your idea is nothing until you have paying customers.

Where do you hope to take your business in the year ahead?

We’re expanding our product range and plan to cross the 7-figure sales threshold this year, mostly driven by sales in the US. Into 2020, we plan to launch in new markets. Most importantly for us, we’re focused on our educational mission, and we want to keep our ethical values – which includes staying close as a family.

Check out the full range of Radical Tea Towel products and support the business over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thank you so much to Luke for getting involved with Behind the Biz.

I really enjoyed this interview and I hope you enjoyed discovering more about the family business behind Radical Tea Towel.