Anneke Short and Jerome Robert are the husband-and-wife team behind the Camden Watch Company, which they co-founded together eight years ago.
What made you decide to go into business together? Anne: I met Jerome when I was studying jewellery and watch design in Switzerland, and he was training to be a teacher. When we moved to London in 2010, I was interested in launching my own design studio but didn’t want to do it alone. Jerome has lots of complementary skills, so I asked him to go into partnership with me and do all the things I didn’t want to do. Luckily, he agreed!
Jerome: Anneke is the designer, but I was born and raised in La Chaux-de-Fonds (known as the watch valley of Switzerland), so I know a lot about watches too. The watch design studio did quite well, but it was hard to win new business because it’s a very secretive world and there are a lot of non-disclosure agreements. We decided to launch the Camden Watch Company to show off what we can do. We now have two stores in London and export internationally too.
How do you share responsibilities and communicate efficiently? Anne: It’s definitely evolved over time. I do all of the design work, the customer service, and most of the admin. Jerome does all of our social media, the photography, and a lot of the big picture stuff. We definitely have a constant flow of communication where we’re always talking about everything. But we also have to schedule meetings so that we can make sure we’re ticking things off our list. We’re husband and wife, but we’re also co-founder and co-founder, so we need to make sure we put those hats on as well.
Jerome: I love the design part but Anneke is amazing on watches. I’m always so impressed to see her designs. I also love spending time in the shops with our staff – it’s fun to have direct contact with the clients and you soon realise that your employees are the heart and soul of the company. I try to spend time with them. In terms of communication, Anneke and I send a lot of WhatsApp messages!
How is ultrafast broadband vital for the success of your business? Anne: We couldn’t be the business that we are without it. We have to be incredibly reactive when people write to us, especially if it’s via social media.
Jerome: Reliability is so important. If the broadband is down, we can’t send posts on social media, or use our point-of-sale terminal in the shops.
What are your tips for working together as co-founders? Anne: Hold each other accountable and make sure you’re doing what you said you’d do. And don’t be too precious if the other person challenges you. If I come to Jerome with a design that I’m proud of but he doesn’t think works, he’ll tell me.
Jerome: It helps if you’re both passionate about the business, and if you want to spend a lot of time with your co-founder. The best thing about the Camden Watch Company for me is being able to work with my wife.
Friends since sixth form, Edward Coram James and Tom Skinner are the co-founders of Go Up, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in London and Los Angeles
What made you decide to go into business together? Ed: We met at school when we were 16 and we became friends. I went to acting school in California and spent some time juggling theatre jobs with shift work. But eventually I decided I wanted to start a marketing agency and asked Tom if he’d do it with me. I presented him with the worst business plan in the world but, amazingly, he said yes.
Tom: I studied management and was working as an offline media planner and buyer. It was a good time for Ed and I to do something – SEO (search engine optimisation) was just taking off and Google was making big changes to how it organised its index.
How do you share responsibilities? Ed: We don’t really! Pretty much every business adviser we’ve had has said Tom and I need to divvy up responsibilities, and that there’s too much crossover. But we come at problems from completely different angles. I’m a little bit more methodical, a bit more cautious, and we end up meeting somewhere in the middle.
Tom: Starting out, neither one of us wanted to chase invoices, so we both did it. Neither one of us wanted to make cold sales calls, so we both did it. Today, I can tell you what’s on Ed’s to-do list and he can tell you what’s on mine because they’re the same. But our roles are slightly different. We have a team of around 30, and if they have any issues, they tend to come to me. Whereas Ed’s the guy who loves to get stuck in if we have an awkward situation with a client. That split has happened quite naturally because of our personalities.
How is superfast broadband vital for the success of your business? Ed: Everything we do is cloud based – our designers and developers are constantly downloading and uploading large files, our SEO team is trawling through millions of pages of data. The whole thing would break really quickly without good internet.
Tom: We’re heavily reliant on video conferencing now, like everyone else. I think [good internet is] the minimum clients expect now.
What are your tips for working together as co-founders? Ed: Go into every conversation willing to compromise. If you believe that the best results are found in collaboration, then you will always get the best results. Tom challenges me on everything I do and that makes me better every day.
Tom: Have a sensitivity to whether your co-founder is up or down. Be ready to step up. Because you’ll be very grateful when they do the same for you.
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