Joseph Joseph founders fought a two-year legal battle with Chinese copycats

Richard and Antony Joseph, the twins who founded kitchen brand Joseph Joseph, on keeping the business in the family and the ups and downs of manufacturing in China.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Twin brothers Richard and Antony Joseph launched innovative and colourful kitchen brand Joseph Joseph in 2003. Starting with glass chopping boards, they now make kitchenware ranging from bread bins to ice trays, and the business turned over £32m last year. Here they share their best decisions in business - and their worst... 

OUR BEST DECISIONS

Selling internationally

One of our best moves was to sell overseas very early. We started Joseph Joseph in 2003, initially selling glass chopping boards, then developing a larger kitchen range. In the first 18 months, we sold in France, Japan and South America. Ten years later, the UK accounts for only 22% of sales and the US is the biggest market at 25%. Selling internationally has given us really rapid growth. We started with £10,000 worth of stock and now we turn over around £32m.

Sticking to one range

You've got to understand your brand and what you're selling. We decided to stick to kitchenware after the success of the chopping boards. Neither of us are into cooking in a big way, but sticking with one range means you already have relationships with suppliers and customers. We make about 50 new products a year, and many of these can be dropped into our international network straight away.

Keeping it in the family

We've never had investors or borrowed from the bank - we're strict with money and we've hit all our targets. We're enjoying having full control, so we don't see the need to get anybody else involved.

OUR WORST DECISIONS

Rushing designs

We've rushed a couple of product launches and that's an expensive mistake. Creating the moulds is a huge investment, so getting it wrong sets us back up to £70,000. We developed a tableware range which didn't work out. Products like bowls and salad servers are too decorative for us. We stuck with it for two years but have stopped making any more tableware.

Not recognising the huge problem of counterfeiting early on

Deciding to manufacture in China has been great because it's cheap and has great trade routes. But a huge problem with China is counterfeits. We didn't invest in IP protection early on and we ended up in a two-year legal battle with a Chinese factory just to get the name Joseph Joseph back. Counterfeiting costs us a huge amount of money in lost sales. Now we've got an in-house IP lawyer who speaks Chinese and we take a pro-active approach, but it's something we should have done earlier.

Slow hiring

We left it quite late to employ people. Joseph Joseph grew very quickly and suddenly we needed a financial director. Two years ago we only had about 10 employees - now we have 66.

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