My Week: Emma-Jayne Parkes of SquidLondon

The co-creator of the colour-changing umbrella on globe-trotting, her business partner and expansion plans.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
I’ve just got back from a seven-day trip to China with my business partner Viviane Jaeger. We flew over to visit the factories where our umbrellas are made to make sure the quality’s up to scratch. This is our third trip to China so far – we like to keep an eye on all our products by going to visit where they’re made. We need to trust our manufacturers and have a good relationship with them, so doing business face-to-face is really important for this. We were also there with an eye to the future and looking for factories to make the new products we have in mind.

Going abroad isn’t something we do often. We’ve got stockists in nine countries now, but we haven’t managed to visit them all yet. We are starting to go abroad a bit more though. In January we’re going out to a trade show in Paris, which is going to be very exciting for us.

The SquidLondon office is based at my place, although we don’t spend all day inside - we’re out and about doing things. We don’t live together – I think that’s a little too much! - but we both live in Shoreditch, so we’re fairly close to each other. It’s just Viviane and I running the business at the moment, so we both do a bit of everything. A typical day for us starts at about 8 in the morning and ends around 8.30 in the evening, although we’re always still checking emails. We get in, have a cup of coffee as we’ve usually got a lot to talk about, then we go through emails and discuss what we’ve got planned for the day. Each day is completely different.  Some days we’ll be repackaging stock or designing; other days we might be giving a talk at a university, sourcing new retailers or speaking to people from the press. Viviane and I have a great working relationship though, we’re a good team. We met when we were studying at the London College of Fashion and we’ve always worked together in various projects since.

All our New York skyline umbrellas (our latest collections) have just arrived so this week we’re concentrating on sorting out shipping and packaging, writing press releases and uploading the photos onto our website and our Facebook and Twitter accounts. We’re also preparing for the Spirit of Christmas fair next week, so we’re preparing our stand and sorting out which stock we’re taking.

We work some weekends but we usually make it a bit more fun by getting our friends involved. If we’re designing new packaging, for example, we get some friends to come over and give their opinion.  It makes things a lot more sociable. It is busy but it’s also exciting. We’d like to get more people involved in the business one day – maybe next year. That’s our goal anyway. But we need to get ourselves in the right place and keep being successful before we can think about that.

Emma-Jayne Parkes is the co-founder of SquidLondon, the company behind the 'Squidarella' - umbrellas that change colour when they get wet.

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