Podcast: Claire Watkin, Managing Director of The Fine Bedding Company

February 9, 2023 Sophie Colquhoun

For our latest podcast episode, we spoke to Claire Watkin, Managing Director of Trendsetter and The Fine Bedding Company, a fourth generation family business. 

We discuss Claire becoming Managing Director at just 29, the dynamics of a family business, creating opportunities for their employees in Estonia, and launching in the US. 

Plus, we cover sustainability and how (and why) they became B-Corp certified, the importance of employee happiness, their mission of making the finest bedding for the best night's sleep and so much more.

Thank you, Claire, for providing a great insight into running a business that is focused on people, planet and product.

We hope you enjoy this episode!

Listen to the full episode below: 

Or, if you prefer you can read the transcript below: 

Sorcha O’Boyle: On the podcast with me today is Claire Watkin. She’s Managing Director of Trendsetter and The Fine Bedding Company which is a fourth-generation family business which she joined at 22 and took over at the tender age of just 29. Now I love hearing about family businesses, so I’ve been really looking forward to speaking with you Claire.

So, listen Claire like I said I’m delighted to have you on. Could you just tell us a little bit about the business? Who set it up? What do you do? How did you get involved? What’s the story?

Claire Watkin: Well originally my great grandfather set up the business back in 1912 and we were a business producing mattresses and pillows for the ship liners going from Liverpool to America. So obviously that’s a long time ago. More recent history is that my dad bought out the bit that was making the mess, which I think was feathers flying everywhere and they were due to close that down. So, my dad came along and said, “Right, I think I can do something with this”. And then Trendsetter was born back in the 1970’s. And so, he’s a bit of a sort of machine developer entrepreneur, developing new bedding all the time and it’s very much in his blood about innovation. And so, we produced machinery that produced new duvets and pillows and they were kind of an up-and-coming thing back then. And more recently the positionings very much been about that kind of premium bedding, you know, focusing on all the attributes for a really good night’s sleep which so much of us, love, want, and sometimes don’t always get.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yes, yes, absolutely. So, tell me who else in your family is involved? Do you have brothers and sisters, aunts, and uncles in it?

Claire Watkin: Well, there’s no aunts and uncles, just my dad is, he’s chairman now aged 79, still as switched on as ever for any calls but mainly retired and then my brother-in-law is involved as Sales Director, he looks after all of our independent customers and apart from that there’s not so much sort of family interaction although I do have four sisters who are a little bit more involved now because we’ve sort of moved to sort of focus on the next generation.

Sorcha O’Boyle: And one question that I always find quite interesting about family businesses obviously aside from the legacy but how do you separate family relationships and business relationships?

Claire Watkin: As you’ve pointed out I’ve sort of been doing this since I was 22, so 22 years later you sort of find your ways of working together. So, there’s moments when there’s a lot of chat about business. Dinner time has always been a time where chat about business is banned which is very sensible, I think, and I have my times when I sort of phone my dad to give him an update. And so, you kind of find this natural rhythm and then there might be a time where actually there’s more for you to discuss. Sort of ups and downs, obviously we’ve been through quite a few over the last three years and those times you’re talking about much more and more regularly. But I think you have to find that balance otherwise the rest of the family can be bored stiff or rather frustrated. But I think there’s a genuine interest from all our family of what we do, and I think with social media now they’re all watching as much as anything, every post we make, and they’re so enthused about the products and talking to their friends about it. Who doesn’t like to talk about sleep and getting more of it?

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, for sure because my dad is actually self-employed as well, so family business was all very much part of our lives as well, although we were less good at banning [Inaudible 00:03:54] at the dinner table. It always seemed to kind of come into dinner table chat. It is funny when you kind of get, everybody’s quite very, very much reinvested, and very, you know, so much of your family life revolves around this business. When things are good it’s great but when things are not so good it’s difficult because you can kind of go, it’s hard to switch off sometimes.

Claire Watkin: Oh, really hard, really hard to switch off but actually I find that with a lot of the people that work with us as well and you know yourself you’ve got to get this balance of family and business and that you can’t let work dominate your life, you’ve got to have a balance. But I get even more worried when I see it in our employees and you think, “Hang on a minute, you’ve been working this weekend”. And I can see from emails etc., and you think, “This doesn’t”. You’ve got it, you’ve got to work with everybody it’s not necessarily just a family business, but I think it’s very difficult for anyone to completely switch off or maybe I just don’t know how to from what dominates your working life. And we do do it because in essence we hope to enjoy it. That’s the principle that I think’s really important you’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing. So, it is difficult to walk away from it at the end of the day and dog walks are good for clearing the mind.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yes, and the soul.

Claire Watkin: Absolutely.

Sorcha O’Boyle: And tell me, did you feel a pressure to join the family business? Was it always the plan or did you fall into it?

Claire Watkin: So, it’s funny because around 16 which is actually when my dad joined the business, he left school at 16 and dad started to talk to me about joining the family business 15, 16, year old. Obviously, teenage there’s no way I would do anything that my dad suggested. And so, I was sort of science background and so with the careers sort of advice, it was like, “Oh science, medicine makes sense”. So, I sort of pursued that with work experience and put my application in and my first interview day I realised that I really didn’t want to work in a hospital, though I loved working with people. So that really changed direction and I ended up going to university and doing something I was really passionate about which someone said if you want to do something do it that you’re passionate about and that was biology, with ecology and zoology and it’s really weird that years later that’s come back into my life with the environmental focus which I’m really, really, happy about. But no, after that I went on, I did a master’s in marketing, I did some market research and we were just setting up the factory in Estonia and my dad said, “Well, why don’t you go and have a look at it?” He sort of sprung this opportunity and so I did and I was so fascinated by travelling, I did a lot of travelling around that age, and I joined as sort of development manager that was going out to factories overseas, seeing set up of our factory in Estonia and so it really went from there but you kind of, you don’t really think about it, and then all these years later, you’ll like, “I’m still here”, and so are other people which is great.

Sorcha O’Boyle: And actually, speaking of Estonia I think you went out and you brought your family out to Estonia, didn’t you?

Claire Watkin: Yes so just after my son was born he was six months old so I had a bit of time off, you never have quite as much as you would like perhaps and we had a change of director over there and I went not to run it because that would have been a disaster because my brain is not wired to processes and doing things in a linear way so, it would have been chaos if I was in charge. But we had someone out there. My husband was actually working as an engineer developing some new machinery for us so he was travelling out anyway and so we thought it was an ideal opportunity to experience living in Estonia. Because I suppose at that point, I’d been travelling out there for 15 years but you go and you’re there for three days and you’re gone again or a week and you’re gone again so you never really get a proper feel for the country and to really get to know people, to have friends over there. Because it is a really beautiful country, it’s got a fantastic recent history and development and independence and I think with all of that it brought much more understanding and this is somewhere that I’ve been visiting for a long time but I really, truly, didn’t understand. And I think you’re always learning; you’ll never completely understand unless you’re from Estonia and that’s the same with many countries. But, to get to know people much more was really important and a real opportunity for us and fun for the family as well at the same time with the winter temperatures and the summer sun, it’s wonderful. That was a real experience for us and something really special that we’d love to repeat one day with the children.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yes, I’m sure, I’m sure. And when you have, kind of getting a better understanding of people and relationships and things has it changed how you approach that part of the business in terms, you know, with your factory or did it give you a better understanding of it or-?

Claire Watkin: There’s always that risk that if your manufacturing is further away from you in a different country because years ago our manufacturing was in Oldham in the north of the UK. So, you literally, I started my job on the production floor and you knew most of the people, you knew their families, you knew how they were linked to each other because inevitably there’s loads of families across the work force and when you’re at a distance you don’t have that understanding of your teams. And actually, we’ve just been doing a really nice piece this year about the families within our factory in Estonia now and of course there’s loads of relatives because someone will come as a temporary worker, you know, they’ll have a permanent place and then they’ll say, “Oh, there’s a new job” and family and friends and children, we’re part of the community. We’re a relatively big employer in Estonia in the region we’re in, even though we’re 140 people. So, we have quite a significant impact on the local economy in terms of tax payments and employment and they’re actually really good at recognising that and working with us sort of the government rather than kind of employees and you recognise more of your contribution. And also, the activities that you do locally with engaging the schools, engaging teachers to come round, looking at skills development. But actually, there’s so much that we learn from the Estonian team as well because they’re very computer literate, the education level is very good, at least 50% of our team speaks English pretty much fluently as well. There’s a lot that we’re learning and it’s a really good relationship in that way.

Sorcha O’Boyle: One thing that really, I think, jumps out to me about the business is that you seem to be very, very, conscious about your social purpose. When I say that I include obviously environmental things as well, like when you’re talking about engaging schools in Estonia and whether it’s, I know your B Corp certified and various things like that. Was that always part of the business or is that something you’ve brought in in recent years? How has that developed?

Claire Watkin: I think it’s something that I’ve really been focused on as my dad was focused on it because your own kind of local factory, your employing people, you see the impact on all of them and their families. You go through and you see the challenges that they’re living through so you’re very much aware and when you’re setting up new suppliers, so we’ve been buying out of China for example for probably 40 years but in the very early days the conditions were not great. So, before we could even start sourcing anything we had to work with suppliers who actually reach a level of better living conditions, working conditions and make sure everything was as our customers would expect it before we could even place an order. And that was quite a difficult journey to get suppliers on but actually it’s meant that 40 years later we’re still working with some of those suppliers because they’ve learnt that if they do make these changes, you know, employees stay longer, they win other business, it makes a greater impact on others. So, I think the social focus and purpose is quite innate in the business now because also like-minded people joined the business and that’s the same from the environmental point of view, people who have really kind of aligned values who want to have more impact, who want to be respected in their roles and given opportunities because ultimately that’s what we’re doing is really working together and you can only achieve it together, all your plans basically.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And can you tell me why, why did it matter to you to get your B Corp certification?

Claire Watkin:  Well, I think that I came across B Corp in 2016 at a sustainable brands event and I hadn’t heard of it before then and I guess it was actually quite in it’s infancy anyway and I just thought it completely aligned with our values and it was this sort of moment were you could see the other brands that were already B Corp and I guess at that point probably there were less than 500 I guess. And I just thought it’s the focus on the social, the environment, the community all of these things are things that we’d been looking at but there’s never been a framework that we’ve been looking at in terms of what we report and also what we aim to achieve. What we’ve always focused on is doing the right thing, what we feel is the right thing and what can make the business better or our impact better, but we probably wouldn’t have used the word impact back then. It’s just our ambition to do things better basically. I sort of came across it and I thought, well this completely aligns not only to my values but my dad’s and the rest of the businesses. And so it became a sort of guiding light that you met other B Corps and that B Corp community, the engagement, the energy that you get and the ambition to change things, to do things better, and it’s a real learning process from others that you get, you learn something that someone else has done and you think “Oh, will that work in our business”, and could we do that and I feel that we’re not doing enough over here but I’ve seen those guys doing that and it’s kind of really exciting from that point of view of just engaging with a community that’s really pushing things forward and making change.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, yeah and I think so often it’s that learning from your peers that’s like by far the most valuable thing and that community that you create with them. What kind of sustainability standards for example did you have to meet.

Claire Watkin: So, to become B Corp you actually have to complete a questionnaire which is like over 300 questions and then you tick yes to one question and then a million more pop up. So, it’s looking at different areas so governance, social impact, environmental impact, community impact and then it’s looking at within that each different area has a number of questions of what are you doing to support your employees, are you paying the minimum wage, what are the other benefits, you know, parental leave for instance. So, there’s a lot of different questions for each different area of which you kind of grade yourself and then you obviously have to provide at a later stage evidence of what you’re doing. How you’re working with suppliers for example and what environmental things you’re doing as regards to products that you’re making as well. So, all of these are scored, and you have to meet a minimum score of 80 points to become a B Corp. So actually, it was a really good process in actually evaluating what we were doing as well and for me it’s also a really good way of actually translating what we’re about. Because I’m so aware of there’s so much greenwashing coming through and actually this is a really good way of saying, “These are the things we’re doing”, and it’s also about saying there’s more that we need to do. And it’s talking not just about the good things you’re doing but the areas where you’ve got challenges as well.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, brilliant and kind of related to think I think you’re involved in the Better Business Act, could you tell me a little bit about that?

Claire Watkin: Yeah well, I think they’re very much aligned and sort of there’s a lot of crossovers in terms of signatories. So, there’s 1500 people that are signatories of the Better Business Act and it’s basically looking at the triple bottom line that it’s people, planet and profit and basically lobbying parliament for a change that all businesses should be looking at their impact not just on profit but also social and environmental impact as well. Because obviously, we’re well aware of the various case studies were either the environment or people have been cast aside essentially in favour of profit and you see it time and time again. And this is about lobbying parliament for a change in that but also generating that kind of awareness. So, it would sit with directors to be responsible for that triple bottom line. So again, highly engaged businesses really looking to change what we’re doing and to do things better.

Sorcha O’Boyle: If you were to speak to a business who is looking to improve on the impact of their social purpose. If they kind of said I feel like I’m doing stuff that feels right to me but maybe I need to talk to others and understand where the standards are a little bit better, what would you tell them to do?

Claire Watkin: Well, it depends where they’re at, at the journey. If they’re just at the beginning they just haven’t looked at it at all. It’s kind of looking at what you are doing and then actually, as you say, does it feel right or should there be more. But then actually using something like the BIA which is the [TBC 00:16:42] Impact Assessment that’s really good little tool for just looking at social impact. You can sign up, it’s free to use and a lot of people use it just to actually see, what are you doing, but also it gives you all those things that what was does good look like. It’s a fairly good way of just sort of assessing yourself. But I think also another step is to engage with businesses that have done it before because actually they’re so motivated everyone wanted to talk about it more, to share some ideas and I find that a lot of people are just keen to share and talk through and if you’re kind of wanting to take it a step further towards B Corp or anything like that obviously there’s a lot of work to kind of look at all the various aspects of your business. We started it during the pandemic so we were a little bit quieter than usual as you might say. So, we didn’t get external help but in hindsight there are B leaders out there and they help you and you can just have a quick chat with these guys as well and take things from there. So I think there’s plenty of help out there, it’s just sort of getting started and not being afraid to discuss things and I think we all recognise that there is no perfect and nobody’s got it nailed. We’re all looking to make further improvements so their just starting the conversation is a great part of the journey.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, yeah, I actually, I really, I think you’re spot on there because there’s a saying isn’t it that perfect is the enemy of progress or something like that. It’s often people are trying to be perfect and then they kind of put themselves into a paralysis of trying to do everything and then not being able to do it as good as they would want to. So yeah, I think you’re spot on, just starting is often (AF 00:18:15) yeah. I know you’re just back from the US where you were for a couple of weeks. Can you tell me what were you doing up there?

Claire Watkin: So I was over for three weeks actually it was one of those that if you’re going to do something. I was convinced with long discussions with my husband and other family members because obviously young children it’s quite difficult to travel for that amount of time but actually having not been able to travel so much through the pandemic, to really kind of focus on the market and there were a couple of events out there at the same time that I wanted to attend. So yeah, we’re just starting up in the US. We’ve launched one of our keys ranges which is called Night Lark. It’s had to change it’s name and it will be changing in the UK from Night Owl to Night Lark the joys of IP and name.

Sorcha O’Boyle: [TBC: Oh yes lovely. 00:19:01]

Claire Watkin: So yeah, it’s evolving, the bird is evolving and it’s actually coverless duvets and so they’re great because you don’t have to change the cover so there’s a lot of people who love the concept of actually not having to change the covers and just putting the whole thing in the washing machine and it coming out and drying really quickly.

Sorcha O’Boyle: I’ve never heard of that, is that kind of a big thing [TO 00:19:21]

Claire Watkin: Yeah, no so we launched them in the UK, I don’t know three/four years ago and yeah I mean now we’re sort of, we’re 3000 kind of reviews on one product range that people absolutely love it. They’re onto their third, fourth, fifth and it’s also that, you know, it’s a product that goes from age three to literally 99-year-olds, we’ve got reviews not from the 99-year-olds but from you know the-.

Sorcha O’Boyle: But the three-year-olds probably.

Claire Watkin: Nor the three-year-olds for that matter, yeah, you’re right. It’s about making life easier I mean, you know, even I love my bedding, but I hate changing the sheets and everybody gets into that like with their husband or partner, they’re like, “Who’s changing the sheets?” and who’s going to go bed first because it’s going to be them. Anyway, so the joy of the product is that you just put the whole thing into the washing machine, and we’ve just launched a range of children’s designs. So, we started off with some very subtle colours and now we’re getting more fun and there’s three or four children’s designs and we’re actually printing the covers in our factory now so that we can go straight into the production. So, it’s actually a really exciting kind of new design era. I go through all these eras and now I have to learn about design, which is like, many people will be listening to this and going “You can’t just learn about that in sort of a week”. Buy anyway it’s obviously about finding the people around us that do know about design. So that’s the product actually so we’re launching in US they call them all comforters, but the great thing is that we’ve got something that’s really different to the rest of the market which you wouldn’t expect going over to the US, you’d kind of expect them to have it all. But this is a product that we developed ourselves, it’s a unique filling that we have and it’s that quality standard that we’re really proud of that you wash them and wash them, but they still endure all the challenges and people literally take them everywhere with them as well so they’re great for the RV community in the US as well.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Oh yes, of course.

Claire Watkin: It’s a digital kind of proposition first all with our website nightlark.com and then growing with Amazon. It’s a long burn. I’m well aware the journey in the US is, there’s a lot to learn just about the States and different consumer needs across those. So, it’s all about starting in the right places and growing it kind of bit by bit.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And are you live in the States already?

Claire Watkin: Yes, yes, we are live and we’re also live with Amazon as well and we’re about to go live with one of the main retail chains as well so I’m just waiting. Waiting on IT connections which is the joy of having a small team and having to do everything and they’re amazing our team. But IT connections are the things that generally slow business down these days.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, there’s some things can only operate at a certain speed, and you just have to be patient.

Claire Watkin: I know, absolutely. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sorcha O’Boyle: And tell me how have consumers responded so far or is it too early to tell?

Claire Watkin: A little bit early to tell because we launched literally just sort of before Black Friday because of the IT connections so there’s just no point sort of putting anything into it during Black Friday. So it’s more building now and into the New Year. But, you know, it’s okay, there’s a lot to do and there’s obviously our core business as well that we’re running too. So, it’s an exciting time and it’s bringing efficiencies and to the rest of the business and yeah, that’s great.

Sorcha O’Boyle: And how’s it bring efficiencies to the rest of the business?

Claire Watkin: Well, I mean obviously when you’re operating a factory, you’re always looking to bring volume efficiencies and so it helps with printings of fabrics for instance that you’re reaching certain minimums and you can just kind of produce different sizes and longer runs etc., and you’re not changing over your machines as often and yeah, all the production efficiencies that your kind of been aiming at.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, I know we kind of touched briefly on design, what percentage of your time is on design work, versus strategic stuff, versus production stuff. It’s impossible [TO 00:23:12]

Claire Watkin: I’d say probably not a lot of time on design actually because we’re sort of going step by step, we’ve just installed our printing machine. So we’ve got people within the business who spend much more time on design but it is one area where I’ve got opinions which I have to admit are not always right so I have to listen to those around me because, you know, other people, it’s not about my personal choice it’s about understanding what the consumer would like and actually we’ve got great kind of crossed segment within our business of lots of people with families and all are quite highly engaged with social media which I’ve got to say I’m not the best. So, it’s taking different peoples views and obviously we’ve got proper designers working on it as well who’ve got a good experience and who really know what they’re doing rather than sort of amateurs like me.

Sorcha O’Boyle: It strikes me that you take a very collaborative approach to leadership. Do you think that’s right?

Claire Watkin: Yes, it’s just not my style and actually funny enough it’s not my dad’s style to just come along so much I think, maybe he’s changed, but to come along and instruct someone to do something because I’m more of ideas person I’m not very good with sort of the following up with people as to where things are at. I’m not a structured thinker, I am more kind of, you know, the brains going all over the place. So, you realise your own weaknesses and really you have to have people around you who are really strong at what they do because that’s where the kind of power of the business comes and we’ve got really mixed teams in terms of how everybody likes to work, and everybody brings something different, and you can always put yourself in that more awkward it’s not your style to do something. You can do it but not for sustained periods. So, the collaboration is key for us, it’s actually one of our key values that we focus on. It’s about supporting each other as well and also, we collaborate not just internally but with suppliers, long standing relationships, that’s how we work on certain innovations, you know, get first access to some innovations as well through collaborations. But from a customer point of view, we have very long-standing relationships, older than I am, with some of our retail partners. So, that’s kind of incredible in this day and age and that’s been through collaboration, a partnership and working together on innovation and what does the consumer ultimately need and how do we get there because that’s what makes successful business.  

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, for sure and it’s as we’ve kind of come into a more challenging economic outlook it’s those kind of values that will stand to you, and it’s those kind of businesses that will survive and thrive during more difficult times, I think. Could you tell me a little bit, obviously you’re taking the expansion to the US, so you’re actually develop a market there, but how are you I suppose protecting or insulating the business now that things are becoming more challenging and obviously, you know, with your factory in Estonia and I'm sure the war in Ukraine will have an impact on that as well and [Inaudible 00:26:01] chain and so on, so what kind of steps are you taking to protect the business.

Claire Watkin: It’s been a heck of a rollercoaster hasn’t it the last couple of years and you think “Oh, we’re over that one”, oh not we’re not, we’ve got 20 people off in the factory with Covid at the moment. So, Covid’s still here of course and we’ve to look after the health of our employees as number one. So, there’s a lot of things to juggle and we went through a period of huge growth in the pandemic we grew 50% last year and that brings some challenges in terms of structure and reinvestment actually, we’ve reinvested, we’ve got a new IT system that is being developed and installed, should go live at the end of January. That’s a huge project but that’s about giving us better transparency within the business and yeah, the challenges are huge and actually when you’re sort of been through that rapid growth a lot of what we’re focused on is actually how do we simplify things? How do we make it simpler? Obviously, everybody watches their cash very closely, their finances, their stock and it’s saying, looking at everything, does this really work for us as a business? And sort of really sense checking everything and I think there’s a huge number of challenges that you’re always looking at. We’ve been through many recessions actually and the funny thing about duvets is you don’t rush out in the good times to buy them and it’s quite a needs based thing that you’re looking at. There are obviously benefits that people are investing in. So yeah, there’s a huge amount, it’s like where do I start? It's constant business challenge and the war in Ukraine has obviously had a huge impact on our business, not necessarily on Estonia as a country but certainly on the people because many have got family and friends living in Ukraine. So that’s been really traumatic for a number of our Estonian employees, just making sure their families are safe, literally collecting them from the border when the war broke out and so actually, you know, we were able to sort of support with bedding as people were evacuating throughout the country and into Warsaw for example and providing jobs, we’ve got 15 of the 140 are actually from Ukraine including a 17-year-old boy who came on his own. And you’re providing sort of some community because they can speak in Russian many Estonians still speak Russian so there is an ability to communicate with each other and provide some stability. It’s not ideal but at least it gives some focus during the day. So yeah, it’s been a huge disruption and even now it’s certainly front of the mind more in Estonia I think than perhaps it is in the UK.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure, I mean that, it’s obviously great that you are actually on the [Inaudible 00:28:45] you have practical things that you can do whether it’s giving bedding or giving work and things like that. That must, I’m sure that makes a big difference to people, you know, who are just dealing with traumatic thing.

Claire Watkin: Yeah, I think it is and when you hear the stories of people arriving you think, “Well at least we can do a little bit, it’s not a lot, but it’s a little bit”. And I think it’s just more so for the teams out in Estonia as well because it’s affecting everybody and perhaps brings them together closer. Yeah, so, changing times.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, for sure and speaking of changing times let’s maybe put a little bit more off an upbeat note. Can you tell me what are you most looking forward to for the business because obviously you’ve come through tough times, but you have seen 50% growth, so things are exciting.

Claire Watkin: Yeah, it is exciting because what we’re seeing is more brand growth and that’s really exciting because it’s about communication to the consumer about what we do and the benefits of the product and really learning and engaging and hearing more back about what do people need and people being much more vocal about the products that they need and where existing products might fall short. So there’s a really exciting kind of piece around the brand development, going international, we’ve got a strong business also that’s grown into the Middle East. But ultimate we love products; we love making new products. We love finding kind of new solutions and working with customers to kind of if it’s a retail partner to find something that really works for them. There’s all the challenges still around how do we achieve our environmental goals, how do we reduce reliance on cotton, how do we find the next generation of filling and really move the business on and kind of our environmental impact. So we just kind of love looking at what can we do better that’s where we get our real excitement. We’re really passionate about duvets and pillows, we really are the kind of product experts and absolute geeks so kind of proudly a geek in that respect.  

Sorcha O’Boyle: I love geeks. Actually, speaking of product development, I love the idea of your smart temperature range. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Claire Watkin: Yeah, so actually one of the main problems people have in sleeping is getting too hot and sweaty, ultimately, which is pretty grim but the temperature fluctuates through the night and then there’s obvious points in life perimenopause and menopause where, you know, hot sweats can come in and I think the great thing at the moment is obviously there’s so much more dialogue about menopause and finding solutions rather than I think of my poor mum who basically did come across on HRT. But now it’s like well there are solutions out there and sleep is one of the major areas that people loose out on during perimenopause and menopause. So what this range does and it’s for anybody who’s got sleep issues because of temperature so it can be summer season, men have a completely different metabolic rate than women so partners are battling each other for a warmer, cooler, duvet etc. So, what it’s providing is, it takes away excess heat when you get really hot and then it, I know it’s a sort of base change material which then gives it back when you need it. And then there’s the kind of moisture wicking element because actually if moisture builds up in the microclimate again that’s when you get too hot and sweaty, kicking off covers. It’s basically helping achieve much better temperature control for a better nights sleep basically and so we’ve got some really great feedback from people who are using it. I mean you still can’t sleep under a 13.5 tog in the middle of summer, you’ve got to adapt that bit, but it really helps with better sleep, and you know, you just don’t want to be having those triggers that wake you up if for instance you’re struggling with anxiety that’s when you wake up and you’re awake for a couple of hours.

Sorcha O’Boyle: It’s basically magic is what you’re saying. It can keep you warm [TO 00:32:29]

Claire Watkin: Oh no there’s good science, there’s good science in it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We do a lot of product testing to make sure things work and there’s a lot of user trials which is great I can, literally I’m surrounded by duvets everywhere if only you could see the other side of the camera and if this was a video instead of a podcast.

Sorcha O’Boyle: I loved that chat that was great, I love hearing about family businesses, how they develop. I love hearing how excited you are about duvets.

Claire Watkin: I know about going to sleep and waking up. Yeah, I am very passionate about them and then any way of finding nice bedding as well, it’s a real joy. So just bringing better sleep to people basically.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Do you know actually you’re making me want to go to bed. [TO 00:33:10]

Claire Watkin: Well hopefully I’ve not put everybody to sleep maybe just challenged them to think, why did I buy my duvet. Anyway.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed also speaking particularly about the social purpose and how you engage with the communities that you work with and people on the production floor and so on. I think a lot of people listening will have learned a lot and maybe had a few ideas popped into their heads. [TO 00:33:30]

Claire Watkin: Well certainly where people want to discuss ideas and feedback, very open to that and we can only learn from each other. What can we do better basically, so that’s what we’re aiming to do is always focus on how can we improve more and get that feedback from others.    

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, super. Brilliant. Alright well Claire thank you so much and I’m sure we’ll talk again soon.

Claire Watkin: Great and really good to speak with you today. Thank you so much, really enjoyed it.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Me too. Thank you. Bye.

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