Following on from Jane’s recent post on women olderpreneurs, I was tipped of by a reader (thanks Tracy) about the revival of the Hornsey Stool, by budding female brand builder Juliet Munroe. Who remembers this cute little stool from their younger days?
Juliet found herself with time on her hands after leaving her career as a senior producer in global news for Associated Press and had a desire to do something life affirming. Fueled by a small amount of inherited money and an idea about reviving this household classic, she went about redesigning, manufacturing and marketing the original Hornsey step stool for a new generation. She now has a successful small business on her hands, with amazing press and excellent sales, despite only launching last autumn.
I asked her about how she found being entrepreneurial, being both female and a grown up woman getting involved in what looks like male dominated metal and carpentry manufacturing, was she patronized at all? “No actually, I never felt at a disadvantage being a woman and I really don’t think I was ever talked down to by the men I came across. I was ridiculously enthusiastic about what I was doing, so maybe that helped! Mostly I found the men were proud of what they did and were happy to share their knowledge and I found every one got really caught up in the process with me and liked the idea of what I was doing. It was a really lovely thing and I enjoyed the whole experience.
What was the hardest thing about getting the project off the ground? “I did find it tricky asking people to do things, I have a need to be liked, which I think is common among women and I’m sensitive to being considered annoying or a nuisance, so I found that difficult, but I just had to force myself to push through and get on with it. I sugared all my requests with multiple exclamation marks and hoped that helped!
Did it help, do you think, attempting this when you were more mature, with life experience behind you? “Yes, I think maturity gives us confidence. Also when you stop being young you’re taken a bit more seriously, people could see my enthusiasm and commitment to this humble bit of furniture. I never really felt courageous or brave about what I was doing because I loved the product so much, it actually felt very natural.”
And why did she choose now to launch herself as an entrepreneur and leave a great job in global news, “It was a combination of things, my mum died and I was left a small amount of money, which meant I could actually consider doing something like this and I was tired of working in news, which had become incredibly fast paced and processed. I was at that point of my life when I was re examining what I wanted to do next and it just felt right to be doing something on my own.”
The stool, which is £195, comes in an array of glorious colours and they are beautifully made here in the UK.
Inspiring stuff, womenfolk. How many of us have seen a great vintage design in a junk shop or antique market and thought, someone should bring that back. Well, Juliet’s proved that it can be done. The fabulous Hornsey stool can be bought directly from her website Giggy & Bab (named after two much loved aunts), and she’s happy to discuss more about the stool via email here, if you live abroad and want it shipped or have a question.
This is a charming redesign, but could she also consider doing a model a back support?
Fabulous – love the colour range. My mum still has our childhood one – going to visit her tomorrow, I will take a photo! It has been repainted many times and currently has a leatherette covered foam seat pad! I’m certain the original had a non-slip ribbed black rubber mat adhered to the top step/seat, anyone else remember this???
Love the design and the jolly bright colours, love that the company is named after the two aunts, love that it’s made in the UK, love that delivery is included in the price. Good luck to all concerned.
Goodness, that takes me back! We had a yellow one, I can still hear the squeak as the steps tipped in and out. My mum used to perch on it at our 70s kitchen/dining partition at meal times. Happy days.
A lovely stool, glad to see it back in production.
Thank you to Amanda for interviewing me, and for your lovely comments Julia, Jan, Tracy and MSD. And to those of you who ordered a stool after reading this. In answer to your question MSD, I have no plans to launch one with a back, but thank you for the suggestion.
I’m 67 and remember these stools,as my Grandmother would sit on it at the work top in the kitchen and eat her toast made from bread she made herself. (Can almost smell it now.) Really happy memories.
So glad I came across your website. I was only buying some Clarissa Bell China at the time.
Nice to have you with us Nicola! Ax