Muddy Meets: Emily Anderson
Business owner, St Agnes resident and mother of three - we caught up with Emily Anderson to chat work, play and what's in her secret address book.
With the news that St Agnes has been named the best place to live in Cornwall in our Best Places to Live vote, we’ve been speaking to some of the owners of the brilliant businesses that make this village on Cornwall’s north coast such a great place to live.
Emily Anderson lives in the village with her husband and three children – plus, we like to imagine, a whole houseful of plants, after all, she runs two plant related businesses as well as a design studio and surf board factory/cafe. We caught up with her to talk ahead of International Women’s Day.
Four businesses? How did you end up with so many?!
I studied Graphic Design at Falmouth Uni and after graduating set up a design studio in St Agnes, producing brand led videos. We’ve been all over the world working on projects of every size and within every industry for the past 12 years.
How did you end up running Open (the surf shop/ cafe)?
Also in Wheal Kitty alongside our studio (near Surfers Against Sewage) was an independent surfboard factory which had been producing boards for 25 years – but in 2017 it was facing closure. We took it on, realising we needed to radical change the business in order to keep it alive. We opened up the space – literally and metaphorically, and even in name, serving great coffee alongside surf related products – and making it a place which people who weren’t hardcore surfers could also feel comfortable visiting. The back half of the factory has been kept as a working factory and this is where we still build surfboards by the world’s best independent shapers. We also make custom boards, service ding repairs and host workshops where you can learn to build your own board.
What about the plants, what inspired those?
During the first UK lockdown we had to close the factory and it was a hard time. We’ve always stocked houseplants in Open, so when the announcement was made that garden centres could re-open we saw an opportunity. We took a huge risk and ordered in about 3000 houseplants. It was terrifying! We were totally amazed to sell out of pre-booked tickets for our opening weekend. The feeling was positive, it was uplifting and it allowed us to keep the lights on and our staff employed. Incredibly we hosted another 12 long weekend events at Open over the summer season, selling out of each one.
As a result of how successful these were we’ve decided to take another huge plunge and separate out the houseplants as a new business with the aim of connecting people to plants, their homes and their communities.
During these summer plant sale weekends, I realised the combination that always did the best was the String of Hearts in these pretty little rose and grey coloured pots. Simple but beautiful. They seemed to be loved by others too, so much so that we couldn’t keep them in stock. It got me thinking what a great gift they make. These characterful little plants that pack a punch of sentiment and keep growing. They’re easy to care for and become a part of your family, so I started sending them to friends and family myself.
Not the ideal time to form a new business is it, a worldwide pandemic?
I was edgy at best and I also noticed the same unease in my family and friends. It made me think a lot about how we need each others love, kindness and support, now more than ever. In the end, the thing that convinced me to bring Little Pots to life was the thought that it could have some small positive effect on people’s wellbeing and in turn have a positive knock-on effect to the people around them. I like the idea that I can create a business that encourages people to think about others – I also created The String of Kindness, a sort of pay if forward random acts of kindness.
What is your day to day working life like?
With 3 young children (7,5 and 3) it’s busy. Since I launched Little Pots I have only ever run it with my children around me. So I generally work into the evening handwriting the cards for the following day’s orders, then I get up early in the morning to pack pots whilst the children are happy having breakfast and watching cartoons! Once I’ve packed the pots I head up to Open where the courier currently collects them from (although this is about to change as I will be sharing a warehouse with the plant business very soon).
It’s then usually outside time with the children either at the beach, walking in the woods or bike riding. In the afternoon it’s time for some homeschool. Once they’re in bed I then get back onto orders / emails and planning.
Has anything changed at all for you during this last year?
Conversely to what I’d imagine lots of people might be thinking, the lockdown and pandemic has given me more drive and ambition to create something for me. Something that I can solely call my own, that I’m totally responsible for, that enriches and betters my working life and therefore fulfils a part of me. This business is a huge part of that alongside our other businesses.
It’s funny – when people ask me how I do it all (as there are no two ways about it, it’s a huge commitment and enormous juggle) I really don’t feel like I do. Instead, I really do feel grateful to have a focus, to have something to look forward to and to have something positive in my day to day working life. Something I can control and see the effects of my work on.
Do you think being a female business owner makes a difference?
Being a female business owner is empowering but also hard. Without a doubt, the balance of looking after my children whilst also striving to fulfil myself creatively is something that I’m constantly working on.
I think Cornwall is an amazing place to run a business as the creative / entrepreneurial community is so strong. The diversity of businesses and people running them is wide and inspiring, so you never feel alone in your endeavours. I think this is probably quite unique to Cornwall.
There is a huge amount of support for female business owners. I think, in my experience, most of them are online through Instagram in particular. From my perspective the pandemic has helped with networking by removing the barriers that might have previously been there. It’s human nature to want to connect with and be surrounded with like minded people, so when we’re stuck at home reaching out online be it through sharing knowledge, online classes or just commenting on posts of what others are doing is really important and even more accessible now. That support is there if you seek it out and you actively engage with it.
And what about your Cornish favourites? Any good places near St Agnes to share?
My favourite Cornish view is from the Beacon in Aggie. Looking all the way down to St Ives and up to Trevose Head (and on a clear day across to Falmouth) is just breathtaking. Views like that calm my mind and I instantly feel myself exhale.
As a family we love the outdoors. We bike, walk, surf, swim. I personally walk a huge amount but one of my resolutions this year is to get in the water more and swim. I’m also keen to kayak or paddleboard so that I can explore more of our beautiful coastline from a different perspective.
When your first visitors arrive in Cornwall post lockdown, where are you taking them first?
I’d take them down to Zennor and drive along the barren, winding coast road to Sennen. Pure wild, inhibited beauty, it’s just breathtaking.
Go on, let us into your secret address book!
My favourite cafe would have to be The Potager in Constantine. Set in beautiful, mature gardens, it is a world away from the wild north coast. Willow and Stone would have to be my favourite shop, aside from being the first place I worked when I was a student at Falmouth Uni, Sarah never fails to curate the most beautiful collection of homewares and gifts.