Independent Business in the Spotlight - Hunter & Co

I met Tammy, founder of Hunter & Co a few years ago as we both started out in the world of homeware at similar times and she also happens to live in my neighbourhood. It's been so great seeing Hunter & Co grow from strength to strength and thought it would be great for our readers to find out more.

Welcome Tammy! For those who aren’t familiar with you and your work, please describe your company and the work you do.

T: Hunter & Co is an online independent homeware brand with a fresh, coastal modern style. Our homeware collection is heavily influenced by the coastal towns of California, the Hamptons and New England because we want to bring something a little different to our British shores – that feeling of crisp sunshine, cool breeze and a much deserved relaxed coastal retreat!

I’m Tammy Gow, the founder of Hunter & Co, and also Head of Marketing, IT, Product Design, Merchandising, Photography – you name it! Over the last few years, I've dedicated my time to piece together a beautifully unique collection of ceramics, limited edition art prints, handmade cushions, rugs and baskets, and interior accessories. I've strived to build trusting and loyal relationships with factories, artisans, independent artists and suppliers from all around the world to source or design pieces representing the ethos of Hunter & Co.

TFS: Where’s home?

 T: Home used to be all over the place and nowhere at the same time! I was born in Canada, my parents are from Hong Kong, I lived in HK, Singapore, America and Canada during various parts of my life, then I came to London for university and never left! London slowly wore me down and crept into my heart after all these years, with the incredible friends I’ve made and the Cockney husband I’ve met. London as my home finally became complete 3 years ago when my parents and sisters all moved to London for good.

TFS: We are big fans of your shop. What was your vision when you decided the look and feel of your products?

T: I have always dreamed of living in America (don’t ask me why!), in fact I almost went to uni there but pulled out at the last minute to go to uni in London. As such, I’ve always fantasised about American interiors and found myself buying more stuff from America and paying extortionate shipping charges, than buying from interior brands in the UK.    

Therefore, when I decided to open my own homeware store, it was a complete no-brainer that it had to reflect the relaxed coastal living vibes of California and the likes. As we see more grey clouds than anything else in this country, I thought it was appealing to be able to bring the feeling of fresh, crisp, coastal sunshine and laid back glam into our homes.

TFS: What made you decide to set up your own company?

T: The most cliche reason - my boys! I’m still working 4 days a week in Financial Services in London but I would love to have a more balanced home / work life not just on a day to day basis but throughout the year too. My husband, dad and sister are all business owners too so I guess I have a bit of entrepreneurial blood and influence from them. I really respect the passion, tenacity and grit that many small business owners have and if I can achieve a fraction of what they have from a personal development perspective, I will be happy.

TFS: What have been your biggest challenges?

 T: TIME! Finding the time to do everything that I want to do because Hunter & Co is still a side hustle for me! Its torturous thinking about the never ending to-do list for Hunter & Co and it taking me five times longer than normal because I’m sharing my time with my day job, my family life and much needed evening TV time!

TFS:  What have you found has been the most successful way to promote your business?

T: Definitely just by being me, showing me and letting people know who is behind the brand. When I first started, I wanted to pretend I was much bigger than I was with a big team behind the brand because I thought that was the only way people would trust to buy from Hunter & Co. I very quickly realised that the only way people trust you is if they know you. The more I showed myself through social media, pop up stores, market stalls and networking events, the more people understood and appreciated the brand and the collection. My brand and social media voice is also just me, my friends often comment that when they read one of my Instagram captions, they just hear Tammy speaking to them, which means a lot as I want to be authentic and real.

TFS: It’s no secret that it’s incredibly difficult for business right now, both for independents and the big names. How have you adapted your business model in response to COVID-19?

T: Ironically, this year I signed up to LOADS of physical markets and fairs as I was ready to put myself out there, face to face with customers! I’ve adapted by participating in some virtual pop ups and market evenings on Instagram, which have been really great and I’ve been really touched by the support of the Instagram community for small businesses. I hope that in the second half of this year, people will safely and comfortably return back to the high streets, markets and Christmas fairs at the end of the year as I would still love to be able to do a few of those if I can.

I’ve also never done paid marketing before but during lockdown I decided to bite the bullet and run a few Facebook and Instagram Ads as I believed that people at home were buying stuff for their homes more than anything else during these unprecedented times. And it paid off as I managed to reach loads and loads of new customers that I never would have before and it gave me confidence that as long as I can get my brand in front of people, they will like my collection and be a loyal customer. I’ve stopped my ads for now as I can’t compete against the marketing budgets of the big brands so will try to rely on other more organic and FREE ways to get my name out there!

 TFS: What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of working for yourself?

T: The advantage of working for myself is definitely to be able to unconditionally love what I do and feeling that passion to work on the business every single day, and it not feeling like work! As I am still working my day job, I don’t have the luxury yet of benefiting from working my own schedule, but I do hope that time will come one day.

The disadvantage of working for myself is being the only person to get the job done, if I have an off day or make a mistake, that’s on me and I can’t hide under the big corporate safety net. You also get major imposter syndrome where you are just treading water most of the time but have to look like you know what you’re doing, otherwise how can people trust to buy from you!

TFS: Have you managed to create a work/life balance? If so, any tips?

 T: Ha, See above! For the last 2 years, I’ve worked harder and more hours than I’ve ever worked as I do my day job, then work on Hunter & Co in the evenings or on the weekends. The ironic thing is that all business owners strive for that work/life balance but in reality you can never switch off as you are constantly thinking about your business even in your sleep! I hope to one day have that work/life balance I’ve been dreaming of so let’s circle back on this question when the time eventually comes!

TFS: Finally, what does the future hold for Hunter & Co? Any plans or are you taking it easy in these uncertain times?

T: My future dream for Hunter & Co was always to open 4 brick and mortar stores - one on each corner of London (Notting Hill, Chelsea, Blackheath and Islington), but the past few months have really scared me and actually our best month ever was during lockdown, so perhaps staying online is not the worst thing now?! In the shorter term, I am looking to make more contacts in Africa and Asia to design and curate fresh and unique pieces for our collection so watch this space!

Thank you so much for taking part Tammy! I know our readers will find this really interesting and insightful. Your ambition and drive really leaps out when I read your answers and I know big things are in store for Hunter & Co! To discover more, head over to Hunter & Co