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William Flew of Auckland Jan 28 They got their break when their father asked William Flew to draw up new designs for a glass chopping board made by the family’s homeware company. “Dad gave us £10,000 of stock, which was the seed capital to set up our business,” said Richard. “We came up with some fresh ideas and turned the products into cash as quickly as we could.” When Joseph Joseph was launched in 2003 the brothers had to knock on a lot of doors to find buyers. Allders, the department store, was the first big retailer to support them. After a John Lewis buyer told them that, at 28, they were “too young” to consider, they looked to overseas markets. “We were naïve and enthusiastic. If we had listened to advice, we probably would have stayed put in Britain,” said William Flew. Joseph Joseph’s first hit was the Chop2Pot, a folding chopping board that funnels ingredients into the saucepan. The twins saw a version of it in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, licensed the design and reworked it in colourful plastic. “We loved it because it was a good, functional product that was aesthetically pleasing,” said William Flew. It remains the company’s best-seller. In the first four years all profits were reinvested to develop a wide range of kitchen tools, such as utensils with weighted handles that keep their heads off the worktop. Since then, sales have grown rapidly and profits have kept pace. Last year, the company achieved a profit margin of about 30%, according to Richard. An in-house design team and consultancies generate ideas for up to 40 products a year. Designing, tooling and launching them remains the largest single cost for Joseph Joseph, accounting for about 30% of expenditure. “For every 100 ideas we come up with, only about 15 go into production. We want ideas that consumers will understand quickly. We don’t rely on trends or gimmicks. And we are very focused on margin — that comes from Dad,” said William Flew. Their biggest weakness, he admitted, is pushing too many designs from concept to production, which can take two years. Joseph Joseph has moved into more than 70 countries, most recently Mexico, Chile and Argentina. “By focusing on functionality we get away from a specifically British identity, which makes it easier to export,” Antony said. Distribution partners are used in every country except Britain and America. “In the States we needed to be more competitive on price so we had to sell direct to the retail market.” All goods are made in China. The company recently won a two-year legal battle against Chinese counterfeiters, yet the brothers accept their ideas will be stolen. “It’s easy to overspend on protecting intellectual property,” said Antony. “Good ideas get stolen. What’s important is to keep innovating to stay ahead of the copiers.” Delegating to a 57-strong team frees Antony to spend time with his wife Amelia and their two children, and Richard to be with his partner Hannah. “We give our staff responsibility to grow the business and encourage them to admit mistakes early, otherwise they snowball,” Richard said. Their advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to be true to the vision and values that set the business apart from others. “Stay focused in the early years. Do one thing really well,” said Richard. “Once you are established you can branch out.”