We meet one half of CharlesTed, Kate Home-Robert, to find out how the unique interiors products online portal came to be
You grew up in Essex Kate – do you have fond memories of your childhood here?
Very much so, for me it will always be home, I loved my time there and often go back to visit friends. I used to love a trip to Lakeside as a teenager and, of course, a night out in Sugar Hut or 195!
Were you a creative child?
I would say I have always been creative. My Mum worked for a furniture business and was forever decorating and changing the furniture, so I was always able to choose pieces for my room and she let me have free rein on how I wanted my room to be.
Pre-CharlesTed, what kind of work was you involved in?
I have always been in car sales, I used to work for MINI in Chigwell. When we left the office and walked into the showroom there was a sign on the back of the door which said ‘smile you’re on stage!’ and I loved that!
How did you and Hannah [Walters, CharlesTed co-founder] meet?
We met ten years ago, not long after I moved to Shropshire and I was pregnant with my second baby. I hadn’t really made any friends and I decided to join an NHS breastfeeding class to meet other mums. There was a group of five of us who hit it off and to this day we are all still close and our children are all friends.
How did this evolve into launching your own business together?
Hannah and I always loved chatting about interiors, new trends, and we would compare pieces we had spotted. When Hannah was building her home, we had hours of chats deciding which colour she should have her cladding and how she should arrange her home’s layout.
One of our other friends is an estate agent, and around the same time she had asked us to dress some properties she was selling ready for the photographer. We quickly realised we worked as a great team and enjoyed what we were doing. As we were both on maternity leave we didn’t have much money to invest in a new business, so we each put £300 in to buy a handful of stock from one of our now main suppliers which we sold to friends and family. We reinvested the money from the sales and bought a little bit more and we carried on doing this until two and half years later when we were finally able to take a small wage!
Essentially, how would you sum up what CharlesTed offer?
We offer timeless, refined, classic pieces which make every home feel curated. Hannah and I do all of the buying and we don’t buy anything we wouldn’t have in our own homes.
It’s been almost four years since you launched the business. How do you look back on that time?
It has been a real rollercoaster and a lot of hard work! We never expected for the business to grow the way it has, and we are both constantly learning on our feet, from warehouse operations, staff management, and importing from across the world! When we started, we worked out of a tiny farm building, we never thought we would be here with our own warehouse and 13 staff.
Over the past 16 months when many of us have been stuck at home for long periods of time, have you noticed even more interest in what you offer?
Over lockdown, we launched our Interior Design Service. So many people had been asking us, and with everyone keen to make their homes and living spaces as beautiful as possible, it felt the perfect time. We have had a huge uptake in this service.
How do you source the products you sell?
Prior to the pandemic, Hannah and I travelled to Europe regularly sourcing new products, where many of our pieces come from. Sourcing has been harder as we are buying from image catalogues, but we hope to be able to visit trade shows once more again soon!
What does the future hold for CharlesTed?
We have experienced such huge growth, we are now really enjoying growing the business and taking on new roles within this. We have our first range of furniture designed by myself and Hannah arriving this summer, which will hopefully form a huge part of our core collection.