The Founders Brew: Clare Harris

Founders Brew
3 mins
October 3, 2023
Better Growth

Clare Harris is the Founder & Managing Director of Talking Tables which has been accredited with B Corp certification. Founded in 1999, Talking Tables has become the go-to brand for innovative, sustainable and design-led decorations that add fun and style to every occasion.

In this edition of The Founder’s Brew, we caught up with Clare and found out what motivated her to start a business, her greatest influences and more.

Kicking off the chat, Clare discusses how she started Talking Tables. Clare explains that she knew she wanted to run her own business, so she just had to find a niche to operate in. The business idea came to her when she was entertaining guests at her home and decorating the table for various occasions “If I had people round and was doing the table at Christmas back home in Scotland with my family, I would take the party poppers, I would take a table bomb, I would take the sparklers and I realised that made the table different to every other day.”

It added excitement and it got the table talking. Hence the company name, Talking Tables.

Clare explains that at the time, in 1999, there wasn’t anywhere that you could go to buy seasonal decorations that were design-led, igniting the business idea. “As it happened, it was going to be the biggest party the world has ever known, the year 2000, the millennium.”

I thought, I want to be part of the world’s biggest party.

Clare wrote a letter to shops such as Harrods that included a few of her designs. “They just said, ‘Why not? Yeah, I want some of those.’ So the timing was good.”

When asked what is the single most important trait to have as a founder, Clare reasons that the ability to pick yourself up is important “I think it's hard to distil into a single trait, but you clearly have to be resilient. There are lots of knocks on the way. Whether a customer account doesn't go the way you want, whether a staff member leaves or has an issue that you weren't expecting. It's difficult to get through.”

Whilst Clare has numerous influences that she has learnt from, she credits her partner Mark who is her business partner and life partner as her greatest influence. “I think probably Mark because we are each other's yin and yang. We couldn't have grown the business in the manner we've grown it without his skill set. Likewise, I probably bring things to the partnership as well.” She explains that working with your partner helps you to talk about the business all weekend and every evening which some people might not like, but it works well for them.

Alongside Mark, there are many people who have influenced her business and work. “People like Laura Ashley or Anita Roddick were great influences because they were people who were doing something unique. They were both women and they had businesses that carried their value system and were very distinct on the High Street.”

Rounding up the interview, we discussed whether there was ever a point in Clare’s business journey that led her to think that she’d made it. “No, I think that would be a really dangerous thing to do. I think it isn't a given. Things can always go wrong. Relative to a lot of people, I haven’t made it so it's all against your own judgement and your own value system.” She explains that there is always more to come, so she would never stop and think that she has made it.

I would never stop and say it's done or well done. I think it's a very dangerous thing to do.

Gain more insights from our popular Founders' Brew series, with interviews with entrepreneurs such as Dominic Ponniah and Heledd Kendrick or read our latest founder events round-up to get a glimpse into the gatherings the Helm network have enjoyed.


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