How a Norwich designer combined family and fashion to create a stylish sun hat business

Emma Watson and her daughter, H who was the inspiration for Little Hotdog Watson.

Emma Watson and her daughter, H who was the inspiration for Little Hotdog Watson. - Credit: Archant

Norwich-based designer, Emma Watson, tells us why she decided to start her own business and reveals the special meaning behind the company's unique name, Little Hotdog Watson.

Little Hotdog Watson: One of the hats designed by Emma Watson. Photo: Little Hotdog Watson

Little Hotdog Watson: One of the hats designed by Emma Watson. Photo: Little Hotdog Watson - Credit: Archant

Name: Emma Watson

Age: 35

Job Title/Employer: I am the owner of Little Hotdog Watson, a children's clothing accessory business that brings together fashion and technology. We launched our first collection, Lollipop Jungle, a range of children's hats that have three special benefits: UPF50+ (uv protection), Buzz Off Technology that helps keeps mosquitos away, and Goldilocks Fabrics to keep little heads from getting too hot.

Describe your job in a nutshell: In one word VARIED. My role is firmly split between the day to day running of a business and the creativity of designing and bringing new products to market.

Little Hotdog Watson: One of the hats designed by Emma Watson. Photo: Little Hotdog Watson

Little Hotdog Watson: One of the hats designed by Emma Watson. Photo: Little Hotdog Watson - Credit: Archant

How did you get your job? After nearly ten years working in the fashion industry and the birth of my daughter, I decided I wanted a more flexible and creative role. So I set up my own business and Little Hotdog Watson successfully launched in May 2016.

What's the inspiration behind your business? My daughter is the main source of inspiration. I love fashion and I found it so frustrating that I couldn't buy stylish products/clothing for her that were also practical. After lots of research and time spent speaking to parents and grandparents, I realised there was definitely a gap. So I set about creating the business.

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What's the origin of your company name? I am one of the 20pc of women who retained my maiden name; Thompson, when I got married. I had built my career using that name. It's association with a very famous British actress has also been very helpful in getting bookings in restaurants over the years, and I am proud of my roots. In fact it was never really a question of would I change my name. This all ticked along very nicely until I became pregnant. Then the name question reared it's head. What should we call our baby. Step one was deciding on the all important first name. Step two was all about the surname. Our baby was equal parts of us and we wanted them to feel part of our family unit. After much discussion we settled on joining our surnames: Watts and Thompson, which became Watson. For us it worked and we became one family blended together.

When it came to setting up the business, holding true to my values was really important. Little Hotdog Watson is a family business and if it wasn't for the total support of both my daughter and husband it wouldn't be possible. The name Watson was key to representing this.

Hotdog stems from one of H's earliest nicknames and I love the fact that Hotdog, while meaning nothing also means absolutely everything. It's about family, pet names and how children are loved and not labelled at home, in the way they are by the high street and wider world.

What's the most enjoyable part of your work? Without a doubt its the product development. Taking an idea from paper to reality is amazing.

What's the most challenging aspect? Being patient. I firmly believe in testing all of our products to the max. This means working with labs and technicians, as well as testing everything in real life family situations. Knowing everything about the product and its performance is key to making a good product. For this level of detail it's not quick but I believe its the only way to get excellent products.

Can you tell me something I might not know about your job? My busiest time of the day is 6am and 11pm. My customers are parents (and grandparents) so they shop/email get in touch around their children which means early mornings and late nights. Luckily as I have a little girl this works well for me.

What was your first job? My first job and I absolutely loved it was in an independent shoe shop where I worked as a trained children's shoe fitter. I love shoes and throughout my years I have had the honour of working and creating footwear for adults. One of my dreams for the business is to do a footwear collection. I love that Norwich has a history of footwear and am keen to one day become part of that (I hope Startrite are listening!)

What does your ideal day at work involve? I'm very lucky that most days are great days work wise. I have a home office which means I am able to spend the morning with my daughter and then get stuck into work as soon as she goes to Nanna and Grandads or to her Aunties. I try to keep focused, the mornings are for social media/marketing and packing orders and then in the afternoon I work on planning and product development. My favourite days though are photoshoots, having all the children coming into see the products, trying them on and having fun is brilliant.

What advice would you give to others looking to pursue a similar career? Learn all you can, read, go to museums, get work experience, watch tutorials on YouTube, build your knowledge base. It's such a technical industry that the more knowledge you have the better.

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