Last month we found ourselves up on the third floor of a dusty Victorian warehouse towards East London. The building was once the headquarters of lead and glass merchants, George Farmiloe & Sons, one of Clerkenwell’s longest established firms.
We were exhibiting at Best of Britannia - a 3-day event that brings together individuals and companies designing and manufacturing in the UK today. The building’s industrious origins seemed appropriate.
But this blog isn’t about the event or British-made goods. Both have been widely covered and if you didn’t make it, you should definitely go next year.
This is about Purpose.
As we chatted to our neighbouring stallholders, a couple of questions came up: Why did we choose to produce our goods here rather than overseas, often at the expense of critical margin? And did anyone buying our stuff actually care where it was produced?
Was provenance the only thing linking this hugely diverse group of exhibitors?
Last week we started to read an early draft of one of the books we’ll be publishing next spring: Do Purpose: Why brands with a purpose do better and matter more by David Hieatt, co-founder of Hiut Denim, formerly of Howies.
Many salient words stood out (it’s going to be good) but one in particular took us back to the event: ethics. What those brands exhibiting have in common is that who they work with and where they source their materials actually matters to them.
It doesn’t stop there. These companies weren’t just exhibiting stuff they’ve made. They were sharing their passion. The end product was the tip of the iceberg.
Here were a group of Doers who had probably left a decent job to start something they truly cared about. They have turned their interests or maybe it was a single bug-bear (it bothered them that this thing didn’t exist…so they created it) into a business.
Here's an early extract from Do Purpose:
‘Most companies don’t have a purpose. This may sound odd but most people have forgotten why they are in business. The founders are dead. The purpose is no longer there. They think it is just to make money. But making money is a result. It is not the purpose. For me, a business that has a purpose is much more energised. It is the wind for the sailboat. It pushes you and the team on. It is the fuel for the journey ahead.
A lot of businesses fail because they give up. They give up because they never had a purpose so when things get tough, they quit. I would say 90% of businesses haven’t worked out why they are in business. I think it’s vital to do so. It gives you great motivation. Understand the why. It’s pivotal to your success.’
For us, the event was celebrating UK manufacturing but something else too: Purpose-driven brands.
'Purpose is an incredibly powerful thing.' David Hieatt
On a related note, a few days ago we were nosing through someone’s Twitter stream, as you do. They had just started following us and had an interesting profile. A tweet posted a couple of months earlier read:
‘The vegetable patch starts this weekend.’
We idly clicked on the Instagram link and were surprised to see a beautifully-shot photograph of one of our books, Do Grow.
It was a motivating and humble reminder of our ‘why’: To publish books that inspire people to go and Do.
Maybe events like Best of Britannia aren’t just a celebration of the where. Perhaps it’s about brands with a ‘why’ too.
And why matters.
Do Purpose: Why brands with a purpose do better and matter more by David Hieatt will be published by the Do Book Company on 1st May 2014. Cover design by James Victore.