The twins powering kitchenware firm Joseph Joseph

Antony and Richard Joseph Antony and Richard are non-identical twins

You would never guess by looking at the two founders and co-owners of funky kitchenware designer Joseph Joseph that they are brothers, let alone twins.

Richard Joseph is smooth-shaven, smartly dressed and serious.

In contrast Antony Joseph, the older twin by 10 minutes, sports a beard, is dressed casually and appears more laid-back.

The duo, who shared bunk beds as children and now, as 39-year-olds, live in separate houses on the same street, never planned to go into business together, aren't cooking fanatics and it's only thanks to their father that they set up the company at all.

Yet, they each now own half of a multi-million pound business.

Their firm, set up in 2003, designs brightly coloured, innovative "products with purpose" such as chopping boards that fold to channel the ingredients into a saucepan and stacking bowls incorporating a sieve and measuring jug, which it sells wholesale.

It made £35.6m of sales in the year to May last year, with a £9.7m pre-tax profit.

Chop2Pot The firm's folding chopping board is one of its most popular products

Richard is managing director, while Antony is design director. When they disagree, which they say is rare, they each have veto over the other for their side of the business meaning Antony's word on anything creative is final, while Richard's word rules on management and sales.

Start Quote

We were lucky that we had a product which from a design point of view could cross barriers”

End Quote Richard Joseph

"We're lucky like that. We've always known where the strengths were, where our roles were," says Antony.

Their ease in each other's presence, and the way they casually interrupt one another demonstrates how they make the company work. And they say their competitiveness with each other has helped to fuel the firm's growth.

But it's only thanks to their dad that the company exists at all.

In what was ultimately a failed ruse to get them involved in the family business, their father asked Richard, who'd just finished an MA in design and business at Cambridge, and Antony, who was between freelance design jobs, to help out at his glass manufacturing firm - the factory where when younger they'd spent their summers shovelling up broken glass.

Joseph Joseph offices The firm's offices are open plan

The company, set up by their grandfather, made toughened glass for products such as cooker hobs. But it was its sideline - glass chopping boards - that the twins got involved with.

Twins in business

The Olsen twins

Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay - own the Telegraph Media Group and several other assets including The Ritz hotel in London

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss - famously battled Mark Zuckerberg over their contributions to the creation of Facebook, and last year launched a fund tracking the price of bitcoins

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen - US fashion designers and actresses

Chris and Greg Tinker - master technologists for IT firm Hewlett Packard

Their plans for the division clashed with the goals of the main manufacturing business, so in a challenge akin to those designed by Lord Sugar to test would-be entrepreneurs in the BBC Apprentice series, their father gave them £10,000 worth of stock and told them to run it separately.

"It was stock not cash. We had to take it, sell it, make a profit on it and then use that profit to reinvest," says Richard.

The challenge was on and Joseph Joseph was born.

At this stage they weren't even sure what the company's focus would be - other than it would be design-led - the subject they had both studied at university and about which they are both passionate.

But when a buyer from their first big account - the now defunct department store chain Allders - rejected the glass clocks they'd started to make and advised them to stick to the chopping boards because they were selling well, their path was set.

Joseph Joseph offices Their products are now sold in 105 countries

"We could have done anything, but that then became our focus and how we got into kitchenware," says Richard.

To sell the products, they combined cold-calling with exhibiting at trade shows, on one memorable occasion going to Ikea to get the furniture for their display stand, driving straight to Glasgow in 10 hours and then sleeping overnight in the car to save on the hotel bill.

"We used to have crazy times. We'd launch a new design and print it the night before the trade show. And then design the catalogue that day and be showing it to customers the next. Nowadays we sell six months in advance and our stock is in the warehouse when we launch it at a tradeshow," says Antony.

One of their best decisions was to immediately target overseas sales and within just 18 months they had distribution in the UK, France, Germany and Japan.

Stacking shelves In the early days the twins helped pack their products for sale

"It was very hands-on, very naive. We were also lucky that we had a product which, from a design point of view, could cross barriers. It wasn't a British product," says Richard.

Since those early days, the company has dramatically expanded its range, but it has continued to focus on products it can sell globally. It now sells in 105 countries and makes 78% of its sales overseas.

Manufacturing has largely moved to China, but in a nod to their roots, the glass chopping boards are still made in the Midlands after they bought the machines from their father.

Start Quote

Not everyone knows us, and we want to try and make sure they do”

End Quote Antony Joseph

While, their growth appears smooth they admit it hasn't been easy. Their success has spawned several imitators, and they have had to dedicate some of their now 83-strong team to fighting the copy-cats.

Their global success means lots of travel and long hours, and pressure to constantly innovate. Gathering ideas, via their own design team and external designers, and deciding which products to make still takes up most of their time.

"The real trick is how can you create really inventive products that you use every day and try and get better at that. Ultimately it's all about being as creative as possible," says Richard.

That creativity is likely to soon stretch into other areas of the home. The twins are unequivocal that they would like to branch out, and emphasise that the firm is a "homewares", rather than a "kitchenwares" designer.

"We've got an amazing opportunity. Not everyone knows us, and we want to try and make sure they do," says Antony.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    UNEMPLOYMENT 11:30:
    Tweet from Tory party chairman Grant Shapps

    Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps has welcomed the latest unemployment data today. Taking to Twitter to do so. See if you can spot the deliberate mistake in his tweet though: "UK unemployment tumbles by a further 146,000. A good moment to recall that every Lab govt in history has left more people on the doll."

     
  2.  
    MOTOR INSURANCE FRAUD 11:17: Radio 5 live

    For the first time, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has collected data on the extent of fraud on motor insurance applications. It detected more than 180 thousand fraudulent applications last year. Often applicants are failing to disclose full information about their driving record. Aidan Kerr, head of fraud at the ABI tells Radio 5 live that it is hard to calculate the extent of the practice, as many people give up a claim when challenged.

     
  3.  
    QATAR AND AIRBUS 10:59:
    Airbus A380

    Qatar Airways has taken delivery of its first A380 superjumbo, following a three-month delay, during which it wrangled with Airbus over cabin fittings. Airbus has also been trying to fix an issue with seals around the doors of the jet. Qatar will be the first customer for the Airbus A350 and Airbus says it will deliver the first plane by the end of the year.

     
  4.  
    UNEMPLOYMENT 10:46:
    A  general view of a Jobcentre Plus in Glasgow.

    The ONS data also shows the claimant count - the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance - has fallen below 1 million for the first time since September 2008. It now stands at 966,500.

     
  5.  
    'SICK' FRANCE 10:36:
    Emmanuel Macron

    "France is sick," the country's new economy minister Emmanuel Macron has told French radio. He said France has no choice but to "reform the economy". Unemployment is currently at a record 10% and there's been no growth for two quarters. Meanwhile the government budget deficit is expanding. The Business live page wishes Mr Macron good luck.

     
  6.  
    UNEMPLOYMENT 10:14:
    Iain Duncan Smith

    Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith tells the BBC News Channel that pay in the financial services industry is distorting current average wage growth statistics. He says pay rises in the manufacturing industry are up 2% year on year. He also points out that food prices are coming down and inflation generally is falling.

     
  7.  
    Via Twitter Andrew Sentance, former member of Monetary Policy Committee

    tweets: "UK unemployment rate at 6.2% & still falling sharply. At current rate of decline it'll be <5% next summer - pushing up pay & inflation."

     
  8.  
    WAGE GROWTH 09:58:
    Hand and coins

    The ONS data shows average pay was 0.6% higher in the three months to July, compared to a year earlier. That's an improvement on the previous figure which showed a 0.2% decline. Pay excluding bonuses also rose slightly by 0.7%, the previous figures was 0.6%. Pay rises are still running well below the rate of inflation. On Tuesday data showed consumer price inflation running at 1.5% in August.

     
  9.  
    INTEREST RATES 09:35:

    There was no change in voting patterns at the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee at September's meeting. Two members voted in favour of raising interest rates to 0.75%.

     
  10.  
    UNEMPLOYMENT 09:32: Breaking News

    The unemployment total fell by 146,000 to 2.02 million in the three months to the end of July, official figures show. The Office for National Statistic said the unemployment rate for the period was 6.2%, down from the previous level of 6.4%.

     
  11.  
    EUROPEAN CAR SALES 09:27:
    The new body of the Volkswagen Passat

    Car sales across Europe rose for the 12th month in a row industry figures show today. They were 1.8% higher at 701,118 in August, from 688,464 a year-earlier the Association of European Carmakers (ACEA) says. Volkswagen, Ford and Opel all benefited from improved demand in Spain, Portugal and Ireland. But car sales in Germany - Europe's largest car market - were 0.4% lower.

     
  12.  
    INTEREST RATES 09:20:

    At 09:30 the Bank of England publishes minutes from the interest rate policy meeting in September. In August's meeting two members of nine-strong monetary policy committee voted to raise interest rates. Will others have joined them in September? Watch this space.

     
  13.  
    Via Twitter Kevin Peachey Personal finance reporter, BBC News

    tweets: "Hold music among biggest consumer service irritations says @WhichUK survey - any views on the most annoying?"

     
  14.  
    TECH SHARES ARE UP 09:04:
    imagination technologies

    Shares in two of Britain's most successful technology companies are sharply higher this morning. Imagination Technologies, which designs chips for mobile devices, has seen its shares jump 6%. That's after the company forecast a strong performance in the second half of the year. Fellow chip designer, ARM Holdings is leading the FTSE 100 higher with a 1.9% gain.

     
  15.  
    HEADLINES
     
  16.  
    MARKET UPDATE 08:34:

    Shares in London are higher in early trading with the FTSE 100 up 16 points

    • Smiths Group slumps 5.4% after sales fall
    • JD Sports up 2.7% following half year results
    • Pound slightly higher at $1.6296
     
  17.  
    SCOTTISH REFERENDUM 08:26: BBC Radio 4

    Former Bank of England Deputy Governor, Sir John Gieve says the Bank is "a creature of Westminster" and will be an adviser in any currency negotiations. "I think it could work, " he says of currency union but adds it "relies on careful negotiation". A lot of policy decision would remain in London, he adds. If the economies of Scotland and the rest of the UK began to diverge more than they do at present that could be a problem.

     
  18.  
    INTERNET OF THINGS 08:17: BBC Radio 4

    The Internet of Things is a phrase bandied around. ARM Holdings boss, Simon Segars is fresh from a conference about it - but it all sounds a bit pedestrian. Mr Segars says one example is a coffee cup that has a microchip in it that could tell you if you're consuming too much coffee. There is already a fork that can tell you if you are eating too quickly. On Today he also mentions apps that help you find a parking space.

     
  19.  
    JD SPORTS 08:11: Radio 5 live

    We're not far off being saturated with sports shops in the UK says Peter Cowgill, executive chairman of JD Sports on Radio 5 live. But the company is having "significant success" competing in Spain, German, France and the Netherlands.

     
  20.  
    PHONES 4U RESCUE 07:57: BBC Radio 4

    It is "perhaps not surprising" that Vodafone and EE are looking at buying parts of Phones4U now that it is in administration, says Laura Lambie of Investec Wealth and Investment on Today. Both EE and Vodafone had been approached by Phones 4U which tried to interest them in buying the retailer, she says. After refusing that approach, Vodafone and EE are now looking "to pick up assets on the cheap", according to Ms Lambie.

     
  21.  
    SONY PROFIT WARNING 07:50:
    xperia phones

    The profit warning at Sony is the result of a review of its mobile phone business. It says there has been "a significant change in the market and competitive environment". As a result, it has taken a £1bn charge to reflect the loss of value of the mobile business. It is reducing the number of models it produces and is concentrating on a premium lineup.

     
  22.  
    JD SPORTS PROFITS 07:36: BBC Radio 4

    "The high street is alive and well," says Peter Cowgill, executive chairman of JD Sports on Today. The retailer has a strong presence in shopping malls and online but Mr Cowgill says a high street presence is "still very important to JD Sports". The retailer has a contingency plan if Scotland votes Yes to independence. But he adds: "We don't think there will be a major impact on our trade. We think there will be no change to prices [if Scotland votes Yes]."

     
  23.  
    SONY PROFIT WARNING 07:32: Breaking News
    Sony office

    Sony expects to report a much deeper loss this year than originally forecast. The firm now expects a loss of 230bn yen (£1.3bn) for the year which ends 31 March. Its previous forecast was for a 50bn yen loss.

     
  24.  
    JD SPORTS PROFITS 07:29:

    Profits at retailer JD Sports doubled in the first half of the year. Before exceptional items it made a pre-tax profit of £19.9m. Sales at stores open for more than a year rose 13% from the same period a year ago. But its fashion business which includes Scotts and Bank had a "disappointing" first half, the company said.

     
  25.  
    INDITEX RESULTS 07:10:
    Zara store

    The world's biggest clothing retailer, Inditex has posted a 2.4% fall in first half net profit. The owner of Zara, made 928m euros (£738m). That was not as bad as some analysts were expecting. The company also said that sales for the start of the third quarter rose 10%.

     
  26.  
    SPACESHIP CONTRACT 06:56: Radio 5 live
    Space X Capsule

    Nasa has awarded up to $6.2bn (£3.8bn) to Boeing and SpaceX to develop space vehicles that can take crew into space. The firms are aiming to have their spaceships ready by 2017. Since the space shuttles were retired in 2011, the Americans have relied on Russia and its Soyuz vehicles to get to the International Space Station.

     
  27.  
    SCOTTISH REFERENDUM 06:38: BBC Radio 4
    Scottish bank notes

    Former Bank of England deputy governor Sir John Gieve tells the Today programme he expects Bank staff to be at work very early on Friday morning to try to calm markets, whichever way Scotland votes in the independence referendum. In particular, the Bank will be busying itself with the possibility of "deposit flight" so that "we don't get the sort of panic that there was with Northern Rock". That means for starters making sure that cash machines remain fully stocked.

     
  28.  
    ARM CHIEF EXECUTIVE 06:27: Radio 5 live
    Arm processor

    It's arguably Britain's most successful technology company, but you may have never heard of it. ARM designs computer chips and is worth almost twice as much as Marks and Spencer. On Wake Up to Money chief executive Simon Segars says most of the firm's customers are in California, China, Taiwan and South Korea. "It's a shame" there are not more technology companies in the UK, he says. People have been keener to go into financial services, Mr Segars says.

     
  29.  
    SCOTTISH REFERENDUM 06:16: Radio 5 live

    Whichever way the Scottish independence vote goes, the business impact "remains unclear" says Nora Senior, chair at Scottish Chambers of Commerce on Wake Up to Money. Big questions over currency, Europe, debt, pensions and tax were raised in the run up to the vote, she says. "Business wants a decision that is clear and swiftly executed," Ms Senior says.

     
  30.  
    BEREAVEMENT AND WORK 06:10: Radio 5 live

    A third of employees who have suffered bereavement in the past five years felt that they had not been treated with compassion by their employer, according to a survey by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). It is launching guidance for companies. "Managers need appropriate training and support," said Sir Brendan Barber, ACAS chair on Wake Up to Money.

     
  31.  
    PHONES 4U RESCUE 06:00:
    Phones 4U sign

    The Financial Times is reporting that Vodafone and EE have approached the administrators of Phones 4U about buying parts of the failed business. Around 550 shops and 6,000 jobs are at risk. The private equity owners of Phones 4U and its founder, John Caudwell have blamed the aggressive tactics of EE and Vodafone for the collapse of the firm. Both network operators deny those accusations.

     
  32.  
    05:59: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning everyone. As always you can get in touch with us via email on bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or twitter @bbcbusiness.

     
  33.  
    05:59: Ben Morris Business Reporter

    We'll get the latest unemployment figures and data on earnings at 09:30 this morning. Plus the Financial Times says that Vodafone and EE are looking to buy parts of their former customer, Phones 4U. Stay with us.

     

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.