After school, I studied Engineering at Cambridge. Halfway into the course, I realised I really wanted to do something more creative. That led me to study Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art, kickstarting a career in product design and innovation. The course taught me how to innovate and that’s how I’ve approached design ever since. Instead of researching trends and moving styling iteratively forwards, we looked at users and their needs, new materials, and manufacturing processes, technology transfer from other fields, etc., always searching for brand new ideas.
After working for a branding agency and then co-founding a product design consultancy, I wanted to take my own product to market. I ended up in Seki, Japan meeting a Samurai swordsmith and an incredible family-owned knifemaking company. I saw an opportunity to design an innovate the best production kitchen knives in the world. No compromise. For two years, I sketched, made and tested prototypes, talked to chefs, refined shapes until I had a design I was happy with. The company in Seki agreed to make them and TOG was born. The knives combine modern European design, materials, and innovation with very traditional skills from 800 years of Samurai swordmaking in Japan.
Innovation runs through everything at TOG. Our knives have unique features like anti-microbial copper layers in the blades, laser engraved Kebony maple handles and a ‘side scoop’ for your little finger to sit in. But we also strive to innovate in the way we do things. We sell a ‘Supersonic’ gift set, for example, that includes a bottle of gin (from a Bristol microdistillery of course) as well as knife and chopping board (for your lime). Our newsletter suggests music you might want to listen to while you’re cooking at home. We do customer service the way we like to receive customer service. We like to surprise our customers.
Our knives have endorsement from ten Michelin Star chefs and we have recently raised capital via Crowdcube, hitting our target in less than 12 hours. The business is still in its early stage but growing fast. We intend to launch 14 new products over the next 3 years. If I had to give one piece of advice for someone starting a new venture, it would be to take on a mentor. I work with someone who’s grown an online retail business successfully themselves. This has allowed us to shortcut a lot of trial and error and to build a small team. It’s been awesome.
Bristol is a hotbed of creativity – art, music, design, food. It’s obsessed with local, responsible and sustainable business. It has the most Michelin stars in the UK outside London too. I moved from London and Bristol has much more of a community feel. People help and support each other more. It’s the perfect location for TOG.