As husband and wife teams go Cat and Rog How of online design shop Howkapow seem to have got it dialled. With over 4,000 followers on Twitter and over 9,000 likes on Facebook, plus an active Pinterest page, this couple are a text book example of how to run a successful web business in the social media age. “There’s quite a clear division of labour,” says Rog, “she’s the creative driving force behind the business and I do logistics and accounts and all the kind of nuts and bolts”.
They started out in October 2010 and have organically grown their fan-base with regular competitions on Facebook, going to design shows and talking to a lot of people - not that everyone was ready to listen to them back then. “Quite a few people were unwilling to work with us, even suppliers who were trying to sell stuff”, says Rog. Their pop-up shop in Bristol last Christmas [it stayed open until April, but is now closed] changed that, even among their friends. It galvanised the Howkapow brand and made people realise exactly what it was they were doing. They have since relaunched their website based on the look of the pop-up.
Who are you? We are Cat and Rog How from Howkapow!
Where can we find you? You can find us physically at 11 Backfields Lane, Bristol, but browse our entire shop online at www.howkapow.com
Describe your store in five words: Colourful. Fun. Unique. Independent. Strong.
What makes you different? We only stock things that we like no matter where they're from. This sounds like we're stating the obvious, but this means that we gather things from all over the world - from friends from art school, people we've found at design markets, on Pinterest or other social media - anywhere. We have strong brand values which influence what we buy and who we buy from.
How you decide what makes the cut? If an item is bold, bright and colourful; if is a good price and made by someone or a group of people who make stuff in a moral/ethical way then it usually makes the cut.
What were you doing before you did this? I worked in journalism and then graphic design. Rog worked in radio production and marketing. We also sold my jewellery and his photography at artist markets in Melbourne and London on our days off.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!
What are you most proud of? The fact that we've been able to work out a way of working together every day. That, more than anything else, was the main reason for starting the shop.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? Ah, they're all my favourites. But if I was pushed I've got a soft spot for our new Coral Dip Lamp. Mmmm.
What's hot for 2014? We have a new 100% silk Cocktail O'Clock scarf launching in the next few weeks which we think is going to be big in 2014. It's gold and light blue (two colours tipped by Pantone to be big in 2014) and cocktails are a perennial favourite so what's not to like?
Every Wednesday 'Indie of the week' celebrates the best independent stores around. These places sell interesting and varied collections of design-related things you don't see everywhere else. They may support young or local designers or be great at finding unique things from around the world. By thinking a little more creatively about what they stock they are fighting the bland homogenisation of so much of the high street. And since I'm down with the realities of modern life, online only stores count too, because a beautiful and easy to use website is just as delightful an encounter in cyberspace.
Do you you have a favourite store? I'd love to hear from you.