Talking Tables at 25: Day in the Life of Founder, Clare Harris

Posted by Lucy Todd on

As Talking Tables celebrates its 25th year, what does it take to own and run a business for a quarter of a century?

Clare Harris, the founder of Talking Tables, launched the company in 1999 – just in time to see in the millennium with a party popper or two.

Originally, she enlisted her friends to help pack party poppers and other goodies into containers at her kitchen table, before loading them into the back of her old VW Golf and hand-delivering them to Harrods.

Fast-forward to today and Talking Tables is a thriving business, led by Clare and partner, Mark McCormack. It employs dozens of people and sells to thousands of stockists around the world.

Some of the original products Talking Tables launched with in 1999

So, what does a regular day look like when you have a company to run, family commitments, and a busy and full life to lead??

Get to know Clare, the person behind Talking Tables, and read on for her top tips on how to keep a healthy work / life balance…

A Day in the Life

 

7am – I don’t do any of the amazing things you’re meant to do. I don’t go to the gym at 5am. I don’t get up and drink lemon water…

I like to have breakfast – my latest thing is chia seeds and yogurt with raspberries and a cup of tea.

8am - If I’m in London, I am in the office by this time. I like to make time for face-to-face meetings, so I’ll stretch the day out by getting in early and doing a one-to-one with those who also like to come in early.

1pm - I break for lunch around now. At Talking Tables we sit at a big table next to the kitchen and I chat to everyone. If I’m at home I’ll try and use up leftovers from the weekend.

6 / 6.30pm - I try to finish around this time – and might look at emails again in the evening.

After work - I’ll relax by going out for dinner with friends, or to the theatre – we do a regular theatre club at work. I might go to a supper club with other people from the business world, which gives me an injection of ideas.

I might go to the pub with Mark to watch a Liverpool match. If I were going to watch television, I’d watch something like the Great British Sewing Bee or an interior design show. I also like The Great Pottery Throwdown or even The Apprentice.

Or if I’m really relaxing, I like Richard Osman’s House of Games – it gives me ideas for our own range of games.

Weekends - Mark and I walk to the farmer’s market on a Saturday morning, get an oatmeal flat white at our favourite organic café, then buy some vegetables from the farmers’ market.

On Sundays I must garden, otherwise I’m not a normal person. My therapy is gardening.

I garden a lot: I have the little garden in London and the bigger one at home in the Cotswolds.

And then I try to fit in swimming once a week.

10.30pm – bedtime. I try to read, because I’m a member of the Talking Tables book club. I aim to read one book a month for that. Sometimes I have to start the book on a Sunday, and after I’ve read a big chunk I can read it at night, but I can’t start it at night.

I listen to radio a lot. I listen to Newscast every single night. And Americast. Adam Fleming’s voice sends me to sleep.

Juggling Act

Talking Tables started out life at Clare's kitchen table...

When Sam (Clare & Mark’s son) was tiny, the business was tiny as well, so we just took time off, or took it in turns to go to the park, or tumble tots, or to those ball pits...

We managed the school run between us, but we chose to live somewhere where he could get the bus home when he was older. We future-proofed ourselves in that way.

Then we basically just split the week between us, so that one of us was always at home. We moved to the Cotswolds and we had to drive him to school in Cheltenham every day, but that was nice, as we’d get to chat together on the journey. 

That was a lovely era, because you’d meet mums at the school gate and chat. That’s when we made a lot of friends – many of whom I’m still in touch with now. We went and watched Sam playing sport every Saturday morning – football, rugby, cricket - so you got to know the other parents really well. I miss those times.

Cats or Dogs?

 

Oh, definitely cats!

We have two cats… for now. We took one to the vet recently and they discovered he was really poorly and we’re not sure how much longer he’ll last.

We’ve only ever had cats - they work better with our lives. I find cats give a lot of pleasure – and you can leave them for a bit, which is useful.

Life's Pleasures

I love exploring new places and I still want to travel – anywhere and everywhere.

Europe, Japan, Australia, Mexico – I use trips to source craft ideas and colour trends. I would love to go to Mexico in the next couple of years because I’ve never been.

 

Clare and Mark finding inspiration on a trip to India earlier this year...

Art is another key aspect of my life – and I love combining my love for travel with my love of art. Whenever we visit a new place we usually seek out a gallery, or we travel specifically to see an exhibition, and base our travels around that. For example, recently we travelled to Paris to see a Mark Rothko exhibition.

Art is the nearest I get to religion. It brings me great joy. It gives you a purpose and also incremental knowledge about other things – history and architecture for example.

I prefer more contemporary arts – I don’t have much patience for older styles of art. I like being left to make an interpretation myself and I respond well to colour. While a Turner is marvellous, there’s not much left for you to do as the viewer.

I keep myself busy and am interested in lots of things – I’ll try and say yes to everything.

I see myself as a yes person… a glass half-full person.

Favourite TT Product

That's easy: paper napkins!

 

 

The whole point of paper napkins is you change them. I literally use them every week and every weekend. If you’re feeling sunny or the weather is nice, you put a bright coloured one down. Or if it’s Christmas you put a festive one down or if it’s autumn, you use autumn colours. 

I use them the most, as it helps change the mood and adds a dash of colour and theming. You rip open a packet and there’s your theme!

25 Years in Business

Clare and Mark at Talking Tables' 25th birthday celebrations earlier this year

 

Over our 25th anniversary celebrations I’ve loved seeing the people who’ve helped us on the way and seeing where they are on their journey.

A lot of people were young when they joined us. Some have moved to Hong Kong, Dubai, Devon… and I love seeing where they are now.

For example, Omar has moved his creativity to cooking (Omar Foster was the Masterchef runner-up last year).

You still like those people: you had adventures with them, you’ve travelled with them, had laughs with them… so to hear how they’re getting on is nice.

A business is just a group of people doing things. We’re all helping each other. We’re all just people in the end.

We’re all part of a jigsaw and it’s so important to come together and celebrate our achievements.  

Other stories to explore

Fabulous florals

Fabulous florals

Our founder Clare picks her inspirational highlights from the Chelsea Flower Show.
Read more
FSC Friday - Talking Tables UK Public

FSC Day

Last week was FSC Day. The FSC is the Forest Stewardship Council. But what’s hosting a gathering got to do with forests? Quite a lot, it turns out...
Read more
Style Tips from our Influencers x Talking Tables

Style Tips from our Influencers x Talking Tables

We asked some of our favourite influencers to style our new reusable table home decor collection. Turns out it was a bright idea.
Read more
Back to the top