Talking to Olivia Knight, Patchwork

Life Well Lived

As part of our journey to re-define Wealth we are exploring what “A Life Well Lived” means: interviewing artists, entrepreneurs, explorers, and change-makers as they share their stories and ask “what is my life well lived?” Here, Olivia ‘Liv’ Knight, founder of the innovative online gift registry, Patchwork, talks to us about her businesses and what living well means to her.

On Launching Patchwork

“I’d had the idea for about 2 years before I started it and made huge efforts not to start a business” says Liv “At the time I was working as a brand consultant, I really enjoyed the company I was working for – eatbigfish – they were brilliant and my work life balance was perfect. I had two young children and I thought starting a business was a really bad idea. But my brain just wouldn’t let it lie and finally my husband said to me “do you know what, you’re getting really boring, you just need to start the business. What’s the worst that can happen?”.

On the Journey

“You so often hear people talking about ideas that could have worked, but ultimately if you don’t try it, it’s never going to work. Once I decided I was going to do it, I almost felt relieved because I knew I was working to a plan, but I also knew I couldn’t do it alone. I had been volunteering with an environmental charity called Do the Green Thing which is where I met Kim and Jo. At that point and realised I could create a team that were with me from the very beginning and that any skills I didn’t have – one of the things holding me back originally – would be supported and complemented by a team that did have them.”

“I knew that there was a high chance when starting a business that it might not work.”
“Another big barrier for us was money. We had two children and a mortgage and I knew that I didn’t want to put that at risk. I couldn’t borrow from a traditional bank, I knew that there was a high chance when starting a business that it might not work and I wasn’t prepared to risk my children’s home. I also needed to make sure I was taking an income from the very beginning to match my husbands, to just make sure we could survive. So one of the most important things for us was raising funds, to get it moving from the very beginning.”

On Hindsight

“I’m not really sure that I have any regrets. But as soon as we launched the site, I hated it. It just wasn’t good enough, I was really disappointed with it. But I think that’s actually quite a natural thing to feel whenever you are creating something. I’ve heard from other founders that you never feel as if you are ready. But what I’ve learnt with hindsight is that things are never going to be exactly as you want them to be, so you have to just let that first iteration out into the world, gather feedback and learn from it.”

“The other is that everything always takes three times longer than you think and cost three times as much. So although not a regret as such, our biggest challenge was definitely managing our own expectations.”

When it comes to advice, Liv says that her one piece of advice would be to seek lots of it, and “to actually listen to it, not just nod along. Take it on board and then take a step back and decide with a few key people what works for you. Because when you ask for advice people will give it very generously, but people come from very different positions and with very different points of view. You have to decide what works best for you.”

On Success

“Success for us as business is about being commercial. About a) just being able to survive when so many start-ups don’t make it past their second year. And b) it’s about being profitable for our shareholders, for ourselves and ensuring that we can build a long term sustainable business.”

“For me personally it’s just that sense of satisfaction from watching something that you’ve built, grow and become something that lives on, on its own, and has use and value in the world.”
“Our stealth mission has always been an environmental one.”

“Our stealth mission has always been an environmental one, because if we can inspire people to be more collaborative, creative and resourceful when it comes to gift giving – if we can get people to contribute to things people really want and need – we can save a whole tonne of unwanted gifts ending up in landfill. So that for me is really crucial. I want to make that impact, but we won’t see that until we have the scale and Patchwork is a global business.”

On Living Well

“That’s a really easy one. A good life to me is knowing where my home is, being here in Brockley – I’m a South East Londoner through and through so I’m never leaving – and being surrounded by my friends, my family, my neighbours; living in a community that is very creative and supportive, and then just having time. Time for food and wine, and long Sunday afternoons. Time to enjoy life. A good life for me is balancing work that I enjoy and love, with the time to be with friends and family and that’s probably about it. I don’t think it’s hard.”

On Wealth

“For me wealth is definitely not about money. You need enough of it not to be worrying about it – and having grown up on benefits I definitely understand that feeling of not having enough – but enough so that you are warm and safe, ideally in your own home, but beyond that I don’t think you get happier the richer you are. In fact a lot of people that I’ve met, the more you obsess about money, the more it becomes a bit of a trap.”

“I don’t want money as an abstract, I want money so that I can do the things I want to do and enjoy time. If you’re starting a business because you want to make money, I don’t think that’s something that can sustain you, whereas if you’re starting a business because you believe in something, want to change something or to bring something into the world, then that is the real motivator.”

On Retirement

“I think I’m quite an extreme person, I like to either really stop and switch off, like no phones and no social media and run away; or just live on the sofa for a weekend and flop; totally stop. But then when I’m not fully switched off in the garden or something, then I am totally stuck in.”

“I think I will always be involved in community things or campaigns, I will always be involved in environmental issues and things that I care about, but I guess when Patchwork is the global empire we’re hoping it will soon be, retirement would look like riding horses …. still in Brockley, still sat in my garden, just chilling with my husband watching our children grow up as we grow old. With wine. And cheese.”

Liv also joined us as a guest speaker during House of Killik Soho. You can find out more about Patchwork and their story by visiting their website.