Magazine article Management Today

How I Beat the Odds: Cressida Granger, Owner and MD of Mathmos, the Lava Lamp Pioneers

Magazine article Management Today

How I Beat the Odds: Cressida Granger, Owner and MD of Mathmos, the Lava Lamp Pioneers

Article excerpt

I was selling vintage furniture from a market stall in the 1980s when I first came across lava lamps, in an old box. At the time they were really unfashionable, but I loved them.

My then business partner and I approached the inventor, Edward Craven Walker, and asked if we could buy the formula to make our own lamps. He said: 'Why don't you come and take over the business instead?' And that was that. It wasn't plain sailing, though. Walker hated lawyers, so the deal was quite literally done on the back of an envelope. For years we didn't think he would honour our deal, but three years later the company was ours and we changed the name from Crestworth to Mathmos in 1992.

The world was different then and, being a woman running a manufacturing business, I came up against real prejudice. Our accountants never acknowledged me - they always wrote to my business partner, David. When we'd go to meetings, they'd put the coffee in front of me to pour and then I'd be totally ignored. But retailers were easier to deal with. Now they're all much tougher, even John Lewis. But they need much bigger margins if they're going to survive the internet threat.

We made - and still make - all the lava lamps in a factory in Dorset, where the company has been based since it was founded 50 years ago. The popularity of the lamps rose through the 1990s and they became the bestselling product in shops' lighting departments. At first, people assumed we had a patent, but we didn't - it had expired a decade before Once that was revealed in 1999, we were copied quickly and massively Cheaper copies came flooding in from China and our sales halved in a year. …

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