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Today is International Women's Day - a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women, a day of empowerment and a day that sparks conversation, to champion change and to encourage the next generation.
Every day we celebrate two incredible women - June Summerill and Bernadette Bishop, best friends foremost and founders of S&B.
Their story is bound by friendship and it resulted in one brilliant business. (Biased, we know). Two trailblazing women, totally ahead of the curve, passionate, warm and ardently authentic. They taught us about togetherness and showed us just how special a friendship could be, what it means to collaborate and to create, to encourage and enthuse other women. Their friendship surrounds every endeavour at S&B, because it is true, joy is only alive when shared...
We spoke to June about what is was like to start a business with her best friend and we delved back into the archives, to reflect on everything this incredible pair achieved, together. So, step back in time with us, as June recalls those early days, interspersed between archive press cuttings.
Bernadette & June, Elle Decoration, 1994
[ Notes from June ]
Were you nervous to go into business with a friend?
It's commonly regarded as quite risky to go into business with a friend. Perhaps the job would interfere with and jeopardise the friendship. In the case of Bernadette and myself, I can honestly say that working together enhanced and strengthened our love and affection for one another. We grew strong, together, and so did our respect for each other. Neither of us were afraid of hard work - when a delivery of several pallets, brimming with heavy ceramics would arrive, we would roll up our sleeves and start unloading. We'd be sure to reward to ourselves afterwards with a glass of something... and we would smile and say "well done partner."
Bernadette & June, 2006
Did you have any little rituals when working together?
We both had busy lives and had to create balance. But, to arrive, to open our little shop every morning was something we always looked forward to. Simple pleasures, like lighting a candle, playing music (Mozart, usually) and placing whatever flowers or leaves we had foraged from our gardens into jars, was a joy. Then came the first coffee and exchange of news and ideas.
International press pages
What would you say to young women starting out in business?
International Women's Day has been around officially since 1975, though it didn't feel as recognised then as it is today. Of course we didn't think too much of it at the time, we just did what instinctively felt right for us and we hoped other people might like what we did too, fortunately that was the case! Modern society allows us to experience so much, all at once - the world now appears to obsess over the result, the endgame, the destination, sales and share prices. For Bernadette and I, we were only ever focussed on the journey, to live in that given moment no matter its gravity. My advice to young women just starting out and to everyone, actually, is to always retain a sense of yourself and your original purpose and ideas. Don't be swayed by the mass market. I think Bernadette would agree.
The Cult Shop.
Summerill & Bishop in the FT's How To Spend It
What are you most proud of?
Perhaps one of the greatest joys we shared whilst working together, was the knowledge that every time we sold a tablecloth, a family would be united in merriment that evening, talking and sharing about their day, enjoying their food and spending precious time together.
June & Bernadette in You Magazine
The exterior of 100 Portland Road, some years ago.
Inside Portland Road, back in 1994
What, do you think, made the partnership work?
Bernadette and I worked really well together and we laughed... a lot! We each were very supportive and considerate of the other. It was a relationship unlike any other that I will have in my lifetime. Working so closely with someone is a real test of love and love is what came of this risky business of business with a friend!
I miss you partner.
Bernadette Bishop & June Summerill
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