With the Hotbox brand going from strength-to-strength, founder and general agile working expert, Jamie Rothwell, answers questions about why he created these stellar products and the challenges he faces; imparting some useful advice on how important it is to take the leap of faith to make your business dreams a reality.
Q: How and when did Hotbox begin?
Jamie: Hotbox started in 2002 after I’d been working in the commercial interior market for 10 years.
Within this time, I witnessed the beginning of call centres, which were known as flexible workplaces where everyone would be sat at a different place every day.
However, issues arose when it came to personal storage. Employees’ personal items were placed into pedestals – this was a pre-locker era – posing an issue when workers had to rotate around a space during shifts. It wasn’t a practical solution. At the time the industry thought attaching a dog-lead to a mobile pedestal was the answer.
I thought to myself: “there must be a better solution than this.” I started to consider which items were important to people whilst at work. What were people keeping in their pedestal?
Here, Hotbox was born, essentially from a desire to enable employees to take their personal items with them on the go. Even though office furniture companies thought I was bonkers, at that point I was determined to pursue my idea and make it work.
Q: What inspired you to start the company?
J: Once I’d discovered the initial concept, the feedback was so encouraging it gave me confidence to take the next step.
I wanted to create something which was original and helped people. I like the idea of being a ‘disruptor’, by creating something that hasn’t been done before and challenging conventional notions of what is ‘normal’.
Q: What are yours and Rachel’s roles?
J: Whereas I come from an industrial design background, Rachel’s is more product and interior design. Our partnership is a real merging of opposites, which makes Hotbox work.
Rachel and I formed a partnership whilst she was working with IDEO and we worked together to create Hotbox 1 and 2. She loved Hotbox’s concept; particularly how it improves people’s lives at work. This inspired her and continues to motivate us.
From the beginning, it is a collaborative process. Hotbox gets its inspiration by talking to customers. We ask them what their challenges are in order to inform our design process.
Q: What was it about agile working that interested you?
J: I’d always worked in the commercial interior market. I’d always been drawn to creating solutions to make people’s lives at work easier.
I’ve never really worked in a conventional, ‘stuck-at-your-desk’ role and perhaps this is why agile working is reflective of who I am as a person. But essentially, I believe people thrive on flexibility and that’s why agile working is important to me.
Q: What did you aim to achieve with each of the three Hotbox designs?
J: The core themes are personalisation, organisation and mobility. But we also place precedence on individuality; three people might be in the same job, but they will all work differently, and we create products to reflect this. We want to equip them with the practical solutions to help them work the way they instinctively and individually work.
Q: What’s next for Hotbox?
J: We are extending the range of Hotbox 3 accessories and looking at different sizes for Hotbox 1 to broaden the range.
We are also branching into the North American market, so that is our current target! It’s fascinating to see how our products work within different working cultures.
Q: What do you think is the future of agile working?
J: On the one hand I see agile working as the future, reflecting the next generation of workers. Everyone respects the flexibility agile working brings. In that sense, I see it as the future.
Yet, on the other hand, a few surveys have indicated the next generation of employees want their own designated desk. I think we need to explicate why this is the case. In part, I suspect it is because some companies make the decision to adopt agile working but don’t really attend to all the nuances within this transition.
Moreover, I don’t think there is an awareness of how important it is to use products which let employees transport personal items around an office. However, with the right support and education that we, here at Hotbox, can administer, we might be able to change these perceptions.