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Jazz Shapers

Shaper: Tim Little

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Welcome to the Jazz Shapers podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Good morning, I am Elliot Moss, this is Jazz Shapers. It’s where the Shapers of Business join the Shapers of Jazz, Soul and Blues. Our guest today is Tim Little, Founder and CEO of classic luxury shoe brand, Tim Little and the Owner and Creative Director of 150 year old shoemakers, Grenson. I confess to having pairs of both. Tim fell in love with footwear as a child in the Co-Op in Long Eaton when his mum took him to buy new school shoes, he would make the assistant fetch almost every pair in the shop so he could try them on, hooked by the smell of new shoes and unwilling to make a choice until he had found the perfect style. A decade long career in advertising including 5 years working for the client Adidas, only sharpened his passion. “My dad was a lace maker”, he says “with a factory in Nottingham where I grew up. I think the mix of shoes, marketing and manufacturing collided in my head and created a direction for me.” He quit advertising to launch his own eponymous brand, Tim Little which he still runs from a small shop in Chelsea and in 2005 Tim agreed to buy struggling Northampton shoemakers, Grenson which has used the same techniques and site to make its shoes since 1895. Despite each pair of shoes taking around 3 weeks to craft, the business has grown three fold and now includes both women’s shoes and accessories. We will be talking to Tim in a few minutes about preserving classic manufacturing, about where he finds inspiration and his love for the Blues. We’ve also got brilliant music from amongst others, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Professor Longhair and the Robert Glasper Experiment. That is today’s Jazz Shapers. Here as a Blues fanfare for Tim, it’s Albert King with Born Under A Bad Sign.

That was Albert King with Born Under A Bad Sign, a good way to start for my Business Shaper, Tim Little, the Founder of Tim Little and the Co-Owner and Creative Director at Grenson and also a Blues fan.

Tim Little
Good morning, how are you?

Elliot Moss
I am alright, how are you?

Tim Little
Yeah really good thanks. Very good.

Elliot Moss
It’s lovely to have you here, partly because as I mentioned earlier, I wear your shoes, partly because you with me at my wedding, thank you.

Tim Little
It’s a pleasure.

Elliot Moss
You’ve been with me…

Tim Little
Not personally obviously.

Elliot Moss
…no but, but you made something I was wearing.

Tim Little
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
And you were with me on many, many days and many nights actually wearing fabulous shoes.

Tim Little
Oh er.

Elliot Moss
You are a shoemaker which is a wonderful thing to do, not many people end up doing it successfully. How do you think you have managed to get where you are now? Why has Tim Little managed to do what many other people haven’t?

Tim Little
I think probably my background. I think you mentioned in the introduction that my background is a mixture of several things. My dad was a manufacturer, my real kind of, my first 10 years of working was in advertising and working with you know, big brands and promoting brands and what have you, in particular Adidas and so I think those things came together and I had an initial love of shoes right from when I was a child. I am not a shoemaker in the sense that I sit in a little workshop knocking nails into the sole of a shoe. It is very much about a brand and it’s about design and it’s about that kind of thing. So yeah it’s about the background I think.

Elliot Moss
And talking about that background so you mentioned advertising and we both share, not just advertising but indeed the same advertising agency at Leagas Delaney and Tim Delaney was on this programme many years ago. What is it about the advertising trade do you think at its core that has helped you be able to create this brand, understand what consumers are like and so on? What do you think is at the essence, centre of it?

Tim Little
I think it is about always understanding who you are making shoes for, who you know, what your audience is and it is about understanding this thing about the brand itself and everything should come from and through the brand. So when we design shoes we are always, we have a very acute sense of what Grenson is about, what people like about Grenson, what they don’t like about Grenson even but everything we do goes through this kind of filter of what we believe the Grenson brand is about and that has very much come from my days in advertising and Leagas Delaney in particular where it was drilled in to us this belief and this understanding first about the brand that you are working with and then from that, once you’ve got that, you can do all kinds of things.

Elliot Moss
And how did you stumble across advertising because you were born in Long Eaton in Nottingham.

Tim Little
Yes.

Elliot Moss
It is not a Mecca for advertising.

Tim Little
No it certainly isn’t.

Elliot Moss
No. But it is a Mecca for many things actually, it is a very interesting place once you know it.

Tim Little
Yeah. Textiles yeah.

Elliot Moss
Textiles and things that’s right, materials and so on, it’s in that classically central part of England and it has lots of history to it but how did you end up in the world of advertising and in London and all those things?

Tim Little
Well I started completely the wrong direction so at the age of kind of 16/18 I had no clue what to do and the only thing that I had done at school was I had got a reasonable A level result, or GCSE result in Maths so my dad said to me and teacher said ‘oh you should be an account then you can do anything’. So I went to University and did accountancy which was a complete disaster but then rather than realising it was a disaster and changing immediately I came out and got a job with a big accountancy firm in London, KPMG as it is now, lasted 7 weeks but I was sharing a flat with my sister and she was at an ad agency called Lowes in London and every night I was coming home with more and more books to study and she was coming home and getting ready for another trip, another event, another ball, another whatever and I thought ‘hang on a minute I am on the wrong train here’ so I switched then and went into… and got a job at Leagas Delaney.

Elliot Moss
So you go along, you get this job and you are an accountant. Why do you think they hired you at that moment if you can cast your mind back to why Tim Little, the 7 week old accountant was hired by a creative agency?

Tim Little
Well the first thing I did was I thought I am not going to be able to get into the creative department because that’s far too much of a leap so I went in via media. So I thought… my sister said to me ‘there’s a job called media and it’s kind of advertising, well it’s advertising but it’s numbers and what have you so that could be perfect’. So I think they probably thought yeah this could be quite useful, you know, somebody who’s got an accountancy Degree and what have you. It wasn’t really but…

Elliot Moss
At all.

Tim Little
…it was a way in and it was like I did a year, a year and a half in media before I switched into account management.

Elliot Moss
And then again for those people that don’t know the account management piece is when you look after clients and essentially manage the process as it were and think about strategy for clients and the like. But that movement into that role then, did you think ‘oh this is kind of what I want to do’ or were you still feeling your way because many people in advertising; there are two types, one that stay forever and there’s others that use it as a spring board and you’ve obviously used it as a spring board. Were you pretty clear early on that it wasn’t going to be forever?

Tim Little
No not at all, I think I was in heaven at that point. I mean I had gone from accountancy and also doing accountancy in holidays from University and stuff and trying to get my head around it, and walking into an ad agency, especially Leagas Delaney which at the time was probably 50/60 people, very creative, very sociable, very young, lots of very bright people, it was just wonderful. I loved it and it wasn’t until quite a long time later that I ever thought about moving on. I thought this is it forever, I’ve found my dream job.

Elliot Moss
So let’s talk about that movement into doing your own thing because that came about sort of I guess 8 to 10 years later or so.

Tim Little
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Were you formulating the business plan before you left or was there a kind of ‘I’ve just got to move’. What precipitated the final jump from advertising into doing your own thing?

Tim Little
I had been, yeah I had, I had probably 8 years in to my life in advertising, I’d started to think… to start with you start to look around and you notice that there aren’t very many older people in advertising which… so you think well either I am going to push on and try and become, run the agency or run an agency or it is going to be struggle and I thought I don’t really want to do that ultimately so I started to think about starting my own business and I just had this thing about I came home from a trip from Adidas once and we had sat around in these meetings talking about the most exciting, creative projects around making, designing, selling shoes and I came back and I needed a pair of shoes for a wedding, a smart black pair of English made shoes and went into a shop in Knightsbridge and it was the dullest, most appallingly old fashioned experience and I just thought you know, why can’t there be a bit of creativity and interest in design and involved in that type of shoemaking as well, or that type of shoe and so a little light went on in my head and I started formulating a plan from there.

Elliot Moss
And from that moment, that little light going on in your head to actually opening your doors of your shop in Chelsea, Kings Road, just on the brow of the hill.

Tim Little
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
I like, there is a quote every so often that changes around Almeda Markus and pairs of shoes and all the things.

Tim Little
That’s it.

Elliot Moss
I am a geek, you do, I mean you realise I have been stalking you for years Tim.

Tim Little
Good.

Elliot Moss
It has taken a long time to get you here.

Tim Little
I don’t mind that.

Elliot Moss
But what was it like when you found that spot and you opened the doors?

Tim Little
It was really scary, I mean it was really scary from driving around in a Porsche 911, I was actually, the Porsche account was an account that I was running so.

Elliot Moss
You chose well Tim. Can I just say, Adidas and Porsche. This is hardly a lad that’s not well heeled or, or got a nice motor.

Tim Little
Yeah. Well absolutely it was the business at the time, Leagas Delaney was all premium brands which was yeah, very nice to work on but it was really scary opening the doors. We opened the doors on a Saturday morning in I think it was, well it was April in 1997 and I’d literally walking around an hour before making sure that the logo’s on the tins of polish were straight and the, every speck of dust, it was absolutely immaculate. Opened the doors, this walked in who was about 60 odd and she looked around for a bit and then she said “how much are the chairs?” and I said “well the chairs aren’t for sale” and she said “why not?” and I said “because it’s a shoe shop” and she said “oh how ridiculous” and walked out. So it wasn’t a great start but it was very scary but I knew it was the right thing to do so it felt good.

Elliot Moss
And the context is of course along that strip there is a lot of furniture shops.

Tim Little
Yeah absolutely.

Elliot Moss
The poor person who got it wrong. And at what moment post opening the shop did you go ‘I think I am going to be alright, this is going to work’? If indeed you felt that?

Tim Little
Well you know I gave myself 2 years. I thought if I leave advertising and I am out for 2 years I might be able to get a job back in somewhere else later and what happened was you just get so heavily involved in it when it is your own business and you are fighting to pay the bills and you know, the bank is knocking on the door that it just… time disappears and you never ever really, even today, you never get to a point when you think ‘that’s it, it’s sorted’ because there is always something round the corner and there is always a problem, an issue, and there is always cash issues, that’s the biggest… with any business there is always a cash issue so the answer really is I never, I never knew, I just drifted on and drifted on and here I am today.

Elliot Moss
He’s drifting in here, it’s Tim Little at Jazz Shapers at Jazz FM as well and we will be having a lot more chat with Tim and hearing a lot more from him in a couple of minutes but first we will hear from one of our partners at Mishcon de Reya with some words of advice for your business.

There are absolutely tons of ways for you to enjoy all our former Jazz Shapers and indeed hear this very programme again with Tim. You can ask Alexa to play Jazz Shapers and there you can hear many of the recent programmes, or if you pop Jazz Shapers into iTunes or your preferred podcast platform, you can enjoy the full archive but back to today and Tim, he is the Founder and CEO of classic luxury shoe brand Tim Little and the Owner and Creative Director of 150 year old shoemakers, Grenson. So your own business as you set it up and as you said you sort of drifted very humbly, you drifted on and drifted on. It strikes me that there is a consistency that a person like you craves but also you like to innovate. How have you managed those two competing forces through your working life? Because there is definitely something that ties every single, literally there is a thread through every shoe that you are involved with but there is something quite surprising as well along that journey?

Tim Little
Well yeah I mean that’s that’s really the crux of the Grenson brand for example and when I started Tim Little the idea was English shoes without the cobwebs so it was keeping the old what’s good about tradition but updating it and making it relevant and that’s exactly what Grenson is about and that balance is everything, the success or failure to me of the brand is about that mix. If we are too traditional, if we just talk about how we make the shoes in an old factory in Northamptonshire and we do pictures of guys with half-moon glasses knocking nails in and all that, all the time we become like a museum brand, a brand that people just buy for nostalgia. On the other hand if we go too far the other way and don’t keep a foot in that camp, we become just another shoe brand and there are billions in the world and nobody needs another one so it is that mix of keeping hold of the bits from our heritage that are important and valuable but making them relevant and keeping it on an even keel.

Elliot Moss
You mention your dad saying ‘listen do accountancy so you can do anything you like’ and then you talked briefly before about the issue that pretty much every business faces which is a cash issue. How useful has it been to have been trained and even if you didn’t continue at KMPG after the 7 weeks, but you did a Degree in it; how useful has that been in terms of all the different things that you have to think about running a business?

Tim Little
Yeah really useful actually. I think a lot of friends of mine have got similar businesses but don’t necessarily have that background and they have to rely on other people and that can be difficult. It is very, very useful. It’s almost like a language you know, reading the books of a company and sitting down every month and looking at the numbers and the things that you can see in the numbers if you know what you are looking for very, very important so that, it has been huge actually. I think, I think without that I might not be around doing this right now because that’s the kind of bedrock of what I do.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of your own skill set, it sounds quite wide to me in the sense that you are comfortable with numbers, you utterly understand brand. Is there a weakness? Has Tim Little got a soft spot where he has to get other people – I talk to lots of people and they go ‘I am rubbish with people Elliot’ or ‘I am terrible with the numbers’. What’s your, your kryptonite as it were?

Tim Little
Oh God so many, so many things. I think the biggest worry that you have is that you can do a bit of everything and you don’t do anything you know, you don’t one thing well enough. I’ve got a fantastic team at Grenson so I can rely on people to do stuff that I am not very good at. I am not very good at concentrating for a long time on one particular subject. I love to kind of jump around and have different things going on. Like a day like today, doing this, talking to you and then going off and doing something completely different is what I absolutely love. So I think where we have something where I have to focus for two days on one particular subject, I find that very, very difficult. So yeah, but I’ve got, trust me, I’ve got… there are a lot of faults.

Elliot Moss
How would they describe Tim Little if Tim Little wasn’t in the room at Grenson and indeed…?

Tim Little
The people, what who work at Grenson?

Elliot Moss
Yeah.

Tim Little
Well I can’t really swear on the radio but I don’t know really. I think…

Elliot Moss
You seem easy going, almost cuddly.

Tim Little
No they wouldn’t, they certainly wouldn’t say that, they certainly wouldn’t say that. I think probably my thing is I don’t get cross or annoyed or hassled until I get to a certain point and then I go for it. So I kind of let a lot of things go and then when it gets to the point where I think this needs to be sorted out, then probably I change a little bit. That might be an understatement but…

Elliot Moss
There is a flash in his eye, there’s a lot in the room when he is changing a little bit.

Tim Little
Yeah exactly.

Elliot Moss
Hulkian view of the world over here, he’s gone green actually. Okay well that’s good, don’t change on me.

Tim Little
No, no, I am okay.

Elliot Moss
I hope I won’t annoy you. We’ve got some more music coming up, it’s a brilliantly named artist, I hadn’t heard of him before, it’s Professor Longhair with Mardi Gras In New Orleans. Here we go.

That was Professor Longhair with Mardi Gras In New Orleans and Tim and I liked that. I mean music is a funny old thing in terms of moving between one genre and another and I was thinking about that I was thinking about having set up your own business and then being pulled in to say ‘listen we are in trouble can you help us, can you buy us’. This was a long while ago if indeed they were in trouble – you can tell me they weren’t but now you are straddling two worlds where there is a brand that was established and a business many years ago and you are now in charge and you’ve got skin in the game and then there was the other one which you set up from scratch. Is it a bit like adopting a child? I mean do you feel the same love for Grenson that you feel for Tim Little?

Tim Little
Yeah very much so actually, if anything I feel, I feel the same amount of love but I feel more responsibility for Grenson. If something goes wrong at Tim Little, that’s fine, that’s my thing I started it you know whatever. But Grenson it’s a bit like having a house almost, you feel like you own it for a period of time, you know, it’s your house but only for a period of time. Somebody had it before you, somebody will have it after you and on my screen saver on my phone, so every time I look at my phone I’ve got the Founder of Grenson who is a guy called William Green and I kind of feel all the time just responsible, when you have an old brand like this you think I want to do what’s the right thing for the brand and for the history and the heritage of that brand and it is very important and I kind of really bought into that at the beginning and it still kind of is an important thing for me every day.

Elliot Moss
I remember interviewing Emma Bridgewater a few years ago and we were talking about the potteries in Stoke and that incredible tradition of making pottery, of ceramics. Northampton is likewise the same for shoes in this country as I understand it.

Tim Little
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Is there also, I mean what is your feeling, without being too emotional, we could start you know getting some tissues out, it’s quite warm anyway. What is your feeling as you walk around that factory and you see people doing things or the… do you connect with that?

Tim Little
Yeah 100%. I mean I grew up walking round a factory with my dad, a textile factory but 100% you know, they are incredible people, they are all crafts people, most of them have probably spent up to 5 years learning to do what they do properly and they are very rare skills these days and every day I can walk in to that factory and see them actually making a shoe and you see the, the leather come in one end and it goes out the other end as a pair of shoes, it is literally skin to box so it, yeah it is an amazing thing to watch and to have that around you all the time and to know the characters who are making those shoes and know that they’ve got skills that have been handed down from people 150 years ago originally, all the way down to the present day. So yeah, it’s the heart and soul of the business.

Elliot Moss
And is making stuff really nice as juxtaposition to talking about stuff which was the world of advertising, is that something also that you’ve felt very comfortable with and enjoyed?

Tim Little
Very much, very much. It was the one thing I missed at Adidas was that by the time we got involved in a project the shoe had been designed, everything had kind of been formed and doing everything right from the beginning for me is really important and starting off by… because you start, when you have a marketing background you sit down to design a shoe and you don’t just have a piece of paper let’s design a nice shoe, you’ve got all kinds of things going on in your head about what would be a great shoe, what would be a good story, what if we used this special kind of leather that nobody’s used before, what if we use a vegan leather which we are using at the moment, all kinds of different things go on but it is lovely to be there right at the beginning where you sit down with a blank piece of paper and just say ‘let’s do something’.

Elliot Moss
Well also that though you say you know, I wasn’t going to enter the credit department of an advertising agency because they, you know, that wasn’t going to happen. You are essentially now a credit director. Your influences I read somewhere are quite wide and varied in terms of what influences the design. Just tell me a little bit about where those come from?

Tim Little
Well as you, I am sure you know as well, every account man in advertising is a frustrated creative.

Elliot Moss
No, that can’t be true Tim.

Tim Little
And we, you know you spend 10 years kind of thinking ‘oh I could have done that’ but no I think the design side is really important to me, personally. I absolutely love it and it is very, very much part and I think starting my original business was about me saying to myself, I think there is a better way of designing a shoe like that. Take a classic English shoe, I think there is a nicer way. I don’t think they are that well designed, I think there could be a more interesting… so it was having a point of view rather than having a skill, a design skill. I didn’t have any background but that point of view about how things could be designed better was very important and as time has gone on I have just been more and more and more involved in the design process, probably come away from it a little bit more now because I have people, designers who work for us but very, very much involved as a creative director and briefing things in.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for my final chat with my guest today, that’s Tim Little, plus we will be playing a track from Robert Glasper Experiment. That’s in just a moment, don’t go anywhere.

Another one I love here in Jazz Shapers, that was Robert Glasper Experiment with Calls. Just for a few more minutes I’ve got the pleasure of Tim Little’s company. You’ve now been working in the Grenson business, been owning the Grenson business for 9 years or so, is that right?

Tim Little
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Yeah. What is the next 9 years or the next phase hold for you in terms of how you are going to grow the business?

Tim Little
We’ve got various things that we always look at in terms of things that we think are going to grow, could grow really quickly. Generally you know, my bedrock is always more of the same because the business is doing very well and it is kind of more of the same is the starting point and then to say what are the things that we think are big opportunities. I think the biggest one at the moment that’s been taking off is women’s so we introduced women’s probably 4/5 years ago and we are a very masculine kind of brand and we’ve been a menswear brand for 150 years, it’s a factory, it’s all of that traditional English shoe kind of thing so launching women’s was a stretch at the beginning but in the last kind of year, 18 months it has really taken off and I think that’s a huge opportunity and we’ve got to be very careful how we manage that. But it is really exciting.

Elliot Moss
Which bit gives you the most joy, it is obvious you love what you do and you have since you probably took the plunge and did it yourself but are there moments when it is sort of that in flow feeling, where you are just going I am not even working, this is just going really well. Is it the design bit? Is it the watching consumers actually purchase stuff?

Tim Little
Yeah there are little things like seeing somebody on the tube in a pair of our shoes and thinking that’s exciting and remembering two years ago when that was on a piece of paper. But I think really for me it is that thing again about the mix of everything, being able to be sitting in a design meeting one minute, the next minute being in the factory talking to somebody about how a certain element of the shoe isn’t working because of the seam, they need to change the seam and is it okay to do it… All the way through to you know, talking about a shop lease you know on a new store in Soho or whatever. I don’t want to do a lot of that but I do like it as a distraction, I do find it interesting. So I think for me it is having the whole thing together, the mix of it all but also having a hand in every little bit of the business and feeling responsible for it all. So yeah, it’s the whole thing.

Elliot Moss
There is one actually not far from this building, Meard Street?

Tim Little
Meard Street, a little cut through yeah.

Elliot Moss
A little cut through and I walk past it on my way here every time.

Tim Little
Very pretty shop.

Elliot Moss
I stop had a little peep and go ‘not today, hold on’. I can’t afford another pair. And tell me about money, I mean these shoes, the shoes you sell are not cheap, we haven’t spoken about money once in this conversation which in itself is quite revealing.

Tim Little
Good.

Elliot Moss
Good. Do you care about it? Is it nice to make more each year?

Tim Little
Personally?

Elliot Moss
Yeah.

Tim Little
Yeah I think, well there is two sides to money I think. There’s money in a business and money in a business is about making enough money that the business can then evolve and grow. I think what people don’t realise, a lot of people who don’t have a business think that if you make a profit then you put that profit in your pocket and go and buy a boat and that’s it and then next year if you make a profit again you do the same. But you don’t do that. To grow you need the money up front because you pay for everything up front before you get paid for it. So if we want the business to be 20% bigger next year, we have to make a certain amount of profit this year to be able to do that and that’s choices. So money is very important in the business for that reason, for growth and to be able to do things we want to do. Personally, yeah I am the same as anybody else. I don’t have a particularly extravagant lifestyle but it is as somebody once said, badly paraphrased you know it’s better to be rich than poor. You know it’s, I’ve been both and it is more fun to be you know, it’s nice…

Elliot Moss
The Porsche was more fun than the tube?

Tim Little
Yeah. Exactly. Well I am on a scooter now so yeah those days have gone. I actually like it but… yeah no it’s not the be all and end all for me but it is certainly very important in the business to make a healthy profit to be able to grow the business and push it on and hire new people and do all those kind of things.

Elliot Moss
It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Tim – good luck with Grenson, with Tim Little. Have fun. Continue to make lovely shoes which I like to buy.

Tim Little
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
I am looking forward to my next pair. Just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Tim Little
Song choice is an old classic that I’ve always loved by John Lee Hooker, he’s probably my all-time favourite Blues musician, I am a big Blues fan. It is called Whisky and Women and the reason I chose it was when I first started making shoes and opened that store in Chelsea, I decided because he was my hero to send him a pair of shoes, got in touch with his agent, he said send a pair of shoes and we sent them over and then we got this message back, they were a pair of loafers and all of my Tim Little shoes are named after Blues songs and this was a pair of loafers and they were called by chance, Whiskey and Women which is one of his songs and he apparently, his agent said, as he pulled them on he saw inside it said Whiskey and Women and he thought I’d done that especially for him and thought that was very funny and laughed it so yeah, it is very special to me as a song.

Elliot Moss
That was Whiskey and Women by John Lee Hooker, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Tim Little; someone who has applied the basic principles of building a brand with great effect; someone who has a point of view, he talked about the importance of having one of those when you are actually making a product; and someone who loved the mix of everything he does, whether it is looking at the numbers, whether it is dealing with people or whether indeed it is creating the next brilliant pair of shoes.

You can hear our conversation with Tim all over again whenever you would like to as a podcast, just search Jazz Shapers or ask your smart speaker to play Jazz Shapers or if you are up bright and early Monday morning you can catch this programme again just before the Business Breakfast at 5.00am. We are back next Saturday from 9.00 with our next Business Shaper, Claudine Adeyemi, Founder and CEO of Career Ear, a careers advice and recruitment platform enabling employers to engage with young, diverse, quality talent. Up next after the news at 10.00 it’s Nigel Williams, he’s got more music, interviews and live sessions too. That’s it from Jazz Shapers and me, have a great weekend.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers. You will find hundreds more guests available for you to listen to in our archive. To find out more, just search Jazz Shapers and iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to mishcon.com/jazzshapers.

Tim Little is the Founder and CEO of classic luxury shoe brand, Tim Little, and the Owner and Creative Director of 150-year-old shoemakers, Grenson.

Having left a career in advertising in 1997 to follow his dream of designing his own ‘English shoes without the cobwebs’ shoe collection, Tim opened his first shop on Kings Road with a small collection and a fledgling bespoke business. In 2005 he was approached by the owner of old Northampton shoemaker, Grenson, to help turn around the struggling brand.

After five years of trying to persuade people that English brogues were cool, Tim took the opportunity to buy the company outright and since then the business has grown three fold and now includes both women’s and accessories.

Follow Tim on Twitter @timlittlecom.

Interview highlights

I had an initial love of shoes from when I was a child.

There is always something round the corner.

You need to understand who you are making shoes for.

When we design shoes we always have a very acute sense of what Grenson is about and what people like about Grenson.

I started in completely the wrong direction.

I thought this is it forever, I’ve found my dream job.

I walked into a shop in Knightsbridge to buy a pair of shoes and it was the dullest, most appallingly old fashioned experience I’d ever had. It made me think why can’t there be a bit of creativity and interest in design involved in shoemaking?

I just drifted on and on, and here I am today.

It’s all about keeping what’s good with tradition but updating it and making it relevant.

I love to jump around and have different things going on.

I’ve got the Founder of Grenson as my screensaver.

It is lovely to be there right at the beginning where you sit down with a blank piece of paper and just say ‘let’s do something’.

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Stranded after a cancelled flight, Clive Jackson came up with the idea for Victor – an on-demand, private jet charter business. Spotting a gap in the market for a private jet share scheme, he launched Victor in 2011 and it has grown rapidly, revolutionising the jet charter industry with an on-demand, fully transparent and subscription [...]

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Jazz Shapers - 49 mins ago

Shaper: Jez Nelson

Jez Nelson is the Founder, CEO and CCO of content agency and production company, Somethin’ Else. Frustrated by the lack of jazz on the radio, Jez along with fellow Jazz FM presenter Chris Philips and DJ Gilles Peterson set up a jazz-only pirate radio station, K Jazz in the mid-80s, which survived for two years. After [...]

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Jazz Shapers - 7 days ago