6 things we learnt opening a business in a small town
Looking back at when Tegen, Safi and I decided to open a shop it was actually a little crazy! Although we had dreamed about having a business together celebrating the best of St. Ives for years, none of us had much knowledge on the retail world from a shop perspective. I am a designer and have worked for a range of clients over the years, Tegen has the eye for product and Safi has has the business acronym to glue it all together, we are also very lucky to have very supportive parents but we definitely have made some hiccups!
These are just a few of the things we have learnt after the last year, we are by no means experts but I wish someone had told us these things when we started out... Any other tips/tricks please add to comments below :)
The locals will support you like no other, so don't forget about them
Living in a tourist town it is easy to get side tracked in to curating a shop just for tourists but it is the locals that will see you through the colder darker months, think about what a local may like to purchase too. Have the best of both worlds! We have been blown away by the local support of our small business.
Search out what your neighbours are doing to ensure you don't tread on toes
Now, this is an important one and admittedly we made this mistake a couple of times when we first started out in retail. Embarrassingly, I found a gorgeous product online made in Cornwall, I promptly sent them an email asking if we could sell it in our shop. It was only weeks later I walked past one of the gorgeous shops in the town selling it, I was absolutely mortified! I later leant it was made by the owner of the shop, I can only imagine what their thoughts of us were. We leant this lesson the hard way so you don't have too...
Keep all your receipts
Not small town related, but extremely important. Take a photo of every single receipt and put it in a folder on your phone/desktop! You will thank me later.
Talk to your neighbours
We are so fortunate to have a lovely range of independents in St. Ives! Each and every one of them have been so lovely and supportive, we have leant a lot. David from Brocante, Sarah from Fabulous and Kirsten from Ula but the list goes on.. Kirsten even put together a whatsapp group and regularly organises live shopping events!! We couldn't be more pleased to know our local small shop owners.
Not everyone will love what you sell
You can't please everyone, and if you try to you will lose the authenticity of your brand. You won't be everyones cup of teas, but that is ok! What I love about St. Ives is there are shops for tastes, it's fab!
Talk to your customers
We are all naturally very chatty (you can imagine our parents when we were at school having to attend parents evening and hearing the same thing 3 times.. 'As potential, but just a little too chatty!') however this has really worked in our favour. We have had customers that have come in to store and after a bit of chit chat we find out they have a small side hustle making beautiful things, it is such a lovely organic way of finding our makers.