For as long as I can remember I’ve always been fascinated by retail. Obsessed with the products in my favourite shops, the noise of the tills in Tesco’s, and taking hours to set up my own shops at home or at my Nan’s house; are all childhood memories that are vividly clear. (And probably just as clear for my poor sister/bored customer, but for very different reasons!).
Fast forward (several) years, and I found myself finishing uni. Whilst being bright enough academically, I didn’t always have the concentration needed unless there was a creative element included. My course in Communication, Culture and Media allowed that mix perfectly, with a highly creative portion of the course, backed up with plenty of theory & research.
I then found myself becoming obsessed with the idea of working in retail buying. It seemed like the perfect combination of years of retail experience, a huge interest in trends, a creative focus, mixed with understanding business at a fundamental level.
When I found a footwear buying office, just literally on my doorstep, I couldn’t believe my luck! I then spent eleven happy years working in head offices for a number of footwear and clothing retailers, both in the Midlands and London. It gave me invaluable insight into product trend patterns & having a commercial eye, to how to run a viable commercial business and all that this entails (accounts processes, staffing procedures, store management, marketing & advertising). I got to experience all elements of true retail life and see how all the tiny details add up to the larger overall picture, both good and bad.
During this whole period there was an increasing & burning need to own my own business. After several, let’s say, “weaker” forays (making my own jewellery using Barbie shoes is one example best forgotten!), I began to focus in on homeware. I taught myself to sew by watching several YouTube videos, and then got a little better, and built up my confidence enough to start selling at craft fairs and events.
Having never been afraid of hard work, I had a busy (and quite stressful at times) full time buying job, which included a lot of travel. I would then spend my evenings creating cushions and lampshades, that I started selling online too, and uploading to my newly formed Facebook page.
After a few years, and many ever-evolving plans later, I found myself in a desperate need to do this ‘properly’, with visions of owning a homeware shop bursting out of every waking (and sleeping) moment. I think I would have literally exploded if I didn’t do it.
So, I did. I left my quite decent salary to become self-employed, and all the joys that brings! I worked for a year at home but found it hard to be discovered online, you needed a passing footfall to maximise your chances of selling.
After several viewings, and a couple of disappointments premises-wise, I found the perfect shop unit with an affordable rent, a very helpful mentor, and despite being several months pregnant at the time, I went for it. I’m not sure my family was in complete agreement with my plans!
What can I tell you, I learnt so, so much from having the shop, both about business, and about myself. Unless you’ve ran a small business, there is very little anyone outside of that can truly understand. The natural assumption is that you have a cosy, lovely life, stood (bored) in your shop from 9-5, chat to whoever comes in, make all this money, and then go home. Done. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are always a million more jobs than is humanly possible to complete. You’re up at the crack of dawn, you’re trying to juggle your accounts paperwork whilst serving in the shop, you’re up until one in the morning ordering stock and answering emails, and you still haven’t posted on Instagram. It’s brutal, and it’s relentless. And most probably, you’re not even getting paid for it.
But it’s also wonderful. It allows you to put your heart and soul into something that you feel deeply passionate about. It allows you to build a network of customers, and other businesses, around you that do get it. They become your work colleagues, and friends. You certainly wouldn’t be working for free, with no holiday in four years, for anyone else! Your vision is what keeps you going, that and a heavy reliance on coffee (which is what keeps you going when you’ve been up until 3am consoling a crying baby and trying to do your tax return with a laptop balanced on a nursing pillow).
Sadly, the shop didn’t work out as a long-term viable business; consumer habits changed, three years of Brexit (remember that?!) uncertainty took their toll, and a rising amount of debt meant that we couldn’t carry on. But would I do it all again? Absolutely. But I’d enlist more help.
Owning your own business means learning to juggle life, on all levels. Working in retail means doing this even more so. I know how hard it is, and I know that I want to help others in the same position.
My role here at the Fabulous Group allows me to do just that, and that’s why I love it. Seeing what businesses are going through and being able to take some of that weight off their shoulders gives me an enormous sense of achievement. If I can help someone else survive, and possibly even thrive, then I’m doing my job. I’m not interested in huge corporate businesses, I believe in small, independent businesses who are the lifeline of our economy. Using my experience to help support other small businesses to make a difference is everything to me. Job done.
Here at Fabulous Marketing we take the time to understand your business, what you want to achieve and how we can assist you along that journey. Be in business for yourself, not by yourself. Contact us today, so that we can support you on your journey.
About the Author
Jodie Burrows is part of the Fabulous Marketing team and has been with the Fabulous Group since January this year.
Jodie worked in retail buying after graduating from university, working as a Footwear & Accessories Buyer for a number of high street chains. For the last four years Jodie has been running her own independent homeware shop in the centre of Market Harborough.
She loves the huge variety that her current role provides, and particularly enjoys the creativity it allows. Her background in retail, and understanding of running a small business, allows her to use that experience in supporting our retail and hospitality clients.
Jodie’s favourite mantra? Anything can be achieved with a coffee in hand.
What makes Jodie fabulous? She will always look on the bright side!