Ollie’s Closet- a children’s boutique specialising in pre-loved designer clothing, baby gifts and wooden toys.
Your Name and Age:
Nicola Hargadon, 33Tell us about your family:
I am a single parent with Oliver 4 & Amelia 3 and we live in Bournemouth on the South Coast.
What did you do before coming up with your business idea:
Before I had Oliver I was training to be a solicitor with a city law firm. The hours were extremely long and it was very high pressured but I loved it! After I had Oliver, I commuted to London but found it hard going- I was often up before him and was never there to put him to bed. When Millie came along less than a year after Oliver was born, I knew that I couldn’t carry on with that life.
Whilst I was on maternity leave with Millie, I started to organise nearly new sales in the local area which proved to be very popular and after completing a business course, I realised I could make this into a viable business.
What research did you do before launching?
I was very lucky in that in having 2 babies meant I was heavily involved in the local ‘mum scene’. I devised a questionnaire and distributed it all around the local area- I went to all of the toddler groups & nurseries, used parenting forums- even stopped parents in the street to get an even response. I ended up with over 300 completed questionnaires which proved very insightful!
How have you funded the business?
The business is solely funded by me. It has taken some creative thinking to be able to get the right look without spending a fortune; I had the shop fittings sent over from a shop closing down in Spain to save money…and of course, it fitted in nicely with our recycling policy!
How do you promote your business? What has worked best?
The mum’s recommendation network works very well in our area- most of our customers have heard from us through a friend or at a local toddler group.
We will soon be launching the ‘Toys for Tots’ promotion whereby customers can collect vouchers for their local playgroup for them to spend on toys. We are hoping that this will raise our profile and allow us to help these groups provide good quality & hardwearing toys for the children that attend.
What has worked well about your business?
When I devised the business plan, I knew I wanted to have a physical shop instead of just launching an online shop. It was important that people could view the clothes they were buying. Now we have added a complete range of wooden toys, I am glad I went down this route- it is lovely to give your customer that personal attention and be able to guide them through their purchase.
What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?
Trying to fit the business around the children- Millie had just turned 1 when we opened & it was a real struggle to fit everything in and spend quality time with the kids. Thankfully, I’ve now got a fantastic nanny & family who are happy to step in when needed. Two years down the line, I’ve learnt to accept help when it’s offered and not try to be superwoman!
What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?
Adhere to the saying ‘location, location, location’. There is no point in having the most spectacular shop in the world if it’s in an area that doesn’t cater for your target market.
We will be launching a party plan business to coincide with the Christmas season offering parents a chance to sell good quality wooden toys. For further details, email firstname.lastname@example.org .