Welcome to today’s Biz Story and Homeplace a new online emporium offering an eclectic but considered mix of vintage, mid century, retro & contemporary homeware. Recently launched and owned by Wendy Aldridge. I wanted to share her story because like many of us Wendy went into her business with a passion and a belief that there was a gap in the market She wrote “Abigail’s style has been an amazing source of inspiration for me & indeed it was after having done one of her Retail Masterclasses that I decided to take the plunge and pursue my dream. But it has been hard. It’s just me working on this – with my husband on hand to help with little bits here & there (for which I am so very grateful) and trying to juggle the immense workload whilst also raising 2 kids is a constant challenge.
Why did you decide to change your career path in the first place? I’d been working in Events for the best part of ten years, firstly at Dazed & Confused/AnOther Magazine and more recently heading up the Events department at the charity War Child where I’d been for roughly 7 years. I knew that after having my second child, I wanted to do something that was a bit more flexible around the kids and having spent our spare time in the last few years renovating properties both here in London and further afield in Berlin, I’d been well and truly bitten by the interiors bug. One of Abigail’s classes convinced me to take the plunge and pair a passion with a business plan and the idea for Homeplace was born..
What went into launching your business? Blood, sweat and tears?! Haha, seriously though I started picking up our Vintage/Mid Century & retro pieces roughly 2 years ago whilst I was on the hunt for bits to furnish our new home. I’d keep seeing pieces I loved the look of but perhaps didn’t have the right place for them in our house – but which I knew deep down were too good to pass up. So I started storing them all away in our spare room. We then converted our loft to provide us with some decent storage space and early next year we will tackle our garage, with a view to turning it into another storage/studio space.
In terms of the actual website, once I’d finally decided I was going to go for it, I had quite a strong vision for how I wanted it to look and was lucky enough to come across a really great web designer who was able to take my ideas and turn them into a reality.
We are still in the very early days but I am looking forward to seeing the business evolve.
What is a typical day like? Varied! I’ve done all the sourcing, styling, shooting, writing, uploading and marketing myself so there is always a super long list of things to do and they will vary massively across all those elements. But I really enjoy that, it keeps things thoroughly interesting so no two days are the same.
I usually try to cram as much in to the days when the kids are at school/childcare and then the days I have them at home, I tend to get them down to bed and work into the night.
Do you actively market or advertise your products and blog to get more followers? We figured out pretty early that it would be good to have an engaged audience to launch the site to, so we started doing weekly sneak peeks of the vintage stock via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles. It has worked really well and helped us to hone our style, engage with our audience and work out what sort of products are proving popular.
Since launching recently, we’ve had customers get in touch to say how great it was to come across us on Instagram for example so it’s clear that social media is going to play a pretty important part. Although we need to get much better on Twitter..and if anyone can kindly explain what is going on over in Google+, we’re all ears!
What skills and lessons have you learnt along the way? So many! I think anyone who starts their own business will do, as you inevitably end up turning your hand to so many things you may never have done before. From sourcing to styling to shooting, social media and search engine optimization, there has been so much to learn and develop skills at..and there is still so much to learn along the way. It has been a pretty major and at times slightly scary learning curve to navigate but it has been empowering too.
Although I have to say I’d have undoubtedly driven myself over the edge were it not for the invaluable help and support James my husband has provided on the admin side of things..for that is most definitely NOT my forte. Lesson wise – again so many! I’ve learnt that I can’t do everything and need to ask for help occasionally, especially on things I have limited skills on (yet!) like graphic design/photoshop etc. I have been incredibly grateful to friends who have chipped in and helped out on that front as and when I’ve needed it. I’ve also learnt to trust my instinct a bit more and to trust my judgement – if I see something I have a feeling might work and I can get it at the right price, I need to buy it. Nothing haunts you like the vintage pieces that got away!
Any major obstacles or hurdles faced? I’d say juggling the workload with 2 small kids has been a pretty big hurdle, it provides fresh challenges daily! But then I remind myself of the fact that I have 2 children (and my Mum had 5!) and that many people juggle just as much if not more. And that I am incredibly lucky to be doing something I love which offers me a great degree of flexibility around the kids. There’s a price to pay for everything and I’ve always been pretty good at juggling stuff, I’ve just had to get even better at it. I’d also say lack of confidence was a pretty major obstacle in the beginning – I’d thought about doing something myself for years but it took a long time to reach the point where I actually felt confident enough to take the plunge and do it. It feels a relief to finally be working on it!
Any advice you would give to others thinking of setting out? If you are lucky enough to have a passion you think you could potentially turn into a career, then I’d say go for it. It will almost certainly be a hard slog but if you’re passionate about what you are doing, it will always seem less like hard work and you are more likely to put in the hours that will undoubtedly be required.
Retain a sense of humour and let your hair down occasionally – it’s all too easy to get bogged down in the constant workload but its good to step back sometimes and take it all in/forget all about it!