Posted on January 23 2015
For today’s Biz Story meet Nickie Kelly, founder of Willow Tree Boutique, offering unique quirky home accessories and vintage furniture. Normally I whizz over some questions but I so loved Nickie’s email and the fact that she bullet pointed her business journey that I’m running it entirely as is. Her determination, hard work and inspiration shine through… I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
- Nickie Kelly / 31 years old / married / 3 boys (Jamie 11, George 5 & Jesse 2)
- Wanted to be an interior designer & product designer since the 1st days of changing rooms – I was about 6/7 and totally hooked!!
- Worked super hard at school and achieved good grades in all subjects – started college to do art, design & textiles.
- Got frustrated and bored, left to become a travel agent! (Bad move!)
- Found out at 20 I’m dyslexic I think this is why found school so soul destroying as I always had to work super hard to get the grades I knew I was capable of.
- Had my 1st child at 20 years old, found myself in a council flat with new baby with not a lot of money.
- Trained to be a nail technician when Jamie was 11 weeks old to try to “change my life” (as the advert said) and earn £25 an hour!
- Separated from Jamie’s dad at 23 was left with huge mortgage to pay and he left me with nothing. Home was repossessed we had to move in with my parents.
- Worked hard, became salon manager.
- Fell in love with my now husband, had another baby George, left the salon and set up as a self-employed nail technician.
- Was landed with £50k bill from house that was repossessed, and had no choice but to go bankrupt.
- Another baby Jesse 2012
- Turned 30! Mid life crisis hit!!
- Joined the shabby chic craze in 2012 started doing odd items for myself & to sell on eBay realised there was a high profit margin in good VINTAGE furniture.
- Me & my best friend (she was also into the furniture upcycling craze) stumbled upon a local shop we loved then this sparked our interiors business idea and relighted my passion in a big way!!
- I felt this was my calling – and I really wanted out of nails, it was long unsociable hours, my fingers would bleed everyday and I had no passion for it! I’m a big believer in living life to the full and being happy in what you do.
- 3 weeks before we had to sign for shop & put down a big deposit my friend felt it wasn’t for her! So I had 3 weeks to find the £750. I got a few beds, painted them up, worked round the clock and sold them to get funds together.
- Applied for shop lease – was knocked back due to bankruptcy – dad went guarantor for me phew! Then knocked back from banks for business loan to pay for refurb & stock.
- Shop needed lots of work – I took my nail clients there to try and build up money to pay for refurb (deluded I know) .
- Heard a radio advert on way back from a disappointing bank meeting saying to win an advertising package and the chance for a business loan. Entered & after 3 gruelling stages I actually WON!
- Was directed to start up loans and after devising a lengthy business plan I was approved 7.5k loan!
- This was the opening of Willow tree boutique.
- Continued with the help from my family to do nail clients in the back of the shop to protect the family from financial ruin if it all went badly…
- In April I won another local competition through more gruelling presentations and interviews, I won Neil Clough from 2013 BBC apprentice as my business mentor. We have monthly meetings but if you spoke to him I think he would say I’m not easy to mentor, as I can be stubborn with my ideas! But I can’t help it!! Sometimes only sometimes I am wrong. It’s just so nice to offload and ask for advice if I’m struggling to make a decision. I find business so lonely at times! Plus he can see it from the outside and in black & white which I struggle to do as I’m so emotionally attached to everything.
- I am now on month 8 which feels like year 8! But going great so far.
- I retired from nails 2 months ago after I really took on board Abigail’s advice on stop working in the business & start working on it! Ever since it’s gone from strength to strength.
- I was approved as WARRINGTON’S exclusive stockist of Annie Sloan paint last week which was a huge accomplishment for me.
- The business itself is over whelming. And I’m learning every day what feels like 100 new things! I had no idea a pretty little home shop would be so extremely hard work! But I’m a sucker for a challenge!!
- My dream is to have a high-end city centre boutique with beautiful bespoke items such as lighting, art, neon creations, furniture etc. I would also love to design & create some products of my own one-day like Abigail.
- I shamefully discovered Abigail on Google while I was searching flocked items, as I’m also a little obsessed with flock. I want a machine soon!! I came across her candlesticks at Debenhams and discovered the online store & blog and I was like oh my god wow and I had just decided to paint the shop dark grey and was getting lots of negative comments about the choice and then it was like wow this lady rocks and totally gets everything that’s in my crazy head!! I thoroughly enjoyed her retail class and got so much amazing advice and encouragement!
- I just thought my story was a good example of don’t let anything stop you. If it’s what’s you truly believe in, where’s there’s a will there’s a way! I’m only at the beginning of my story & learning journey. Abigail’s biz posts are great and really help with holding onto that dream, as you can be knocked back so much!
Thank you so much Nickie I loved reading your journey as I am sure everyone else has also. Oh and one more thing Nickie has just applied to become a trustee of her local women’s refugee. She want’s to be involved with helping vulnerable women rebuild their lives and help them create a happy home from quick fix decor tips to strong self belief.
I told you she was inspirational.
Nickie I wish you the hugest success with your business, I have a feeling it’s going to go very far. Thank you so much for writing in.