Spotlight on Hilary and Flo
This lovely lady is very well known to the interiors community and on Instagram for her beautiful home and her fabulous shop, filled with so many goodies, you could spend a month’s salary in one go. I know I've tried to!
It's Shelley from @hilaryandflo who has agreed not just to a spotlight on her and her business but a home tour too. So, you have a double whammy in one post!
I first talked to Shelley not long after I started posting on Instagram, when I spotted an Abigail Ahern Dog lamp on her Instagram which I snapped up for my bedroom. Abigail had stopped making them and I had been scouring around trying to find one and came across Shelley's Instagram feed with two on her shop mantelpiece. I picked it up one day when I was visiting Sheffield and was happily posting away on Instagram, when one day, at least a month later, my husband said to me, "what on earth is that dog in our room?". "oh, I said, the one you've been walking past for months?" And that is the extent to which my husband pays attention to our home, or has any clue as to what designing an interior is all about!
Anyway, back to Shelley: She's fun and down to earth and will help you find and source things for your home, it is never any trouble. Plus, she sends the most amazing hand drawn pictures on the boxes she posts out, and adorable little pink flamingos, which my youngest loves, usually destroys and then begs me to buy more so he can get another one. Hey, I'm not going to complain!
So, go and read all about the journey to starting out Hilary and Flo and then see Shelley's beautiful home, filled with items she sources through her shop.
You can find Shelley's shop here:
My name is Shelley and I own up a bricks and mortar interior shop in Sheffield, UK – Hilary & Flo. The shop was set up in 2015 to offer Sheffield a place where people could buy quirky and unusual items of furniture and home accessories which are sourced from all over the World. Specialising in dark interiors, we also stock Scandinavian designed products and one-off items.
In 2015, I also set up an online shop –www.hilaryandflo.co.uk– which sells the majority of our products that we have instore.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
I have owned a pottery painting studio since 2008 and in 2015, the shop premises next door became vacant. I have always been really into interiors and had always wanted an interior/giftware shop that was a little bit different to anything else in Sheffield. I had visited quite a lot of trade shows for ideas for the pottery shop and had sourced some wonderful items. I decided to open an interior shop in October 2015.
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
I rented the shop next to my pottery shop.
3. How did you fund your business?
I took out a loan against the pottery shop business.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
I think the most difficult part was trying to set up while still running the other business. I had staff to cover the shifts in the pottery shop, but still had to be readily available to sort out any problems, order stock and be there when staff couldn't.
5. What help was missing for you?
I think I just needed an extra pair of hands! I was in the new shop for 2 months every day, decorating and setting everything up for the opening. Most of this time was during the school holidays when we were really busy in the pottery shop so I had to down tools a lot of the time and go and help there.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
I think that the first year went a lot better than expected! However, I started posting on Instagram and there was a real demand for an online shop. I had no experience with online selling so had to learn how to set up a website, market my products and learn about shipping. It was a steep learning curve – especially the shipping part of it. I don't feel that I'm very good with the promotion/marketing side of the business and could have definitely done with some help with that. It was also a lot harder than I thought to run both businesses. At one point, I had staff issues and trying to sort that out as well as running two shops was a difficult and stressful time.
7. What have you learnt?
I've learnt an awful lot in my first 2 years. Firstly, that a retail shop is a lot harder work than most people think – me included. You have to constantly keep things fresh, reach out to customers and stand out from the many other shops and businesses that are doing similar things. I've learnt that it is impossible to do everything by yourself and I have started to learn how to delegate jobs better as I used to try to do it all alone.
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Just do it! If you have always dreamed of doing something, your passion will shine through and you will do everything to make it work. It is always a risk, but you will never know until you try. Also, try and get as much help as you can from people who have skills that you don’t. You can’t do everything yourself.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
My job doesn't feel like a job. I absolutely love sourcing new products, rearranging the shop and talking to customers. The majority of my customers love the shop and are passionate about interiors as much as I am. It's so good to be able to get to work and plan what I am going to do that day to improve and grow my business.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
10! Balancing Hilary & Flo and my pottery shop has been extremely stressful at times and I have felt like I was only giving 50% to each. I have recently made the decision to sell the pottery shop and concentrate on my dream career and so it should get easier in time. I’ve also found it hard to keep up morale when days are quiet or things haven’t gone as planned.
Nicola Says: "Running one business is hard enough, but here Shelley has been running two, juggling both shops while also trying to set up online to meet demand. Learning to delegate is so hard when it is your own business, your "baby" if you like, but you have to, especially the jobs you know less about. Shelley talks about how setting up online was a steep learning curve, talk to others who have done it before and get as much informal help as you possibly can.
People will always be the most challenging in any business, as Shelley alludes to here. Getting your staffing right and juggling is incredibly hard and stressful. I talked about people in my blog post about starting your own business, it’s one of the most important parts, since if you don't have the right people, you will invariably have problems.
BUT it's lovely to hear how well Hilary and Flo is doing and that Shelley is selling her other business to focus on growing it, giving herself more time and space to work on a business that is clearly successful is the right thing to do.
And now in a two for one, we have Shelley's incredible Home tour, where you will see many of the items she sells in store featured in her own home.
The Girl with The Green Sofa