Spotlight on REfound Objects
Today's Spotlight is on Jenny and Simon of REfound Objects or RE for short, one of my favourite stores for finding something unique and quirky from the county I grew up in, Northumberland. Whenever I go to visit my parents, it is always the place I want to sneak off to for a quiet browse for an hour or two and I always come away with something different, be it kitchen paraphernalia, a mirror, vintage items or smellies, I literally have to reign in my credit card whenever I visit this place.
Oh, and I always order my Christmas paper decorations from there, if I can't get up to visit of any reason, I simply go online. if you want to see the great items they sell you can do so here.
So, read on to hear how this fabulous place got started.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
After many years working together as fashion designers we found ourselves spending more and more time on long, boring journeys to and from meetings and presentations, we fantasised about opening a lifestyle store and after a year of planning the fantasy became a reality. We wanted to offer an unequalled retail experience both in store and on-line. A unique environment housing an eclectic mix of the raRE, REmarkable, REcycled, REscued and REstored - furniture and objects for the home. The one-off, the mass produced, the new and the old, the local and the international and if it's fair trade or recycled that's even better.
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
We knew exactly the kind of industrial space we wanted to start the business – big enough to create different retail areas and environments and also house the mail order business but our biggest challenge was finding it in a rural area. Eventually we found a small warehouse at the back of a filling station in Corbridge and in November 2003 RE was born.
3. How did you fund your business?
The business was self funded 50:50
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
Finding the right premises gave us the biggest headache. With no retail experience, other than from the other side of the counter, we had no idea about stock levels, lead times, pricing, minimum order values etc. and on the day, we opened we couldn’t even work the card machine!
5. What help was missing for you?
Anything we needed to know we tried to find someone to help – friends, family, ex work colleagues, anyone who might be useful. With a positive attitude, tenacity and lots of hard work we never considered the possibility that the business might fail and with experience it gets easier.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
We opened early November 2003 so we were really busy as Christmas was on the horizon. We didn’t anticipate the demand and importance of the season. It was quickly followed by the quiet months of January and February the reduction in sales was quite frightening – it’s not until you’ve got a full years' trading under your belt that you start to understand the annual sales patterns and can plan accordingly.
7. What have you learnt?
To have confidence. If you do something special and unique, whether it’s a product or an experience, customers will find you. We design a lot of our own products under the REgd. label and together with a full range of price points RE appeals to a huge cross section of customers offering something for everyone.
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Listen to all the advice you are offered but be true to yourself. Start simple – the best piece of advice we got ‘don’t invest heavily in complex systems till you know what you want’.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
Being inspired – creating and finding new products, working with craftsmen and suppliers all over the world to realise our ideas.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
10 You have to be a master at everything – FD one minute cleaner the next, but having the right business partner and staff helps to share the load.
Nicola says "Simon and Jenny had a very clear idea of what they wanted to achieve with this business venture and I certainly think they have achieved their goal. This is a place I have visited for years (pre-dating any Instagram or Blog) and always come back to, because I love the vibe they have created in their shop and I am always guaranteed to find something interesting.
Granted they have had to go on a steep learning curve to pick up the business skills, but this is not unusual. If you read my blog spotlights regularly it is the thing that crops up the most.
The Girl with The Green Sofa