Unless you're living under a rock somewhere, you've probably heard about our Boutique Awards. Voting is well under-way as our readers and users support and give recognition to their favourite boutiques from around the country. In the run-up to the awards, we'll be giving the floor to our nominees so you can learn more about them and their business (and you might just find your new favourite shopping haunt too). Here, we speak with nominees Gayle Poppers and Ann Petrov of the newly opened Galway Designers Studio House, Galway. Barely one year old, you're bound to fall in love with this little piece of sartorial heaven on Ireland's west coast.
If you could start again, what would you do differently and why?
Honestly, nothing. Yes, there have been many struggles along the way, but they have all been a learning curve and allowed us to grow and adapt to what is needed.
What has been your career highlight to date?
That we actually opened our doors in the first place! A lot of work, time, long hours, passion, struggle, tears and joy came before we opened, so for us to have gotten to the point of opening, was a fantastic feeling. We are surprised to be nominated because it means our hard work is paying off.
Do you use social media for your business? What importance does social media play for modern entrepreneurs?
Our business has mainly grown through the use of social media. We are very active, daily, and our following is growing constantly. It plays a huge part in modern marketing and building awareness about whats happening in the business. You need to be savvy with social media to grow in business these days, definitely.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Juggling family life and business, definitely. Both of us have young kids and it can be difficult. I'm (Gayle) a single mother Ann's partner works abroad most of the time, so having to manage kids along with all the demands of business has been really tough. There are days when we are just exhausted or one of our kids are sick, so we can't come into the shop, or have to bring them with us, so it is a constant juggle of time management, late nights and a lot of coffee!
How do you think you got to where you are today?
Our friendship and support for one another. We call each other 'Wifey'! We definitely wouldn't have gotten to where we are without one another. We compliment each other in business, as both of us recognise our strengths and weaknesses, and we both bring something valuable to different areas of the business. One wouldn't work without the other.
What is your boutique's USP?
The fact that we house only independent designers, from the West of Ireland, so a lot of what we stock are one-offs, handmade, and unique pieces. Also the fact that we provide the store on a 'rent-a-rail' basis; taking no commission on sales, which assists in the growth of the designer's individual businesses. Visually, we feel we are different also; there is no shop like us in the West of Ireland at all and we take great pride and passion in the visual merchandising side of things. We love to have the shop looking that little bit edgier and unique.
Do you think you have the same opportunities as those working and selling in Dublin?
Working in Galway is definitely more challenging, as the customer base is different. You need to be unique to get the paying customer in as there are many mainstream boutiques around. We really feel we are unique, but you are always up against the fast, disposable fashion industry and finding the customer who is looking for quality and appreciates design is difficult. Footfall is slower in Galway and although it's a very arty and cultural city, Dublin will always have a higher level of customers with a larger disposable income. In saying that though, Galway has a huge tourist industry and the fact that there is no shop like us around this side of the country gives us a unique opportunity.
What does your daily routine look like?
Hectic! It consists of negotiating with kids to get them from A to B in the mornings while getting ready to go to work also... Then it goes something like this:
Emails, Social Media, Admin, meetings with designers
Merchandising, photo shoots, creating material for the in-store magazine
School pick ups
Creating events, hosting events, facilitating classes and workshops
Trying to fit in some of our own designing on some days
Home to make dinner for the little people, more negotiating with them.. homework.. get them ready for bed etc...
A glass of Wine! And collapse... until the next day when its done all over again...
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Seeing our designers doing well and getting to meet such a huge community of talented and creative people. Meeting the customers also and knowing that they appreciate the work and passion that goes into the all the designs in store.
What’s your least favourite part of the job?
Probably the admin side of things! And just having to be everything.. we do everything ourselves, from marketing to bookkeeping, to the basic day to day running of the shop; so it would be nice to be able to hand some of it over at times. We will – one day – when we can afford it!