Nicola Donnelly, 31, is Director of Time Lifestyle Boutique in Reform Street, Dundee.
I first met Nicola when she worked at the University of Dundee, and we’ve kept in touch via social media ever since. Since she opened Time Lifestyle Boutique last year, she’s developed a great gift shop with its own personality. All the while, she has supported local designers by hosting pop up shops in her boutique, and she tirelessly promotes the independent retail scene in Dundee. What I admire most about Nicola is that she had the courage to take the risk of leaving full time employment in order to follow her dream of opening her own boutique and working for herself.
Where are you from?
Where do you live?
I lived in Edinburgh for a number of years while I was at university but my husband and I have settled in Dundee. We’re both very proud to be from Dundee and are excited about our future here.
What did you want to be when growing up?
It varied from time-to-time – a shopkeeper, teacher, marine biologist, cancer scientist. I went to university to do science but I realised that I actually enjoyed communicating ideas more than the investigation. Communication and how it helps people is still what drives me today.
What does your job involve?
As the owner of an independent shop my job is very varied. The best parts are definitely getting feedback from customers who have given gifts that have gone down well – and buying! Buying stock is like shopping on an industrial scale! I make at least four buying trips a year and spend two days buying for months at a time. It’s so important to keep up with the industry trends and connect with my suppliers. I also have to give top notch customer service, merchandise stock, run a website, do the marketing, keep up with admin, keep the shop looking gorgeous, and do chores. I have a brilliant boutique assistant, Clare – I don’t know where I would be without her.
What does your average working day look like?
A shop day often starts with a coffee at Henry’s while waiting for the bank to open so I can deposit cash and get change for the day. Then I do a post office run with any deliveries before I open the doors. Before the lunchtime rush and in between customers, I get on with stocking and tidying the shop and keeping up with social media and any quick admin tasks. I tend to leave the bigger pieces of work to the evening or my day off. The afternoon is our busiest time of day, but when it starts to quieten down I give the shop another tidy and prepare to cash up. Sometimes in the evening I go to networking events, city centre meetings and catch up with my Content Marketing Academy buddies on Skype.
Best thing about your work?
The interaction with my regulars – hearing their news and sorting them out with great gifts and treats for themselves. I love the buzz that hits the shop around big holidays. Mother’s Day, Christmas and end-of-term are big for us. I also love working with other great business owners to share our ideas and work towards promoting all the great things going on in Dundee. Oh – and I already mentioned the buying trips!
Worst thing about your work?
Admin! The constant battle to give everyone the information they need, when they need it. I would rather be using this time to improve services for existing customers or reach out to new contacts. I hate any kind of disruption that doesn’t add value to customers or the business – like cold selling calls.
I recently got a MacBook Air. It has honestly been life-changing. My Dundee mug is never far from sight and I like a nice pen and a notebook, but mostly I use apps now.
What has been your career highlight so far?
Our first birthday was massive for me. It was a good time to reflect on what I had achieved and how lucky I was to have great support from my friends, family, Clare and of course my customers!
How have things changed since you started out?
The shop has been open for 15 months and I suppose I have made adjustments to what we do in terms of products and service, based on feedback that we just didn’t have initially. That will always change. My goal in year one was to establish the shop, year two to launch an online shop and year three to develop our own range of products. We are definitely on track!
Who or what is your inspiration/motivation?
The people of Dundee inspire me – the innovation, creative culture, social conscience, being down-to-earth but with big ambitions. I want to create a business that is worthy of the city and adds something valuable. For now that is creating an independent shop in the city centre to give shoppers the quality, design and service they deserve and make gift buying a joy.
Best piece of professional advice you’ve received?
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Simon Sinek. Start with why.
Top tip for getting into the industry?
If you want to run a business – work in a service job for a while, learn at the frontline about what giving great customer service means. Working with the public is the best experience you will get for learning about teams, communication and managing expectations.
Paper or Digital: Digital
Tea or Coffee: Coffee (but always tea in a crisis)
Heels or Flats: Flats (Chelsea boots go with everything and might be the best fashion invention ever)
Save or Spend: Spend!
Day or Night: Day
Beach or Snow: Beach
Phone or Email: Email
Dogs or Cats: Dogs
Sweet or Savoury: Savoury
Champagne or Cocktails: Champagne
Image: Tammy Lyn Shaw, TShawts