Holly & Co is an online and offline community which supports, advises and champions the small businesses of the world.
As the founder of the hugely successful ‘Not on the High Street’ online store, what made you decide to set up Holly & Co?
After building and growing NOTHS for over 10 years, I had a unique overview of the small business journey, unlike anyone else has had. I was able to see first-hand that although every creative small business was unique in their offering, in fact, they pretty much went through the same journey. It quickly became clear, that now small businesses had marketplaces to sell (which really didn’t exist before NOTHS), what they actually needed was the more holistic side of things. Someone who could offer business advice for the left side of the brain, a place which gave colourful and practical advice on how to run a business, whilst at the same time inspiring, as well as creating a community of small businesses and a support network, as life as a small business can be very lonely.
Do you feel this new venture is more aimed towards the local resident, or is the internet just as important?
Holly & Co is made up of two parts; the online resource which has global reach, and the Work/Shop; which we call the heart of Holly & Co, which has a more local focus.
Holly & Co online is available to everyone. We’re setting out to be a global resource, that can support, advise and inspire all small businesses. We have a community where people can discuss and network online, a stories library filled with original and curated content designed to inspire, a shop, a blog and a Pharmacy ‘first aid for business’ which is designed to demystify business.
Our physical Work/Shop showcases small businesses and is the first of its kind in the world, each month it reinvents itself to showcase a different artisanal industry. We’ve been the florists, the artists, the bakers…. everything from our products, events and food changes to reflect the theme. It’s a place of inspiration and enables me to really understand what it means to have a retail space on the high street. I’m passionate about championing the independent high street and starting a wider conversation about what needs to change to stop the clone towns, but I also believe in walking the walk (not just talking the talk). Having a physical space has been an eye opening experience for me, particularly having only been online for the past 11 years!
Will there be more shops in the future?
There are no plans to open more Holly & Co shops for now, the Work/Shop will be one of a kind, but we have big plans for Holly & Co…offline as well as online.
The shop has a very local / community vibe, if you plan to expand how will you retain this?
I believe you can take that feeling you receive offline and amplify it online. I’m firmly committed to the mission (always have been) in ‘scaling the unique’. It’s certainly not easy and most brands never achieve it. However, if you continue to have the goal of finding this magical formula at your heart, I believe the path won’t see you do much wrong.
What is your one piece of advice for anyone considering opening their first business?
Trust your gut! I’ve paid the price every time I decided to ignore it, or look the other way!
What are the current trends in the marketplace and do you see these changing anytime soon?
More and more I’m seeing people buy into the stories behind pieces. We went through a phase that continues, where all that matters is the hard side of retailing – price, service and delivery. I think we are now entering a period, where people care far more about the origin of what they’re purchasing. They are looking to engage, rather than continue on a vacuous journey of accumulating things.
Technology has given us more time back in our lives, and yet we all seem to have a compulsion in using that time to go faster. I think we’re now all waking up to a need to allocate some of that time to things that make us feel human, these include experiences, stories and origin.
Which brands are you most excited by and why?
- NOTHS – excited to see what the next 10 years bring and how it will lead the way when it comes to selling products made by small businesses, within the freelance economy.
- FREDDIES FLOWERS – I love watching the success of good subscription businesses.
- GRAIN & KNOT – we’re now living in a time where hand-carving spoons for a living is possible. This passion for niche is what makes me get out of bed in the morning and grow Holly & Co.
Where have your biggest influences come from?
I’m influenced by ‘small’, and as I feel like I’ve not got every qualification going, when it comes to the inner workings of small businesses, it’s the nuggets of gold that I come across, right from the grassroots of these makers, entrepreneurs and taste makers that influence me the most. They always have.
Did you find that already owning a successful business created a springboard for the new company?
I built NOTHS over 10 years because I fundamentally believe in the importance of shining a light on small creative businesses. They bring colour to the every-day grey, and their power is set to grow as the freelance economy really takes hold.
There is no doubt that as the co-founder of a brand like NOTHS, as well as UK Ambassador for Small Creative Businesses, plus being awarded my MBE, doors have certainly been opened to me that would have been shut first time around. However, I have also been aware that all eyes have been on me this time as I launched Holly & Co, it certainly isn’t for the faint hearted!
Where do you see the brand in 10 years time?
Holly & Co will continue to go from strength to strength, I have no doubt of that. Its heart is one of seeking to do good, coupled with a fantastic team who believe in the mission as strongly as I do. With a strong and beautiful brand, there’s no limit to what we can achieve. The beauty in Holly & Co, is that it’s scalability is based on the community and people engaging with us. The bigger our community, the stronger our voice. A company built on these foundations is a powerful force to be reckoned with.