Love Vintage?

4 Mar

Jo Abram has worked with disabled people for over ten years, but last year decided to follow her dreams and open her own vintage clothes shop in Bideford, North Devon.  She continues to work part time with people with learning difficulties to subsidise her self employed income.

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I opened Jo Joe’s as I had always admired shops like The Real McCoy/Uncle Sams in Bristol, and American Classics in London.  I used to shop in them in my teens and even though I am nearly 40 (!!) I still love this kind of shop.  So last year, I decided to leave my corporate job, move back to Bideford and set up Jo Joe’s at Butchers Row in Bideford – they have small retail units which are ideal for a start up buisness, they are priced at £100 per month and are small enough for you not to feel too overwhlemed!  I also work part time helping people with learning difficulties find employment – I think it’s important to say that unless you have lots of savings or a rich husband (who does!!) that it is unlikely that you will earn enough on one of these units to live on, so most of us there work part time elsewhere too.
I researched the area and found that there were no other shops like this outside of Exeter.  I therefore felt confident that there would be a market for my kind of clothing in the area and I was right – the reception I have had since opening in October last year has been great, with a lot of people saying they will no longer have to travel to Exeter (to the Real McCoy) and so this saves them time and money as they can shop locally instead.
I market my business by leaflet drops, regular Facebook presence and also promoting it whenever and wherever I can – I always carry a stack of cards with me, and as I dress in a vintage/retro style myself, I often get asked where I get my clothes from, so I say ‘jo joe’s’, my shop, have a card!!!
The best thing about running my business is when a customer comes in and is unsure about what would suit them, I talk to them about what they like/style colour etc and then pick things out for them to try, almost always they are thrilled with the result and it may be something they would never have thought of  but they look great – they are often breaking out of their comfort zone but I give them the confidence to go for it and its great to see them really excited about their new look!
I don’t miss being employed full time but I must admit I do like the balance between running hte shop and office work 50/50.  I have worked with people with disabilities for 10 years and I am glad to still be involved in this type of work, there may come a time when I go full time in the shop but I actually enjoy the variety of having two jobs at the moment.
The advice I would give someone opening a shop is to LOVE YOUR PRODUCT.  I am passionate about all things vintage and retro, and I think this comes across to my customers.  I have been into many shops where the sales assistant looks bored and disinterested in what they are doing and I think this has a really negative effect on the customer.  I love what I do – sourcing the stock, the space I have created and the social aspect of the shop – I also believe you have to be hardworking and not expect to ‘clock off’ at 5pm.  I am often washing/ironing/steaming late at night, or updating facebook with new pictures, I work Saturdays and every time there is a special event on in town I will open the shop evenings and sundays etc so expect to be flexible and maximise sales opportunities when they come up!  Oh yeah, you’ve also got to be good at paperwork/keeping records and be organised!!!!

You can find Jo Joe’s on Facebook or at 6 Butchers Row, Pannier Market, Bideford.

Jo Joe's

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