Tag Archives: vintage

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.


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

Young Entrepreneur to watch out for!

26 Nov

Carmen Croxall runs The Very Vintage Hire Company, hiring out vintage and retro items to weddings and other events.  Carmen has built this business from scratch in just over a year whilst she was just 24.  She now hires out to events every weekend and is brimming with ideas for the future.  This girl is one to watch!

How did The Very Vintage Hire Company start?

14 months ago I was selling cake stands at pannier markets, and someone brought a large order for a wedding.  I realized I could sell in bulk to brides and grooms.  But the constant making of beautiful items was rather time consuming and there is a limit to how much one person can make and sell, so I thought why not hire them?  I was a single mum and a student and I was literally living on the breadline.  So I brought crockery as and when at the cheapest price could find.  I started to build a collection of vintage china. Then saving money, and spending most of my student loan I reinvested in stock and it just grew!  Now, after many changes to the business we have units full of stock, several members of staff and bookings up till 2015.

What is the best thing about running your own business?

The best thing is the raw belief that one day I will make it big and all the hard work with pay off.  It may be hard but its the most exciting, satisfying thing I have ever done. I have met some amazing people, been involved in some great ideas and learnt so much already, and it’s only just the beginning.

What is the hardest thing about running your own business?

Keeping on top of everything! Because it expanded so quickly I’ve had to actively discourage bookings over winter to sort the infrastructure to so it will be able to cope with another summer of huge demand.  I advise everyone to have a backup plan if things suddenly take off.

Are people surprised when they find out how young you are?

Yes, I am often met with disbelief.  Sometimes when I meet people I can tell they are a bit skeptical of me until I get talking. I once arrived at a business meeting and got directed out of the room as the people there thought I had wondered in lost!  I have even been mistaken for my own PA!

How do you market your business?

Social media all the way.  I have created a Facebook page, website, twitter account, youtuble channel, linkedin profile, pintrest profile and ebay business seller account and keep these updated daily. I have learnt use quality always over quality, don’t spam your followers and likers with irrelevant posts. Don’t share other businesses photos and posts, create your own. Give your audience shareable content not repetitive or boring or self indulgent. Great photos, engaging and relevant unopinionated posts get me an average of 10 new likes a day on facebook.  Also paid Facebook advertising engages my target market.

What are your plans for the future?

So much. Having realized that I can do it, it feels like nothing can stop me now. I am currently working on some exciting viral marketing campaigns and a brand new company. I want to continue to work hard and build an amazing future for myself and my son.



Interview with Rocket and Co.

13 Aug

I discovered Rocket & Co. through Facebook and instantly fell in love!   Susie makes beautiful, individual artworks from recycled and often vintage bits and bobs – buttons, maps, scrabble tiles, comic books.   Susie is from Taunton, Somerset and has a degree in illustration, and still does freelance illustrations.  Rocket is her cheeky cocker spaniel!

Like so many of the people I have met so far through Opportunity Plus South West, Rocket & Co. started after Susie became a mother and wasn’t able to continue with her previous job as a designer.  She needed to create a business that would be flexible enough to fit around her son.  Rocket & Co. started in October 2011.  Read on to find out how she did it:

What made you decide to start your own business?

I had my first child in February 2011.  The job I had before my son was born required me to commute 4 days a week, which meant leaving at 6.30am and getting home at 7pm.  Continuing to work like this after my maternity leave ended wasn’t an option for me, I wanted to be at home with my son as much as possible. ‘Rocket & Co.’ developed after my sister asked me to have a craft/art table at an event she was organising.   I had 3 weeks to think of a new idea of what I could make and sell.  I’d previously made gifts for friends and family using scrabble tiles and vintage music sheets and had some lovely feedback, so I choose to develop these ideas. It was really only intended to be a side line to my freelance illustration work, but since then it has grown quickly and I now spend most of my work time on ‘Rocket & Co.’

What is the best thing about being self employed?

Of course I love working from home and being able to spend so much time with my son, but this can also be the hardest part as it can be hard to focus and avoid the distractions of home life.   I get a huge amount of satisfaction and pleasure from creating and developing the ideas I have and having the freedom to work on projects I feel excited by.

What has been difficult?

Finding the time to do as much work as I’d like to do.  I’ve become a bit of a night owl, starting work at 8pm and often working until 3am.   It’s tiring, but because I love doing it it’s not that difficult.  I almost work the same amount of hours I did when I was employed full time yet I am now also a full time mum.  I’m still getting the hang of keeping receipts, records and keeping all the important bits and pieces in order.  I’m an organised person but I haven’t quite got to grips with my paperwork!   It is also difficult not knowing when the next pay cheque will come, I think the main thing I miss about being employed is the guaranteed payday at the end of the month.

How do you market your business?

I started promoting ‘Rocket & Co.’ through Facebook and found it was a really good platform for marketing my products.   I had a good response immediately and it motivated me to use it more.  Facebook has been my main avenue of marketing through social media although I do occasionally ‘Tweet‘.   I would say that at the moment 80% of my orders/sales are through Facebook.   It is a great way to keep people up to date with news and products and it’s free to use!!!   I have a website for Rocket & Co. and I promote the company with leaflets and business cards at any art/craft events I take part in.   I intend to take marketing to the next level in the very near future and I’m currently working on press packs and looking into suitable magazines for advertising.

What are your plans for the future of Rocket and Co?

I have a lot of ideas that I’m excited about and look forward to working on.   The main area I’m going to focus on is the promotion of Rocket & Co.  As great as Facebook is, I feel there are a lot of potential customers out there who I am yet to find and I want to make sure I’m getting Rocket & Co. ‘out there’ and seen by a larger audience.   I currently exhibit one off artworks in one gallery in Taunton and I’m keen to get my work in some more galleries in the South West.

What tips would you give someone wanting to start their own business?

If the business you’re starting is something you feel passionately about then I think that’s the most important thing, as you will always have the enthusiasm and drive to work your hardest on it.   If you work from home and have a child try and have a space that is behind a closed door to work in, it’s very easy to get distracted by your nearest and dearest!   Make sure you register as self employed, keep all business related receipts, record all sales and try and have a system!   Enjoy being your own boss and remember why you’re doing it!