What made you decide to set up your own business in retail?
I had been working in education for 10 years but was looking for a new challenge and when a friend said she was going to sell her clothing business, it seemed like the ideal opportunity. I’d noticed that there was a lack of clothing shops in Horley offering one-size and one-size plus clothing. So, Emilia’s was founded in 2019 to fill that gap!

How did you get started?
To start with, I had no experience in retail! However, I had lots of enthusiasm plus family members with great retail experience. My mum and sister were a big part of getting me started. They provided general help, advice, guidance, and moral support. My mum helped to sort the stock and pricing and set up some admin processes for the shop. Her help has really helped me to stay on top of things as I am dyslexic so find the admin side of things more difficult.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt so far from owning your own retail business?
The biggest thing that I have learnt is to listen carefully to customers and let them guide you. Even in a small clothes shop, it’s vitally important to listen to customers and their needs – this makes a big difference.

Is there anything you would do differently?
If was starting again today, I would probably do more to test the market online first using social media to build a customer base and sell online before opening a physical shop. Lockdown allowed me to grow a great community online.

What are the things you love most about running your own retail business?
Running a retail business at the heart of the local community has given me a real sense of home and belonging. Horley has accepted and supported me and my business. I was bullied at school and didn’t feel accepted for 10 years, so to come to the High Street and open a shop is a huge personal achievement.
The reason I wanted to work for myself is the sense of satisfaction you get. It’s really hard work and long hours, but the upsides of that hard work are so worth it!

What skills do you look for in your staff?
I look for staff who complement my own skill set. They need to be personable and loyal. The business is like a family made up of customers and staff.
I like to look after my staff and am lucky to have a wonderful team who are like family. I also have a supported volunteer working in the shop. Pat has been with me since the beginning, and it’s been great to see her grow and flourish.

What’s next for you and the business?
Businesses are always evolving and I have started a second business online called Emily’s Bargain Basement. It’s run as a Facebook Group and customers who join can buy from us during regular Facebook Live events, then collect from the shop rather than pay for postage.

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