By Kate Marsden
We’re heading to Staffordshire this week to visit a shop I’ve been wanted to go to in real life for years! Yellowstone Art Boutique looks just gorgeous, and has something for everyone. Owner Hannah talks us through her 364 day a year business, and explains how the Just A Card campaign is vital to shops like hers.
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
I'm Hannah and I'm a designer based in Staffordshire. I run Yellowstone Art Boutique which is in a gorgeous log cabin on the Trentham Estate. The boutique sells contemporary products made by British designers and makers. Think cards, prints, ceramics, stationery, textiles, jewellery and homeware.
What does a typical day involve?
It's impossible to say as one day is so different from the next. Most days include packing online orders, topping up and cleaning displays, serving customers and a bit of social media.
Where do you work? What is your shop like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
Our bricks and mortar store is in Trentham and we also have a studio in Stone, Staffordshire. I have a team of 4 wonderful women that help me run Yellowstone and it’s three online stores. We normally have one or two of us in the shop, and one or two in the studio, depending on what’s happening that week. We wholesale our own products to other shops around the UK, as well as sell online so there's always plenty to do!
Yellowstone is a very colourful and cheery shop with a laid-back atmosphere. We encourage people to browse, and really take in all of the products. We also love a chat, so you'll usually find us nattering to customers about the artists and what’s new in store.
The shop is open 7 days a week, 364 days a year so when I'm not working myself, someone else is and I feel like I should be on call just in case. I never really switch off from work but I do practice hot yoga 2-3 times a week, which is good for my body and mind! It's lovely to empty my head for an hour.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing shop/gallery owners at the moment?
Overheads. Our bills seem to be going up and up, but we can't keep charging more and more for our work! We are lucky to be in a very busy shopping village, so footfall is always great and our customers really do support us. They understand that we are an independent shop trying to keep our head above water.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
I'd love it to keep growing steadily as it has over the past 6 years. Nothing too drastic, just so that we can continue to represent lovely artists from around the country and carry on meeting new customers.
Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Don't spend money you don't have. Live within your means and budget when it comes to buying stock or materials. Slow and steady wins the race.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
Definitely. Customers often apologise that they're 'only' buying a sheet of £1.60 wrapping paper. But I always reassure them that all the small sales add up, and we are so grateful for those little purchases. They're our bread and butter.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
It's vital. Seeing other gorgeous shops close around us is heartbreaking, and the thought of Yellowstone Art Boutique closing makes me shiver. It's so important to support independent and unusual shops now so that they're still around next year. We have a few customers who come in every month and bring friends, and tell them they love our shop and come in for inspiration. But we have to say if they never make a purchase (even just a card every other time) then we might not be here next month to inspire them! It sounds drastic but it’s true.
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently?
I heard about the campaign on Twitter a few years ago and it struck a chord straight away. It's definitely a campaign I am 100% behind. I am most active on Instagram, but find that Twitter and Facebook are where our 'paying customers' hang out, so maybe I need to concentrate on those a little more. I feel that Instagram suits us, being so visual, and I love the new stories feature.
What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
Pop in to that 'cute shop' on the way to the supermarket. Follow them on social media. Shop there for your friend’s birthday gift. Just that one purchase could be all they need that week to keep going.
We promote the campaign with posters in our shop and talk about Just A Card on our website too. It's fantastic and I wish everybody knew about it! And it really makes people think about the costs of running a shop.