IN CONVERSATION WITH: KIRI NICHOLSON OF SCOUT & TRADER
A short one and a half our drive north of Sydney lands you in Wyong, a cute little suburb of New South Wales' Central Coast. It was not a suburb we'd had much opportunity to explore - until recently when we were called there to shoot on location at a gorgeous little homewares store, home to lots of beautiful wares, Scout & Trader.
We chatted to owner Kiri Nicholson about her start-up journey, her values, and balancing business owning with family time.
[TLSE] Tell us the Scout and Trader story; where did it all begin and how did you find yourself on this business venture?
[Kiri] I had always dreamed of owning my own store but I don’t think it really became a serious possibility until midway through 2017. I had worked for David Jones as a Visual Merchandiser for 17 years when they announced that our office was relocating to Melbourne and we were given the option of relocating interstate or taking a redundancy. I chose the redundancy and didn’t look back! I finished working in September and welcomed my first customer into Scout & Trader on the 4th November! It was a crazy 6 weeks prior to opening... thank goodness for the support of friends and family!
What’s your brand philosophy?
I decided very early on that I wanted the store to hold high quality products that you don’t see at the shopping malls. Customer experience is always at the forefront of my business decisions. It was really important for me to create a brand and place that would become part of the local community.
What do you look for when you invest in brands?
Quality, aesthetics, functionality and sustainability are all key considerations when I’m sourcing new products for the store. I also look at whether the brand shares similar values and ideals as we do... do their products meet my customers needs? And finally, would I buy it for myself?
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are today and what did you take from that?
I think for me the first 18 months in small business was really hard. Even though I had stacks of retail and customer service experience, running your own business is completely different! My biggest challenge has been staying focussed on the bigger picture and not getting distracted. It’s a constant battle balancing shop life and family life, so learning to outsource and simplify as much as I can has been a saving grace.
What does a normal day in the office look like for you?
The mornings are always busy, organising the kids for school and then up to the store by 9am. Once the store is open, candles burning, flowers arranged and displays ready for the day, I sit and have a cuppa and check emails - in between serving customers. There’s always a mix of tasks needing attention depending on the day. It could be unpacking deliveries, pricing, merchandising, gift wrapping, chatting with suppliers and stock takes. Back to school for pick up at 3pm, followed by arvo coffee & a quick catch up with my partner and then we divide & conquer sports practices. It's not unusual for me to be placing orders and sorting out freight issues whilst standing on the side of our local footy ground! Family dinner around the table is mandatory, this is my favourite time of the day! Most of my book keeping and stock ordering happens between 8pm and 9pm, with a glass of vino 😊
What value did you see in investing in beautiful imagery?
In the beginning, finances were really tight so I had to DIY all my imagery, which served the purpose at the time. But I always felt my website and marketing material didn’t really represent the same feeling or experience you have when you walk into the store. The professional images that TLSE have created of the store have absolutely nailed the look and feel of S&T. Now I have a comprehensive library of images that I can pull from whenever I need and I don’t have the worry and stress of trying to do it myself!
What was it like working with TLSE?
The whole experience has been fantastic! From the initial discussions with Heidi, right through to the shoot day. Heidi and Bec were super helpful and guided me through the whole process, making me feel really relaxed!
What’s next for Scout & Trader?
Top priority is a new look website and a revamp of our social media accounts, which will be so much easier to achieve with our beautiful new imagery! We’re heading into that busy festive period so there’s lots of newness about to hit the store as well.
Leave us with a piece of advice for anyone looking to start their own small business...
Invest in the right people. Outsource the jobs you’re not confident doing yourself.
WORDS | Lucy Francis, Kiri Nicholson
IMAGES | TLSE