For our April Edition of MBTribe we had the absolute pleasure of talking to Clare Sergeant, Owner and brains behind the wonderful Fox and Feather. This lovely store pulls together all the stunning products from other small independent designers and shops in one place and my does it have style!
Name: Clare Serjeant (business name Fox + Feather)
Location: 43 Gloucester Road, Bristol, BS7 8AD
Contact: 0117 3292575
What inspired you to start Fox and Feather UK?
I was inspired to start Fox + Feather after seeing a gap in the market for a clothes store that had high street prices and trends, but with an honest approach to service, sourcing products and an aversion to throw-away sale culture.
How do you balance work and home life?
Hhhhmmm good question! I don’t know if I do! I am in the store 3 days a week, and at home with my 2 little ones (Edith and Huey) for the rest. I try not to check my emails on my phone too much, but if I get an hour during nap time its definitely laptop out! Every evenings I will be found updating the website, replying to social media messages and scheduling buying appointments. I don’t mind it as I do love what I do.
Describe your typical day from AM to PM.
When I’m at the shop, I drop Huey (who is 2 1/2) at my mums house, then do the school run with Edith (who is 5 1/2) . Then it’s off to work. We start the day with a brief team meeting about the days tasks, then the team usually start packing online orders and processing deliveries whilst I reply to emails and put any new stock on the system. The afternoon is generally spent on the shop floor chatting to and styling customers, plus updating mannequins and layouts to accommodate new deliveries and changing window displays. The last hour in store is always spent looking at best seller reports and booking in replen deliveries of key styles across womenswear, menswear and homeware. We close at 6 then it’s a mad rush to get home in time to see the kids before they go to bed! Huey’s not a fan of going to sleep so its normally 8.30 before we eat, then its laptop out whilst I watch Masterchef to do the boring admin jobs!
How has this business helped you to grow as a person?
It has made me realise how much you can achieve if you simply don’t have a choice! I opened the shop when I was 7 1/2 months pregnant, which sounds crazy but I’m so glad I did it. I know I can deal with a certain amount of pressure, I’ve learnt that there is always a way to make things work if you stay calm and focused. It’s pulled me well and truly out of my comfort zone, and made me more confident in what I can achieve, but also made me realise that sometimes it’s important to ask for help.
In the next 3 years where do you see yourself and Fox and Feather UK?
Fox + Feather is only ever going to be 1 bricks and mortar store and our online store. I made the 1 store rule when we started, after working as an area manager for a series of independents who had chains of stores and seeing how opening more stores can sometimes be the ruin of what started as a great idea. The HR alone with a small chain of stores is enough to give anyone a nervous breakdown! So I only ever wanted one shop, but for it to be successful, constantly evolving, adding new departments and keeping the offer fresh and relevant. We obviously would love to build the online side of our business too, and find a way of matching the in store experience with our online experience. But a successful bricks and mortar store will always be my number 1 focus. So in 3 years time I see myself in this store, with a happy and fulfilled team, and happy and fulfilled customers. But maybe with me getting a sunny holiday once a year….
What advice/tips would you give to someone wanting to start their own small independent business?
Do lots of planning! Think about what the day to day of running your business will actually involve i.e. don’t open a clothes shop because you love clothes, open a clothes shop because you love running a retail business. Pull in all the favours you can to reduce your start up costs. Starting a business with huge debts is always going to be an uphill struggle. Be prepared to work every waking hour! Customers don’t care (or don’t know) that it is just you, sat at home with your laptop and a 4 week old baby! And if all that sounds good, just go for it! It is incredible what can be achieved with a bit of hard work and determination.
Interview and Copy by Mama
Images by Clare Sergeant