12 Women in 12: Rachel Hart

This month, my attention for 12 Women in 12 turns to the story of moving an online business into a successful bricks and mortar store. This is no mean feat as the jump is enormous and the market is often very different along with the kind of customer care. But one crafter is proving it can be done: with careful planning. Rachel Hart is the founder of a beautiful new haberdashery shop, Ray Stitch, located in Essex Road, Islington that has been winning the hearts of locals and crafters everywhere since is opened last year. 

With kind permission, (c) Ray Stitch
Ray Stitch is a stylish and unique premises with all those little details that make for an inspiring crafternoon visit - cakes and tea, sewing items and fabrics, stylish patterns and yarn, and the room to browse at leisure. The staff are warm and friendly and whether it is Sam, manning the amazing cafe or Michelle, helping with online orders and creating new ideas for workshops and classes, their expertise is incredible. As a non-sewer I come away feeling inspired and keen to find room for a sewing machine and a few of the truly mesmerising display of fabrics.

With kind permission, (c) Ray Stitch
Rachel says the idea for Ray Stitch came from a desire to see fabric and haberdashery shops back on the high street. It is evident that Ray Stitch was always going to be a 'real' shop because Rachel really feels that so much of the inspiration for a project comes from seeing and feeling the materials you might use and she wanted to create a environment full of goodies.

It sounds ideal doesn't it? Grow the business at home (as Rachel did) and when you're ready jump into a shop. Rachel is honest about this process though, explaining that the hardest part is just that jump, "....by far the biggest issue is money!! It costs an absolute fortune to set up a premises. Apart from a big investment in stock (and it is important to be well-stocked and 'comprehensive') there's the obvious extra associated cost of rent, rates, insurance, fit-out, staff etc etc ......" For those online retailers considering following in the same vein, Rachel advises realistic plans and thinking carefully about the cost of each and every part of it. What's more, she is passionate that retailers should stock up with as much as they possibly can in order to offer a wide choice of goods whilst trying to be true to your own tastes. 

Hearing this, I thought about the wide variety available at Ray Stitch and the constant playground of new goodies on offer. This is no accident and Rachel claims that the biggest change about moving from online to a high street shop is a faster turnover of stock and so it's now easier to keep things new and fresh, especially as the sales creep up with each month of being open. This isn't the only difference of course because now Rachel faces her customers every day, something she openly relishes and enjoys. When I asked her the most unexpected change, I was delighted to hear that she has been struck by how many men have come into the shop and that Ray Stitch are keen to encourage this (I wonder if Sam will be leading the way....)

With kind permission, (c) Ray Stitch
Ray Stitch is growing from strength to strength and Rachel dreams of more premises offering the same great customer service and selection to inspire new and experienced sewers. You can follow all of the most recent news about Ray Stitch by keeping an eye on their news section, facebook page or twitter feed.

A huge thank you to Rachel and her staff who are so inspiring in their professionalism and took time out to answer questions for this blog post.

Stay tuned for more 12 women in 12 and please do join in to show your appreciation for great business stories by either tweeting along on twitter (#12womenin12) or sharing your feelings on your own blog. Be sure to let me know/ link us in, I'd love to know what you think!