Friendship, collaboration and community have all been at the heart of The Little Shop’s success in Bristol. We spoke to founders Alex and Amber about why setting up your own venture is an experience better shared.
You have been in business together for some time now, starting with a print club and now The Little Shop. Do you remember where you first met, and how you came up with the idea for ‘The Sunday Print Club’?
We met at a print studio Alex was building in Bristol almost 10 years ago. We instantly hit it off, both being freelance illustrators and having a love for the pressure washer! The materials used in screen printing aren’t cheap, and have a limited shelf life, so it seemed like a really good way to share skills and costs.
We ended up spending hours shacked up in the studio together at late night drawing sessions, screen printing until the early hours (and doing lots of dancing).
What was behind your decision to evolve The Sunday Print Club into The Little Shop?
Our print club was a fun way to make some extra money in between freelance projects, but The Little Shop was an adventure into the unknown, two friends taking a leap of faith and making it up as we went along.
Did you reach out to any friends or industry experts for advice when thinking about starting your business, from building your website to setting up your retail location?
We knew lots of artists and makers already, both friends and friends of friends, but we had a very DIY approach when we were starting up initially. And when a shop space became available in Stokes Croft — a very eclectic, edgy and super creative hub of the city — it became easier to reach out directly to see who was interested in being involved, and the response was incredible.
We didn’t have a website for the first couple of years, so word of mouth played a big role in our marketing. Then, after some time, we reached out to a graphic designer friend, who owns a company called Rocketfuelled. We really liked his style as an artist so we thought he would be a good match as he knew us and The Little Shop so well.
What does a shop that specialises in art and design look for in its payments tech?
We have a huge range of items at the shop, some completely unique to each artist, so we looked to Square for technology that can support that through the inventory system. Each item needs to be individually coded and priced, which means it can be looked up easily on the system, replenished as necessary, and it also helps with stock control. Square allows us to do this.
The Square aesthetic suits The Little Shop really well, the stylish white dock and wireless payment reader. It looks professional which means customers feel confident and it sits on the counter nicely.
How did you hear of Square, and what made you choose it to take payments?
We were starting to grow tired of our old payment system and began to look around for alternative payment methods that could better meet our needs. The bakery next door were using Square and it was great to see it in action and ask questions about its ease of use. We were already convinced we needed more from our provider, so the decision to switch was easy!
How do you use Square in your day to day business?
We use Square to take all our card payments in the shop. We also use the integrated inventory system, which has revolutionised the way we run our business. We can regularly keep track of sales, what’s in stock and so on. We can also issue refunds remotely, which is a huge asset!
How do the features you use most help you work efficiently?
Everything in the shop is now listed on the point-of-sale system. This has made everything much more efficient, faster and accurate. We also invested in Square Stand to accompany our Reader which sits on the counter and holds our iPad, and it looks really swish — much more professional.
What are two challenges that Square has helped you fix within the business?
Since switching to Square we can very easily analyse our sales figures and produce detailed reports, which means we know exactly what’s going on in the business day to day, month to month. It’s incredible. Our old system involved everything being written down, then inputted manually to spreadsheets, which was time-consuming and left room for error.
We now send monthly sales reports to artists, which means they can see what’s sold and replenish items as and when we need them.
Businesses often set a 5-year-plan, and you’re now 5 years into your venture — have you achieved what you set out to do, and set your sights on what comes next?
We didn’t have a 5-year plan but it feels amazing to have got this far. We’ve got no plans to hang up our Little Shop boots just yet, so who knows what’s around the corner.
We’re always coming up with new ideas for the shop. It would be great to start pushing our online presence more and drive sales there. And perhaps we’ll create an updated, brighter mural later this year — watch these walls!
Find out more about The Little Shop