One of many amazing Independent stores on Instagram is @camperdownlane run by three gorgeous sisters Michelle @myteenytinyhouse , Kate @kate_hollingsworth_home and Sarah @sahnug1
Left to right: Sarah, Kate, Michelle
I wanted to find out a little more about how things work behind the scenes, a little info for anyone hoping to run a small business and how Instagram has helped them on their journey...read on for a little peek...
How do you find it being a physical shop compared to the online side?
Our physical shop is a way for us to show what we do. When people come in to our shop, they like to linger and mooch around taking everything in.
We think there is a misconception that everyone is buying everything online and there is also a misconception that it is easy to sell online. Our challenge is to represent our brand online so that people who are unable to visit our shop still choose us via our online presence.
What gives you inspiration for your products?
Probably Instagram! But we also inspire each other. If a supplier tells us something sells brilliantly, but we hate it, we don’t buy it for our shop even if commercially we are cutting our noses off to spite our faces. We would much rather be true to our own style and values. When we are buying for the shop, two of us have to agree, which stops the shop being all one person’s style and ensures things work together. It generally stops us making too many buying clangers. We learned very early on to trust our gut when it comes to buying, and if we wouldn’t have an item in our homes, we don’t buy it.
Our own values are a big factor in our buying decisions. We would prefer things made from natural materials, we like things that have a story behind them and we want appealing, quality items that will last and give years of pleasure. Mum has a catchphrase of ‘have nice things and live’ which is something we live by. Enjoy the nice things but don’t be precious about them.
We have our own natural styles which are different but complementary.
Kate’s style is daring, bold, glamorous, more feminine and she is definitely a maximalist. Pink is her favourite colour!
Sarah’s style is dark and stormy and she loves a dark wall (she painted her entire bedroom midnight blue when she was a teenager, including the ceiling, way ahead of the current fifth wall trend going on!)
Michelle’s taste is more rustic. She is a fan of calming, pale neutrals, blue and white, natural materials and old, gnarly wood. Michelle has to have a need before she buys something and likes things to be simple and functional
Our personal styles really influence our brand’s core colour palette of pink, grey and blue, but at the moment we’re also crushing on shades of yellow and green.
What is it like working together, how do you balance workload?
We all bring different skills to the team and none of us would want to run the business alone. We have a few guiding principles, the main one being family first, so whatever happens family is the most important thing. The other thing is that two out of three of us need to agree, whether it be business decisions or buying decisions. We have learned if two of us are pulling in different directions, somewhere in the middle is usually where we need to be.
We balance our time in the shop around family commitments. We all have to be quite flexible to adapt to deliveries, buying trips, school holidays, poorly children and we’ve learned to roll with the days even if the to-do list gets blown out of the water.
Christmas time @Camperdownlane
Three years running.. Any tricky times?
Every Christmas is a learning curve. It’s our biggest sales period and in our first year we had only been open six months. We had missed the bulk of the Christmas buying period so only had a small Christmas collection. In year two we got the buying right but we didn’t have enough knowledge about the quantities we needed and we didn’t have enough. By our third Christmas we had much more data, we got the buying and the quantities right but we didn’t manage the suppliers properly. Michelle nerded our way out of the problem and this year we have a geeky delivery and payment spreadsheet which will hopefully make things better. It always helps to have a nerd on the team!
What are your goals?
Ultimately one shop won’t support the three of us long term so we want to grow our business enough to allow us to earn a decent living doing something we really enjoy. We would like to be able to have a holiday together as well, so we’re clearly not sick of each other, but this is something we’re not able to do at the moment with the shop being open six days a week.
What's a usual day for the girls at Camperdown?
Ideally, we open up, lights on, music on, kettle on, quick check of the displays, have a chat with the postman. Another cup of tea. Then it’s looking after customers, packing overnight online and Trouva orders, checking emails. More tea. We buy little and often so there is always something new for our regulars, so if a delivery arrives it’s unpacking, sorting out recycling, checking, pricing, photography, putting items on the website, displaying items in the shop.
Invariably something happens that we have to respond to - sometimes we’re hopping into lorries to redirect deliveries if they can’t park on the street. We had to evict a seagull that had wandered in the other day (amazingly no poop!).
We have had incredible and moving conversations with customers and this has led to new friendships. We hold pop-up events with another small indie business, plus fizz. We do photoshoots in our own homes and other venues. We have monthly business meetings. We also help customers with their styling.
Why are you running your home accounts alongside Camperdown?
Our customers are always asking what our homes look like so we decided to show them via our own Instagram accounts. We wanted to keep it separate from our main business account to allow our own styles and personalities to come through. Our personal accounts are like a behind the scenes peek into our lives and homes but they also support our brand, people can see that we know what we’re talking about when it comes to interiors and it neatly fuses what Camperdown Lane.
Interestingly people connect more with our personal accounts. The bottom line with the business Instagram is to sell product, every picture should encourage people to buy product, but our personal Instagram accounts are a softer approach to branding, telling people who we are in a natural, behind the scenes way.
We find posting on the business account so much harder because it matters so much more than the personal accounts. The business Instagram needs to represent all of us and have a professional tone which can be harder to get right than when we just yabber away on our personal accounts.
Do you enjoy?
Most of the time, yes. Sometimes we get a bit of a creative block and don’t know what to post and also we don’t want to bang on too much or bore people, but it’s really important to constantly remind people we are here, but in an authentic and inspiring way.
Best thing about insta?
100% the community. The interiors community is such a friendly, sharing and supportive bunch. You hear a lot of negatives about social media but the interiors niche we’re in seems to be the antithesis of this. We find Insta to be really positive, uplifting and inspiring!
A huge thanks to the girls at Camperdown Lane, I do hope you've enjoyed reading a little bit more about the people behind the squares. They are offering a discount at the moment for all you lovely Instagrammers so please do have a browse and use code HEYJUNE10 at checkout (from now until Sunday 16th June) xxx
Love Dani @DanielleLouiseDoughty