I set up Life of Riley in what almost seems like a previous life as so much has happened during this business journey but it is actually only 12 years ago. It seems fitting on International Women's Day a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women to be also marking our anniversary. A small business founded and run by a dynamic team of women.
In 2007 I had two children William and Imogen. Imogen was nearly a year old when I decided not to return to my corporate retailing career and set up an online business of my own. My great grandfather had been a skilled leather worker and while I did not possess his practical skills I had inherited his love of leather.
My idea was to find a classic gift that would stand the test of time and not be affected by the vagaries of fashion. A product that I would be proud to produce, sell and gift myself. I embarked on a trip to India and was a fortunate to find a highly skilled and reliable leather manufacturer to work with. And Life of Riley was born.
I started designing small quantities of leather jewellery boxes and desk accessories. My first taste of retail buzz was on a warm summer weekend at Clare Priory Country Fair. Over two days I sold virtually all my stock and was excited for my first Christmas. I applied to a number of charity fairs and travelled the length and breadth of England selling at country fairs, ladies lunches and Christmas sales. I became very used to packing my car to full capacity, drinking coffee out of a flask and very quickly mastered the art of layering to keep warm.
However, my dream was to open a shop. I was lucky to find a small boutique on a busy road in Saffron Walden. I quickly learnt that anything I put in the window would sell out as people sat looking at my window while waiting at the traffic lights. My decorative vintage pieces and small painted furniture were a real success. However my bestseller was and remains the leather cufflink box
Little did I realise the credit crunch was going to bite two months after I opened my shop. However while the shop tended to be quiet during the week, our online trade was getting busier. Finally we closed the shop and moved into a warehouse so I could dedicate my time to developing the website. Nicola had worked in the shop and continued to help me. Together we started exhibiting at large retail fairs such as Spirit of Christmas and the trade show Top Drawer and the business really took off in these early exciting years.
Over the years we have worked closely with female freelancers who with their expertise have helped to build the Life of Riley brand: Christina Bull our talented photographer and Alex Rusch our marketing designer. Life of Riley PR is managed by Kate Chadwick and we have been featured across many homes, antiques and lifestyle magazines.
A further two warehouse moves and we are now settled in a rural base in Clavering, Essex.
And this is our Life of Riley team:
12 years in we are now going back to our roots, with the launch of a lively eclectic mix of gifts and decorative accessories that enhance our leather collection. Vintage finds from our trips to India mixed with quirky delights from French brocantes....
The future looks bright as we plan our next twelve years as a team of fabulous women! #BalanceforBetter