Gift shop entrepreneur Nadia Flanagan couldn’t afford shop premises so, no biggie, she got a truck instead and Meraki Gift was born. Hazel Davis hitched a ride.
You always dreamed of owning your own business. What forms did this wish take when you were growing up?
My mum always reminds me that from the age of two-and-a-half I was obsessed with collecting receipts and papers and I would have folders filled with them so that I could play ‘book-keeping’.
From as young as I can remember I would play shop – I used to go to the sweet shop with my brother and cousins to buy penny sweets and we turned the Wendy house in the garden into our own sweet shop. We would sell sweets to all the children that my aunt used to childmind.
What did you end up doing?
I ended up leaving university after the first term as I was itching to get out into the real world and start working. I’m very much a people person as I love the interaction and I wanted to start making my own money so I started working in fashion retail for Karen Millen, where I quickly worked my way up into management.
I also worked for many other fashion retail brands including Monsoon and Reiss and my success in this sector, I think, was mainly due to my own natural business mentality and personal approach to looking after all things business.
“It’s amazing what you can fit into a day and I always remember a quote I saw once saying, ‘You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé’ – this really stuck in the back of my mind.”
What stopped you from starting your own business sooner?
I think the main thing was confidence and self-belief. I started working full time from quite a young age (18) and I also had my two children young – my first was born when I was 21 – so I knew I needed to gain some life experience and to learn as much as I possibly could before I took the leap into starting something of my own.
What do you sell and who buys it?
My stock is mainly sourced from small independent British brands as well as a small percentage of European brands as I try to steer away from products that can be found easily on the high street. Some products I stock include candles, jewellery, stationery, small homewares, children’s gifts, men’s gifts, cards and prints.
Everything in the truck has been picked for retail because I fell in love with the brand and felt passionate about the product. I like to get to know the people behind the business and love to inspire my customers with their stories.
Meraki Gift pops up at various London locations like Highgate Village Market and East Village Market as well as private events, festivals and home parties. My main customers are millennials.
My eureka moment was literally when I was speaking to another gift shop owner (the lovely Ian Morris from Map gift shop in Archway) where I was expressing how much I would love to own my own gift shop and he just said to me, “Well, why don’t you just do it?”
It really sparked a motivation within me. My mentality has always been to seek out ways of doing things differently to others so when I started looking at premises and realised how expensive this was, I didn’t waste any more time. I just found a solution which was a converted truck. With this, I could still create a shop without the high fees normally associated with rental premises.
Don’t get me wrong – the solution wasn’t necessarily easier, in fact in was really hard and many sleepless nights were had but I was creating something new that didn’t yet exist and it was this excitement that kept me going!
Just four months. I said the idea out loud for the first time at the end of February 2016 and launched Meraki Gift on 8 June 2016.
You have a day job and kids. How do you manage to juggle all this?
I work as a nanny during the week and in the evenings and weekends I’m working on the road with Meraki Gift. I’m very lucky to have such a strong support system around me. My husband is amazing as he really takes charge at home to allow me time to focus on making Meraki Gift a success.
My mum also gives me the best advice and whenever I feel overwhelmed she will be the first to remind me that it’s OK to be feeling apprehensive and that one day it will all be worth it.
I find being as organised as possible, having your goals clearly set out and managing your time accordingly really helps with juggling. Multitasking is a must. You’ll often find me cooking dinner and stamping bags at the same time or I take a lot of my work calls while walking the dog.
It’s amazing what you can fit into a day and I always remember a quote I saw once saying, “You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé” – this really stuck in the back of my mind.
What does the typical day look like for you?
It’s all systems go from the minute I open my eyes in the morning. I get the kids ready for school and then I work from 9am until 6.30pm nannying. When get home in the evening I cook, spend some time with the kids before bed and after that I’m just glued to the laptop answering emails, organising the next pop-up location, sorting out invoices and trying to manage my social media.
The weekends are my favourite as that’s when I get to spend most of my time in the truck, which brings me so much joy, plus I get to have my husband and kids with me at most of my pop-ups.
Anything is possible as long as you believe it is. Don’t be afraid to break the mould. Also, talk to people. You never know where a simple conversation can lead you.
Where do you see the business in five years’ time?
In five years, I hope to franchise Meraki Gift and have a whole fleet of trucks around the country. Alongside a few bricks and mortar stores too (with a twist of course…).
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Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".