Spotlight: Simply Rye
Each month we interview 2 members for our blog to showcase the variety of businesses that support our Chamber Of Commerce. In this very first interview, we speak to Simply Rye.
1. Thanks for talking to us. How would you describe your business?
An independent family-run home and gift shop.
2. When was it founded?
We opened our doors in March 2019.
3. What is your background and how did it lead you to this business?
We had a holiday let in Rye for a long time before we lived in the town, we’d always promised ourselves that once our youngest had finished university we’d move down permanently as we loved this part of the world. We wanted to start a business in the town and decided on a home and gift shop.
Although this was a new venture for us, we were bringing with us a great deal of business experience having had broad-ranging careers between us. Ian was a chef and a pub manager in the past, and then had a furniture business for twenty years, Fran had a licensing company for nineteen years eventually selling out to a London agency although she still works part-time looking after the rights for Bagpuss. I think it’s fair to say that we have an entrepreneurial spirit and an appetite and enthusiasm for new projects and hard work. Vickie, our daughter began her career as a teacher in Reading and had moved back to Rye just before lockdown intending to continue on that path but COVID was a turning point for her, as for many, and she decided to add her marketing and business skills to the mix, making Simply Rye a real family affair. We each bring different strengths to the business. Lots of people don’t realise that Ian refurbishes the beautiful director's chairs and deckchairs we sell, so when he’s not in the shop he’s usually found in his workshop fitting them with beautiful
new fabrics chosen by clients. Vickie’s IT skills meant we were able to take the shop online during the lockdown and Fran’s brand knowledge and merchandising talent are second to none. We’re definitely a creative team and we really do love what we do.
4. What makes your business unique?
Our ethos is that we only stock and sell things that we’d have in our own homes. It’s very personal to us and that extends to the atmosphere we want to create in the shop - we want to be a place where locals and visitors can come in for a chat while they browse. The shop is always warm and welcoming, bright and cheery. We aren’t just a shop, we are part of a community and that is very important to us. We love that people respond to the shop so positively, the loyalty from our customers is something we never take for granted but we work hard to nurture.
5. What are your business values?
Our business is an extension of us so it really needs to reflect our own values and personalities. We’ve created a warm and friendly business where customer service is our
priority. Our stock is reasonably priced and you’ll always find something different and fresh in-store and online.
We see ourselves as part of a community - not just our customers and other businesses in Rye, but our suppliers too – we try to avoid working with big corporates and choose instead to work with up-and-coming businesses. In building supportive relationships with our suppliers they become friends, it’s that spirit of mutual respect and support that carries businesses a long way.
6. What are your plans for your business in 2023 – what are you focusing on?
While the shop on Market Road will always be our focus, we definitely want to grow our online business. People are buying into our style and we’re getting a name for ourselves for stocking niche brands that aren’t widely available. We love working with small independent creatives – it establishes a network of small businesses each supporting each other.
Giving back to our local community is also important to us. On Colour Friday last December, we donated a percentage of our sales to the Rye Food Bank. Being able to do things that support others is a privilege and something we will always seek to do.
7. What are the challenges your business faces this year?
It’s a difficult time for lots of businesses and for everyone in general at the moment – so we’ll be keeping a close eye on consumer confidence. Overall, we feel pretty positive about the year ahead, having survived all of the challenges of the last few years we hope that this summer will see international tourists return to the UK for holidays to take advantage of exchange rates. Rye is firmly on the tourist map so we are looking ahead to the holiday season ready to welcome overseas visitors to our little shop.
8. What are you most proud of in your business?
Certainly we’re proud that we faced the challenges thrown at us in the past few years and we’re still here, and still smiling! We’re proud of the relationships we’ve built throughout our business – not just with our loyal customers, but with our suppliers – many of whom are now friends, and of course with the local business community. 2022 was our best year yet, and we had a strong run-up to Christmas with increased sales year on year. We’re never complacent about success – but we love what we do and will continue to work hard to build a brand that people have a great affection for.
9. If there was one piece of advice you wish you’d had been given when you opened
your business what would it be?
Don’t panic about business in the first six months. Take your time to build your brand and keep working at building it slowly. Don’t overspend and get carried away – look after the pennies!
10. The biggest change you’ve seen to your business or your business sector since you
Our business has grown! There has definitely been a shift in behaviour around purchasing gifts and COVID was the catalyst for that. While so many people were working from home they realised they had excellent local independent shops offering brands and products that were different from the standard fare available on big high streets or online – and now they’ve discovered the beauty of shopping small and shopping local, they’ve stuck with it. Long may that continue!
Thanks a lot to Simply Rye for this interview!