#YesSheCan got the opportunity to have a chat with Nicola Buckley, Owner and co-founder of Florence & Amelia’s. We chatted to her about a typical day in her career, her inspirations and what inspires her and ultimately to Trust your instincts!
I initially started out in Law, working in a law firm as a Trainee Legal Executive in the day and studying at Manchester College in the evening. I was always unsure at 18 what it was I wanted to do, getting into Law seemed as good a subject as any. I worked in the legal profession for 15 years struggling to juggle work and family life with our two small boys. One day I drove past a shop in my hometown which was up to let and had a strong urge to view it, so strong in fact I took the agents number down and called them later that day. I viewed the property that weekend and knew that I could make something of it – I just wasn’t sure what. At this point, my husband had thought I was having a mid-life crisis! I handed in my notice in July 2014 and opened Florence & Amelia’s in October that same year. Florence & Amelia’s was originally opened as a vintage-inspired home and gift shop specialising in hand-painted furniture (a hobby of which I was always good at). Since initially opening we have, this year expanded Florence & Amelia’s to incorporate a coffee and wine bar which has gone down a storm in our small town.
There are many different roles I undertake daily, being a small independent business, no two days are the same. From managing staff, organising shifts and payroll, to customer service, ordering stock, making sandwiches and platters, working as a Barista to Social media, advertising and website management and then of course back to painting furniture and holding workshops.
I have always been a people person and quite creative and wasn’t enjoying my career in the legal profession, whilst it sounded glamorous at 18 the reality was completely different. I had always upcycled furniture as a hobby and a cost-effective way to furnish my home, so it made sense that the shop I was about to open centred around this.
I faced many challenges along the way and there were times where I thought Florence & Amelia’s might not make it. The retail sector has been steadily declining over the years, Stalybridge is a small town with a small footfall. Our paint supplier suddenly decided to cease trading and we had to source a new supplier whilst ensuring customers were ok mid-paint jobs, I trusted in SEO and marketing packages that failed miserably, all in all, it has been a steep learning curve where I have had to upskill in a number of areas.
During my career I have had so overcome many setbacks, Taking each problem and working through it methodically, taking any necessary loss swiftly and ensuring that you are motivating yourself to move forward. Striving to be creative and innovative to keep customers engaged and providing the very best customer service to every customer and learning new skills.
I named the shop after my Grandmothers who were both strong independent women and it is that more than anything else which gives me the drive and determination to succeed. Their names above my door are what keeps me going, in times of struggle I think what their advice would be and that gets me through.
There are a number of things that I have achieved that I am proud, I once walked 100km nonstop (28hours) over the Yorkshire Dales rising over £3000 for Oxfam, I have jumped out of a plane at 10,000 feet raising money for Cancer Research, zip-wired from the stop of Manchester United’s stand plus many other crazy things, but my greatest achievement was picking up a National Award last year in London for the best Sole Trader in the UK. When you’re running your own business there is no one to say well done you’re going in the right direction, you’re doing a good job. I felt so proud to scoop up this award for myself, for my town and for all female entrepreneurs.
Through my career I have felt at times that gender has brought unnecessary challenges, working in a law firm for many years I found that once I became a mum it became increasingly difficult to get myself back to the position, I was at prior to maternity leave. I was also anxious about taking any time off work when the children were unwell, or it was half term. When I started in the legal profession it was very much a male-dominated environment without any real work-life balance. Some tips for young females beginning their career:
Be bold and take risks
Know your strengths and weaknesses and upskill in the areas you need to.
Some key motivators for me are :
Being creative and pushing my creative boundaries
I’m a people pleaser so happy customers are a key motivator
I love my job – so I’m motivated to keep my business going.
The best bit of advice that I have ever been given is to simply be kind. When you strip everything back that’s all that’s really needed to be kind to one another.
Two women have impacted my life in ways you can’t imagine both Florence and Amelia (or as we called them Mille and Flo) both my grandmas lost their husbands when they were very young and from those losses, they became the best of friends. They still had such a zest for life and lived each day to the fullest, whether that was holidaying in Greece, playing bingo, darts, bridge or dominoes at their local club or just sitting together enjoying an old movie. They were the heart and soul of our family and our community with a can-do attitude – they did!
Use your strengths and leadership qualities to push boundaries for gender equality.
Get out of your comfort zone and apply for that job you’d love even if you feel you don’t meet the whole criteria – you’ve got to put yourself out there.
Support each woman to achieve their goals and personal growth.
If I could go back and talk to my younger self I would say do what makes me happy and something which I am passionate about and not what friends and family suggested might be a good career choice for me. We spend so much of our lives working – you should enjoy it.