We chat Hygge, Instagram and running a family business with Cassie, from indie homeware store Room 356, Bolton.
How would you describe the essence of Room 356?
Pared-back, timeless and understated.
Can you tell us some more about how Room 356 came about?
I initially trained as a hairstylist in London and went on to manage a chain of salons and eventually became a college lecturer. My dream, however, was always to run my own business; I was just waiting for the right opportunity to come along.
Mum’s background is in social work, but after having my sister and I she set up a greeting card franchise with a friend, which they built up into a great business. They then sold that and opened a coffee bar in the Trafford Centre. I worked there alongside Mum and it was at that point that we seriously started thinking about setting up something together. When a shop premises in a great location came up, we decided to set up a business based around our shared love for independent stores, contemporary design and homeware.
You’re a mum and daughter team – how easy is it to work together? Do you find work spills into family life?
We love running the business together, and as homeware is a shared passion - it’s the perfect business for us both. We have shared responsibility for the buying process, which we both really enjoy. We also have our own specific roles that play to our strengths, so I look after the marketing and accounting side of things, while Mum looks after the operations side of the shop.
We’d both agree that often the separation between work and family does blur, mostly in a good way! We do want to bring that special mother/daughter relationship into the business. Our customers really appreciate the family ethos on which the business is built. When we are at work we often talk ‘family stuff’ and when we are out of the shop we sometimes talk ‘work stuff’. We think both work and family blends well together now.
How do you balance running an online store and a brick and mortar shop? Do you have a preference?
We love both. We are really proud of the website, we wanted it to reflect the look and feel of our shop and for our online customers to be able to enjoy their shopping experience just as much as customers who visit the shop do. Each online order is just as important to us as each store purchase.
Did you have a particular aesthetic in mind when designing the shop?
Simplicity was key. We wanted to create a feeling of light, space and calm where our customers could take their time and enjoy the space. We believe it’s the small details that make such a difference; from the scents that fill the store to the layout of our product collections. We think it is really important that we make everyone feel welcome. With this in mind we also created a seating area at the back of the store with a coffee machine, so that customers can enjoy a cuppa while they shop.
You’ve been open since 2014 – what have been the highlights of the last 3 years?
Seeing the business grow has been a highlight for both of us. When you work seven days a week and put so much passion into what you do it is such an amazing feeling to see it grow from strength to strength. We have also loved meeting so many new people and making some really good friends through the business, including customers, makers and brand suppliers.
Can you talk us through your buying process and decisions?
We only buy products we both love and that we both agree fit the Room 356 aesthetic. Instagram has been a fantastic platform for discovering creative and talented makers and innovative brands that sit well with our specific identity. We love adding new unique and original products and our customers like the opportunity to buy products that they have not seen in other shops or on other websites.
What are your current bestsellers, and do you have any personal favourites?
Ceramic tableware is really popular, as are concrete and marble trays and planters. We are working more and more with UK based artisans who make beautiful ceramics, jewellery, wall art and rugs for Room 356. These items are amongst our personal as well as customers favourites. Our customers and we enjoy the back-story behind these products and the love and creativity, which has gone into making them.
To what extent are you influenced by trends?
Our look is quite specific but we are very mindful of lifestyle trends. Hygge, for example, has had a big influence on our business; people are increasingly moving toward a simpler and slower pace of life and how they have a desire to create a family home environment which reflects this. People often want to re-create the look of rooms they see on Pinterest and Instagram and so it’s important we are mindful of the latest trends in order to resonate with our customers.
What’s your approach to marketing? How easy is it to get the Room 356 name out there?
Instagram and Pinterest have been an amazing way for us to raise our profile and connect with our target audience. We have taken responsibility for doing our own website SEO and all of the content, including our blog. There are free SEO tools that you can implement on your online store and as long as you get a little advice you can easily do it yourself.
The blog is an important aspect of our brand as it’s another way of having a voice and a channel to reach out to our customers I currently write all our posts, I always write with our customers in mind and I hope people enjoy reading them!
Any advice for aspiring indie shop owners?
Start with a clear and defined vision whilst having the flexibility to change and develop when needed. You need to believe 100% that you will make your business a success. Be positive and passionate about your business regardless of the daily challenges you will encounter. Try not to be too influenced on what anyone else is doing, stay focused on your own business brand vision. Don’t be tempted to spend too much money initially on your shop fitting; you can create a beautiful space without being extravagant. Social media is a powerful weapon, use it daily and get your story out there. Build great relationships with your customers, brand suppliers, makers and everyone else you work with. Basically, be brave and go for it, if it was that easy everyone else would be doing it!
What’s next on the horizon for Room 356?
To increase our product lines and collections so we are able to offer more choice to our customers. We are also designing our own exclusive range this year, which includes ceramics and jewellery, local talented makers will produce it and we’re super excited about it!
All images courtesy of Trouva
Room 356, 356 Chorley Old Road, Bolton, BL1 6AG