Monday, 04 July 2022

Let's Get Down to Business: Nicki Barley, co-founder and store manager Wild and Rust, Henley

Let's Get Down to Business: Nicki Barley, co-founder and store manager Wild and Rust, Henley

NICKI BARLEY is co-founder and store manager of Wild & Rust in Duke Street, Henley, which she set up last year with her business partner Bea Pearson. Born in Ascot, she attended the Holt School in Wokingham and then took an art foundation course at Maidenhead Art College. She now lives in Watlington with her partner, Nic Wood, owner of Barclay Wood Motor Co in White Hill, Remenham. They have two daughters, Belle, six, and Wren, four. The couple met in 2010 when Nic spotted a celebration taking place outside White Gdn, the florists Nicki then owned. Being curious, he went to investigate and met Kenny Barley, Nicki’s father, and then his future partner.

Describe your business

We sell beautiful, sustainable and ethical products that enhance people’s homes and wellbeing, quirky vintage finds and botanical home fragrances. Our natural and organic collections are handmade in the UK and are packaged sustainably. I use my 20 years of floristry experience to source rare and unusual plants.

How many people does it employ?

Bea, me and Sue, who is part-time but wonderful and I couldn’t do it without her.

What did you do before you started this business?

While still at school I had a Saturday job in a flower shop in Wokingham owned by Jenny Edwards. After finishing college I worked for her full-time in her Henley shop, White Gdn. Jenny retired in 2002 and I bought the business from her. I ran it happily until 2012 when I decided to sell up. Nic and I then took a long break in Thailand. After my daughters were born I started Green Magpie, a small vintage business selling online and at artisan markets. I had been friends with Bea for almost 20 years and she had some senior positions in the corporate world before taking a break to enjoy her baby boys. She asked me if I had a shop what would I put in it and that led us to set up Wild & Rust.

When did you start your new business?

In March last year and we opened the store in August.

What was your objective?

To provide people with beautiful mood-boosting products to buy.

Who or what influenced you?

I’ve always had a “get up and go” attitude. When I was six I used to make rose petal perfume and colourful bookmarks that I would sell from our garden.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

My dad was in the film business and worked very long hours and my mum ran her businesses from home. She has always encouraged me to do what I love.

What would you do differently if you could start again?

Not set up a small high street business in the middle of a pandemic! In past ventures, as a young businesswoman, I think I would have partied a little less.

What impact is the coronavirus pandemic having?

We registered our company on March 23, the day the first lockdown began. We then worked day and night to get everything ready and just kept positive, launching online first and then holding a grand opening in August. We had a hugely successful first few months before the second lockdown, during which we did a lot of business online. It was a huge relief to open up again in December when the festive atmosphere was fantastic. Our partnership works well because Bea has all the business skills and experience while I provide the creative skills.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Having creative freedom and sourcing the beautiful products. I get super excited when I find a fabulous new supplier and I love dressing the window with new products.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Being a mum to little ones while running a business and trying to maintain the right balance.

Where is your business headed?

We hope to open more stores in due course.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

To look after people — our team, our customers and our community, including our fellow traders.

What would you advise someone starting a business?

Go with your passion, believe in yourself and stay positive. Be unique and put the hours in.

What three qualities are most important to success?

Being focused, having a positive attitude and working hard.

What’s the secret of your success?

My creativity, work ethic and sense of humour.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

We haven’t had time to make any yet but if we do make any we will learn from them.

How organised are you?

I am a multi-tasker and list-maker but, being a creative, I do sometimes just wing it.

How do you dress for work?

I love wearing a pretty maxi dress with my pumps. Being comfortable when you are on your feet all day is important.

What can’t you be without every day?

Cuddles from my kids and coffee.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

On the go with either a tasty salad from Spoon or some healthy sushi from Lawlor’s.

Do you continue to study?

I’m always looking to learn new skills, which I research online.

What do you read?

Bedtime stories to my kids mainly. I wish I had more time to read for myself, although I have just bought a new book called Do What You Love and Love What You Do by Holly Tucker.

How are you planning to spend your retirement?

Being content and in the sun.

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