It's a big step from the relative security of being employed to the risky venture of running your own business – but Robyn Poynter is taking it all in her stride.
The 21-year-old is living her dream as owner of Pie Children’s Shoes in Lindley and has no regrets about making the move into self-employment.
“I have been in the footwear sector for four years,” she says. “I started working in a shoe shop and I fell in love with the industry. I got a job with the UK distributor of a Brazilian company supplying flip-flops under the Ipanena brand. I became the northern sales manager, which actually took me all over the country and gave me a real insight into footwear retailing. We had lots of customers, including small independents. Every time I went into a shop I saw things I liked and it helped me to formulate ideas for my business.”
Robyn, who lives at Holywell Green, was brought up in Elland and attended Brooksbank School. In the sixth form, she took a BTEC in business studies. “I always knew I wanted to run my own businesss,” she says. “I wanted to take the plunge. My parents are very ‘risk-averse’ and work in settled jobs – but my parents, my sister and my partner have all helped me realise my dream. It has been a family adventuere, really!”
Robyn says: “The BTEC helped me when I wanted to work in the shoe shop, but it has also helped me understand things like profit and loss account and how to make a business run.”
Searching for premises, Robyn says she “stumbled across” a shop in Lidget Street, Lindley, which looked just right. The shop had sold cake decorations for many years, but the owner wanted to retire and was happy for Robyn to take up the space.
“We took the shop in August and ripped everything out,” says Robyn. “When I first saw it, I didn’t see how it could be a shoe shop, but we have refitted it and it’s great. It’s located in a busy village, right by the zebra crossing with parking nearby. It has four floors, including the cellar, which means there’s lots of space to expand when the time comes. It has a lot of potential. Lindley is a cracking little centre. What makes it special is that people are so friendly. Everyone is willing to help each other.”
Robyn has only been in the premises since the summer, but has already attracted attention through the shop’s unusual name and its blue and pink decor – chosen to reflect its focus on shoes for both boys and girls. A Facebook page is helping to spread the word and a full-blown website is imminent.
And the name Pie? “It means ‘foot’ in Spanish,” says Robyn. “I was trying to find a word that was very simple and easy to remember. Many of the most successful big brands use simple names. ‘Pie’ is simple and catchy and has a bit of a hidden meaning behind it – although some people may think we sell pies! The decor was also designed to be simple, inviting, minimalist and clean. People like the shop because there’s something a bit special about it.”
Says Robyn: “We have got off to a good start, despite the downturn. We opened just in time to catch the end of the summer season, selling flip-flops and some nice sandals. Now the bad weather is coming along we are selling boots and wellies.
“People haven’t as much money to spend, but they will spend a little bit more on children’s shoes and making sure that the shoes are fitted correctly. You can get away with putting them in cheaper clothes, but caring for children’s feet is so important.
“People like to see the brands they recognise. There are so many different brands of children’s shoes – it’s not just Clark’s any more. But people will take advice and go for whatever fits the child’s feet properly.”
Says Robyn: “It is quite rewarding to have people come into the shop, listen to your advice and go away happy. I get to know each and every one of my customers. It’s not like you sometimes see in the big chain shops with the parents getting stressed and the kids screaming. Service is the most important thing. It is service that sets you apart.”
Robyn is quick to credit the part played by her partner Chris in getting business up and running. “Chris has been brilliant,” says Robyn. “He’s the brains behind a lot of the boring stuff!” Robyn says her parents Tricia and Darren, sister Laura.and brother Adam have also been “a massive help”.
Chris has his own business as owner of The New Hobbit hotel and restaurant at Norland. “This is his first country pub,” says Robyn. “Previously, he ran city centre bars, but this is a lot more personal, you get to know your customers. I help out at the hotel a lot and I am very involved in it, but I wanted something of my own. The hotel business is all about long hours and unsociable hours. Chris is a great supporter of what I am doing and I support his business, too.”
Their busy workloads leave little time for hobbies – or cooking, it seems!. Says Robyn: “We have been in our new house for four weeks and we have eaten in just three times! We eat out an awful lot.”
Robyn is single-minded about her business and has ambitions to build it up. “The immediate goal is to get the shop established,” she says. “The website is really important in that respect. I would like to think that in the next couple of years there will be another Pie shop up and running.
“It takes time to build a business, it doesn’t happen overnight. But it is well worth it in the end – when you see customers coming through the door and realise that you’ve made it happen. I’ll be able to sit back one day and think ‘I did that’.”
Holidays: We spent a lot of time at my grandparetns in southern Spain and we plan to go to Dubai in January. I’m also a sucker for Disneyland Florida!
First job: Restaurant supervisor at the Malt House, Rishworth
Best thing about job: Simply the fact that I have my own business and that I get to know each and every one of my customers
Worst thing about job: The hardest thing is resisting the temptation to spend too much money on stock!
Business tip: Just go for it. For every problem, there will always be a solution, but a business takes time to build – it doesn’t happen overnight
Work: Children’s footwear retailer
Site: Lidget Street, Lindley
Phone: 01484 644282