Looking at the personalities behind London's small businesses.
Jenifer Konko and Ruth Crozier are the dynamic duo who own and run Sublime Shop, an emporium of unique women's fashion, shoes, accessories and gifts, in Victoria Park and Clerkenwell.
How did Sublime come about?
Jenifer was an actress. She had the idea of opening a shop and when she found a great deal on an existing lease near Victoria Park, she went for it. She opened the first shop in 1998. In 2005, a friend told her about a space opening in Clerkenwell. Jenifer dashed across town and that day secured her second location, which Ruth has been running since 2007, when she was made redundant from her job in media production. The pair met in 2005 in a drama group that Jenifer runs.
How did the business develop?
Jenifer started with £2,000 of her own funds and only approached banks a few years later, but has since reverted to self-financing. Initially, she would visit suppliers each weekend and use the week's takings to purchase inventory. She didn't pay herself for a while, preferring to pour everything back into the shop. Now, there is a buying season, but the duo still prefers to stock inventory as needed. This permits them to take risks with products, try something new, and especially to provide personal service, which a high street shop cannot, by reflecting their customers' needs and preferences in the inventory. They buy primarily from London-based labels, as well as Spanish and Danish ones, and they ensure that the items they buy fit women of all shapes and sizes.
How many people work for Sublime?
In addition to Jenifer and Ruth, Sublime employs four part-time staffers, primarily artists. Everyone is encouraged to contribute their creativity to feel a sense of ownership in the shop. Jenifer hopes that more than a few of her employees will start their own businesses.
What is the best part of being part of Sublime?
For Jenifer, it is the people because they come in for nice reasons, and for Ruth, it is the sense of achievement.
What is the most difficult part?
They both agree that the worst bit is dealing with financing.
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
According to Jenifer, if you are absolutely determined to run your own business, then do it. The freedom of not answering to anyone is worth all the stress. The aim is to enjoy what you do. Ruth believes that you've got to love it because it's your life. You rarely switch off and don't do it for the money.
Sublime Shop is located at 225 Victoria Park Road, London E9 7HD, 0207 8386 7243 and 128 St. John Street, London EC1V 4JS, 0207 253 1112.