This week Vivid Minds interviews Jypsi Hooper, owner of the Rainbow Room, a children’s clothing and gift store located in Guyra’s main street.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a mum of two, a stepmum of two, and I grew up in Guyra. When I left school, I completed two degrees at UNE (Arts Criminology). I have a side hustle doing graphic design and art and I like to support local makers – I have 15-20 different products made by local people in The Rainbow Room at the moment.
What does The Rainbow Room do?
The Rainbow Room is a children’s boutique clothing store in the main street of Guyra that features handmade local products. We also stock giftware and toys, and if it’s not locally made, we prioritise Australian-made, but do have some international stock that fits with the bright and colourful theme. I try and source ethically made products that are of great quality and more likely to last.
When did you start your business?
When my 4-year-old son was born, I tried to find baby clothes for him but I couldn’t find anything that I liked. All the boys’ stuff was grey at the time (and pink for the girls) and it really depressed me. Things are a bit better now with colours across genders, but not at that time. I couldn’t buy anything locally that was bright green, orange or purple in the department stores. So, I started ordering online and then decided to start a little market stall with colourful clothing and handmade dolls that I had also been selling on Etsy.
I then started to think about opening a shop and someone else had the same idea and opened first in Armidale. But instead of freaking out, I actually approached her and asked if we could work together. Initially, that worked really well but the shop wasn’t in a position where we were getting the necessary foot traffic. People loved it and the feedback was great, but we couldn’t get enough people in the front door. We decided to shut that store, and I bought the remaining stock with plans to open up again in the future.
I took a bit of time off and then opened this shop in May 2020, and we’ve been operating since.
What have been some of your challenges in starting a business?
COVID, obviously, plus the time management side of things. Making sure all the kids are fed and at school at the right time is a big part of that. The children are my priority, so I need to fit this shop in around them, but I also need to be creative and have an outlet for that creativity.
And, I couldn’t do it without the support of Jayne, who helps with the shop two days a week. She’s been a key part of our success so far.
What do you like most about running your own business?
I really like being able to find something for someone that’s perfect when they walk into the store. They might be looking for something for a newborn or looking for a treat for their grandchildren and I get a real buzz from knowing a little kid will be excited about being given something unique, and likely handmade, by someone in Guyra.
I’m also really happy to be contributing to making sure Guyra is a vibrant place to live and shop. I think the bushfires in 2019 and COVID last year meant people were looking for something to do locally and recognising the importance of keeping this community alive.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
Have some money put aside and a budget and plan for the first six months. Write it all down first; brainstorm and make sure you’ve got everything covered – not just the stock, but insurance, rent, etc.
And make sure you get your marketing right. If you can sort that out, the rest of it falls into place. One thing that has really helped The Rainbow Room is the listing on Tripadvisor. People travelling through like to pick up their phone and check out what’s around at the next stop and that helps bring cars off the highway and into town for a break – and often into the Rainbow Room.
What inspires you?
People are starting to want to buy locally again. I’m not sure that’s just as a result of COVID, but people want to be able to come into the shop and talk to the store owner and hear the story behind the products.
What is your secret to success?
I’d say it’s 10 per cent my input and 90 per cent other people’s help! I have a supportive partner and my offsider Jayne is fantastic. I couldn’t do it without them.
We’ve also built a baby feeding and change room at the back of the shop with a kettle and a microwave and a little futon so that mums can come in and take a bit of a break, feed their baby and then head off again. So for travellers and for locals, it’s somewhere warm to come in and catch their breath, and that has made a difference.
What’s next for The Rainbow Room?
Just keeping going, doing what we’ve been doing. Now that we’ve had 12 months behind us, we’re starting to know what works. I’m trying to work smarter, not harder, and I’m getting better at predicting what stock is going to sell well, changing with the seasons and responding to public holidays and key annual events (as part of our marketing strategy). We ran a kids’ colouring-in competition for Easter and that was really successful for us.