This week Vivid Minds Vivid Futures interviews Lisa Haynes, owner and team captain of Concepts of Armidale. Concepts of Armidale is locally owned and operated and has won several awards for its warm and friendly customer service.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 51 years of age and married to Pete, who is an agri manager with a local bank. Together, we have two beautiful daughters, Lucy (22) who is nursing in Brisbane, and Penny, who is 20 and is studying sports and exercise science. I moved to Armidale when I was just four years of age, in my late 20’s I moved away for few years, and then returned around 16 or 17 years ago. I just love Armidale. It has been a great place to bring the girls up, we have fantastic friends and family, and long-term connections in the community.
What does Concepts of Armidale do?
It’s really a lifestyle store. We provide affordable, wearable style for men, women and children without compromising on quality. Along with clothing, we stock a wide range of footwear and accessories. Our philosophy is to help people, whatever their lifestyle or style, to feel good and look great.
When did you start your business?
Sixteen years ago, I thought might like to own my own business, so I approached the owners of Country Concepts and set the ball rolling for what I am doing now. The business had been established for thirteen years when we took over, and it has only ever had two owners. It has evolved from being a very traditional country store to more of a lifestyle store with more than just clothing, and that appeals to a broader market.
What have been some of your challenges in starting a business?
I previously had a business in a sales role, so the customer service side came very naturally. However, it was the behind the scenes of the running of the business and the commitment that it takes which I wasn’t quite as prepared for. But it never stopped me from evolving the shop into what it is now. My goal was to continue to serve our existing clientele but broaden our brand appeal to a wider audience.
What do you like most about running your own business?
I am incredibly proud of the shop, the way it’s presented and the good name that it has. I’m not a hoity-toity shop; I’m a shop for everyone. Everyone who comes through our door is made to feel welcome.
With all the changes in the retail world, including going online, I’m also proud I’m still going and still successful. You see with a lot of businesses they get the seven-year itch and things can fall apart; however, we have passed that twice now.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
Look very closely at who you are trying to attract, who your customer base will be. Some shops focus on too narrow target which can hinder the success of their store.
Do your homework. Don’t rush it. Be respectful of other businesses and consider your role as a part of the wider community. Definitely don’t pinch labels and don’t undermine other businesses because you will very quickly go backwards if you do that. As a regional community, we have got to work together.
What inspires you?
I like it when I go away, and I have a look at another business similar to mine in another town and I can get a bit of inspiration from them. I also find that my staff have great ideas about how to do things. I find I reenergise when I go to trade fairs – it puts me in a much more excited mindset. It helps to reenergise the business rather than doing the same thing year after year. That’s what does it mostly for me.
What is your secret for success?
I work hard at keeping it real, and surrounding myself with real people, and accepting I can’t be all things to all people. I need to focus on what I want the heart of my business to be.
And while we have the occasional hiccup, our customer experience is at the heart of our ongoing success. I try to ensure that people feel welcome whether I am in store or not. I try to show the way and set expectations around customer service.
What’s next for Concepts of Armidale?
We have been working on our online store, which has just launched. So, mastering this new phase of being both online and a bricks and mortar store is going to be a big focus this year. There are lot of larger stores out there that are only online, so for me it’s about getting the balance right. I want people to feel as welcome online as they do instore.
The next 12 months will be a learning experience for me. I really want to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers and it will be the nuts and bolts of making that work that my team and I will focus on.