Even in the busiest quarter of the retail year we still have our ‘Member of the month’ to celebrate! November’s brilliant member is Nicola Hogan, owner of Mr Simms Old Fashioned Sweet Shoppe, in Chipping Norton. We chatted nostalgia, kindness in small business and how running a small business is a continual learning curve. It was lovely chatting to Nicola – well done on being our star member for November!
Tell us about your business and why you started it?
Mr Simms Old Fashioned Sweet Shoppe, in the High Street, Chipping Norton, was inspired by our own Mr Simms, my father. He loved sweets and in his latter years enjoyed a good ‘pick and mix’ selection at his residential home, whilst reminiscing to music and black and white photos from his past.
We opened three months before the pandemic and the dreaded lockdown so we swiftly reinvented the business into gifting, hampers, pizza boxes, jars etc and purchased an electric bike and delivered throughout the community with our flag waving gently from the rear of it! I look back now and honestly think that helped cement us into the community.
What was your life like before Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe?
Life before Mr Simms Sweetie shoppe was in some ways very different – I was an Operations Director for an equestrian brand, helped launch an M & S Food shop and worked for a global services company. However, all of these roles involved customer support, information technology, logistics, and finance – all key to running a successful small business, so I’ve been lucky to draw on of that experience throughout my journey to sweet shop owner!
What’s your best selling product, and why do you think it’s so popular?
I think our bespoke gifting service is the most popular – we are always coming up with something new and I think this really meets our customers wants and needs. People can have their own custom made sweetie solution for their friends and family and we are reasonably priced and pride ourselves on an excellent, personable customer service.
We also have a corporate gifting range and I think that we provide a solution to a problem – we make our corporate customers happy by providing the ideal gifts and goodies for their customers.
What’s the nicest thing a customer has said about your business?
How kind we are – this really does mean so much. Owning a sweet shop is special and we want every customer to feel special when they walk through our doors or land on our website page. People also comment a lot on how lovely the shop is – when you’re in our bricks and mortar shop it conjures up all sorts of nostalgic feelings – you can be a child again and we all need that from time to time!
What are you most looking forward to in 2023 when running your small business?
I am really looking forward to improving the business inside and out – I’ve learnt so much since we first opened 3 years ago that I now feel ready to fully implement so much of that knowledge. And of course offering more, new sweetie solutions!
As recommended by Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe
As always I asked Nicola what 3 things would she recommend for inspiration and motivation for a running a business and I promise I didn’t make her say this!
I’ve got so much out of being a Resilient Retail Club member. The Christmas Planning Session back in October was a light bulb moment – this session galvanised me into thinking about Christmas as 13 weeks not six weeks and I increased sales because of this.
The regular ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions that you run Catherine always gives invaluable peer support and ideas for the business – from packaging to products, to new ways of looking at your business – it’s a staple in my business month – thank you!
I also really loved the ‘What’s working now’ event – there were three great guests and their experience and insights really helped me focus in on the nuts and bolts of my business.
If you’d like to know more about Nicola Hogan’s, business Mr Simms Old Fashioned Sweet Shoppe, in Chipping Norton – visit her website here or better still take a trip to her lovely shop!
You can also follow her on Instagram