Catherine Erdly: Hello and welcome to the Resilient Retail Game Plan. Hi, I’m your host, Catherine Erdly, as well as the founder of the Resilient Retail Club, which is my membership group and mastermind for product businesses. You can head over to www.resilientretailclub.com to find out more. And if you use the code 10podcast, that’s one zero podcast, you’ll get 10 pounds off your first month in the club.
Today’s episode, we have got an amazing guest, Toks Aruoture, who is the founder of The Baby Cot Shop, who is based in Chelsea. She talks about so many fascinating topics that I just know you’re going to find so useful, all about managing your mindset, how to overcome business failure, and what to do in your business.
When you’re feeling unsure of the way forward. She shares so many gems. Let’s dive in.
Welcome to the Resilient Retail Game Plan, a podcast for anyone wanting to start, grow or scale a profitable creative product business with me, Catherine Erdly. The Resilient Retail Game Plan is a podcast dedicated to one thing, breaking down the concepts and tools that I’ve gathered from 20 years in the retail industry.
and showing you how you can use them in your business. This is the real nuts and bolts of running a successful product business, broken down in an easy, accessible way. This is not a podcast about learning how to make your business look good. It’s the tools and techniques that will make you and your business feel good.
Confidently plan, launch and manage your products and feel in control of your sales numbers and cash flow to help you build a resilient retail business.
Dogs, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. Do you want to kick us off by introducing yourself and your business?
Toks Aruoture: Yeah, thanks for having me, Catherine. So excited to be here. My name is Toks Aruoture and I am a nursery interior designer, as well as the founder of the Baby Cot Shop in Chelsea, which is a luxury baby furniture brand and interior design studio and retail store. In addition to that, I speak on mindset and faith and entrepreneurship because being an entrepreneur t’s, it’s something else as you know. Over the years and I’ve had to learn how to be resilient, so excited to be here.
Catherine Erdly: Oh, amazing. Well, thank you so much. So it sounds like a fabulous, fabulous boutique. I’d love to know more about how you got started. What made you decide to open your own store?
Toks Aruoture: Well, I sort of fell into it by accident. My background had zilch to do with interior design or even retail. I grew up in Nigeria, grew up luckily with parents who raised me to believe I could be anything I wanted to be. And I spent my childhood going through my father’s medical books and we all assumed I was going to be a doctor.
I wanted to be a doctor as well. So not, not related at all. Although I was born in Scotland, I grew up in Nigeria and then I moved back to the United Kingdom to do A levels and because I was so smart, I didn’t study and so I failed woefully and didn’t get into medical school, but I got into study pharmacology and later got a job as a medical rep with a pharmaceutical company.
But then I hated the job. I didn’t like it. In addition to that, after I’d had my third son, I wanted to have more suitable hours as a mom to young children and my company wouldn’t budge on my hours, but I happened to be reading a book at the time that said how your gift is the thing you do so effortlessly that everyone thinks it’s a big deal except you and for me, it was interior design because I got married in my second year at uni and became obsessed with doing up our apartment.
So I then enrolled in a couple of design courses, became an interior designer for residential homes. I set up a firm and I was doing up homes, but only been running it for a short period of time when my husband said, Hey, why don’t we move to the United States? And I said, yeah, let’s go.
So we sold our home and moved to the U S and in the process, I purchased a baby furniture store specializing in high end furniture and interiors for little ones. That was my introduction to that world. Then a few years later, I lost the business, lost everything, came back to England. And then I set up a similar company over here in the UK and that was that’s how it all started in a nutshell.
Catherine Erdly: Wow. That’s an amazing story. So, we’ve sort of touched on mindset and overcome challenges. So what was that experience like when you’d lost the business in the business was in the U S that, that closed?
How did you manage that and how did you overcome? If you’ve had a business that you’ve then lost, how do you then almost have the faith to go ahead and create a new one?
Toks Aruoture: In my case, I felt like I was pushed to the wall. Like my back was up against the wall. We had sold our home and we had invested every penny we had into the business and then we lost it. So I had this dogged determination that I wasn’t going to lose it all. And something had to come out of it. I think that was what drove me, but also I knew that it was.
Cause when we came back to the UK, I began researching the market here. And so there was absolutely nothing like what was sold in the United States. And I knew that it was viable. I knew that it was an idea that could work here. Who doesn’t like beautiful things? Who doesn’t want to have the nursery look the best for their newborn baby.
And I remember going to a celebrity home in my earlier days here in the UK, and I was very surprised to see what she had for her children, knowing that the rest of her home looked gorgeous. And then the nursery just looked like it was relegated to the end and they just picked up items from the high street.
And it’s not because she didn’t care. It’s because there really wasn’t anything. Like that. Now, this was in 2008 when luxury for babies was not really a thing in the United Kingdom. And so it was more a case of, I had no choice. I had to fight. I had to get a semblance of the life that I loved back.
But a lot of it really came through managing my thoughts, cause I journal a lot. And journaling helps me to see what’s going on in my mind, rather than simply just going through the motion and assuming that everything is fine or everything is not fine. Journaling helps to break down the thoughts you’re having and break down the source of the thoughts and the things you’re telling yourself.
And I began to see that I had some limiting beliefs and limiting thoughts that were basically telling me it’s over, don’t bother, don’t try. And I just had to fight for what I believed was possible. And that was it really. And then of course, a lot of support from loved ones, friends, and family that makes all the difference in the world, having people around you when something as devastating as losing a business happens.
Catherine Erdly: Yeah, I love, I love your story because, well, because you were so persistent. the other thing that I really like about your story is that often when I talk to people, they have this huge amount of fear around business failure. You know, as small business owners, we start our businesses and people have a lot of fear about what if it doesn’t work out?
What if I get into a situation and I can’t maneuver out of and what I like about what happened. Well, I shouldn’t say I like it because it doesn’t sound like it was a great thing to go through, but what I think is useful for people maybe listening to the podcast to hear is that you went through that experience and yet it, I mean, is it one of those things that you look back on now and you almost think, well, this is the making of the business I have today or, or is it not quite as simple as that?
Toks Aruoture: I would agree with you. I think it is, you know, the thing about it is that we can only see so far, and when you’re starting out in business, you have a goal, you have a desire. So in my case, when I started The Baby Cot Shop in the UK, my desire was that one day I will have a physical location on the high street because I started off online.
I had no funds. And so I started off online and my desire, my goal was that I will put it on the high street. Now I successfully did that some six going on to seven years ago, but then even at that early stages of having the physical location, despite being online for, I think, about five years or so, I remember facing the very real possibility of not making it beyond where I was, you know, and I remember the dread and the fear in those early days, as I struggled to pay my rent and I struggled to get the name out there, the fear was what if it fails, just like you said, which is what, what plagued business owners.
But you see, what I didn’t know at the time was that having a physical location was not the end of the story. So when you have a goal. The goal does not define the end of your journey. But if you think to yourself that it’s the end of your journey, then the fear of that goal failing would then spell the end of your journey for you.
And you can’t see beyond that point. So obviously in hindsight, it’s always easier to go back and see the lessons that you’ve learned. But for me, I look back now and I realized that life really is a journey of evolving. I am bigger than my business. I may be on the Kings road in Chelsea. I may have a really beautiful boutique and a brand that’s growing, but no matter how big it gets, the value in me is a lot larger than it is in the business.
And if I can say that way, and if we as business owners can see ourselves as always being superior. To the business, no matter how, how how huge your vision is for that business, if you can see yourself as being superior, then you know that the end of the business is not the end of you, because wherever that business, there is more within you and you can, you can grow some more and you can create.
So in my journey, I love what I do at The Baby Cot Shop. I’m just so passionate about helping new parents create beautiful spaces. But my journey losing a business and starting a business and the challenges of running a business have evolved me into somebody completely different. And I had my first TED talk a few weeks ago, and I was talking about business loss.
Thank you. My talk is about rewriting your story because sometimes things don’t always go the way you want it to go. And when it doesn’t go the way you want it to go, it’s not the end. It’s just a diversion. It’s just that the story is different from what you thought it was, and you just need to be open to new possibilities. And of course I recognize that it’s easier said than done. It’s easy for me to say because I’ve been through it, but it didn’t kill me. I wouldn’t want to be in the game, I wouldn’t want to be in the game, but I recognize that every experience in life serves to evolve us into a higher version of ourselves.
And if we can be open to that, then it takes away the fear of losing a business or the fear losing whatever it is.
Catherine Erdly: It’s great to hear you say that. it’s really fascinating. And I think what, is so powerful about what you’re saying is that a lot of the time when I talk to people, it’s hard to know this at the time, but it’s almost like the fear is more damaging than the situation that you’re in.
Toks Aruoture: Yes!
Catherine Erdly: Because fear makes you paralyzed.
And I always say that at times of great uncertainty, so for example, I worked in the retail industry in 2008 when they had the economic crash. And of course, during the pandemic, I’ve seen time and time again that there are two types of people, the types of people that get really paralyzed and stuck in fear and stuck in anger about their situation.
So I can’t believe this is happening. And then those people who have got that level of curiosity to kind of go, okay, well, this isn’t what I thought it was going to be, but let’s go see what else is out there. And it’s. And they’re both very human reactions, there’s nothing wrong if you’re in that fear and paralysis and anger, we all go through it, but it’s almost like, can you contain that?
Can you say, right, I’m going to have 10 minutes where I freak out, and then I’m going to put that to one side because it’s very hard to, to move the business forward when you’re stuck in that fear.
So taking you back a little bit to when you talked about first getting the store. I mean, first of all, to be on the Kings Road is amazing, amazing achievement.
It’s an amazing place to have your physical store and, and how great that you work towards that as well. But you talked about, struggling to pay the rent. What helped you get through that difficult time? Because that was another sort of tough time after, a few years down the line from losing that first business.
Toks Aruoture: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I had the support of friends for starters, but I also have my faith. I’m a Christian and my faith means so much to me. Like, it really helps me through those tough times because knowing that there is a bigger being than me, it just helps me. So that was one, but it was also telling myself over and over that I’m on the right path.
This is a normal journey of entrepreneurship. And I have, I search for stories of entrepreneurs who have failed and who have become successful after failing encourages me that I’m on a normal path. I don’t read stories of people who talk about their multiple millions and their mansions.
I’m not interested in that because it’s not helping me. If anything, it’s telling me just how my life is compared to yours. So I search out real life stories of people who are authentic and who are sharing their experiences or who have shared their experiences. And I, know that everyone’s path is unique and everyone’s path is different.
But I tell myself, okay, she went through the feelings of dread that you are going through and he actually had to sell everything he had to pay his rent. He had to borrow money from X, Y, Z. And so those just tell me that this is a normal path. When I first started my business here after losing everything, and I came back to England from the US I subscribed to success magazine. And success magazine, I haven’t read it in decades now in, well, in over a decade at least, but
Catherine Erdly: Yeah.
Toks Aruoture: I used to read that, you know, ferociously because all it had was real life stories of people in business. It had the ugly, it had the good, it had the bad. And I would just suck up all of those stories because it just kind of kept me on an even plane.
Because the challenge, like you said, fear is paralyzing. And when I do to stop me, take me out of this paralyzed state and move me forward. It’s people’s stories for me, so I love stories and I’ve always found that to be helpful. And then another tip as well, I would leave would be a journaling.
As I mentioned earlier, I journal a lot because there is a saying we have in business that you can’t work on the business while you’re in the business. And in the same
Catherine Erdly: mm-Hmm.
Toks Aruoture: Your mind while you’re in your mind. If you’re steeped in fear and confusion and uncertainty, you’re unable to sort things out. So what I do with my journal is I empty my mind on paper.
I do a complete brain dump, put everything down on paper and then I start to address each one. And I’ll find that. Maybe if I list 10 things I’m worried about, I end up finding that it really is just five things I’m worried about because some of them have doubled up and just presented themselves differently.
And then out of those five things, you’ll find that to be the case, right? And then out of the other five things, you’ll find that maybe three of them are assumptions I’m making. And they’re not even facts. And then when we get down to just two actual facts, then we can deal with the facts and see. so journaling helps to, even if you don’t have a proper journal, just when you’re feeling overwhelmed, just dump everything on paper and then take a bird’s eye view on it.
Like it’s not you and just analyze it logically. And that, that I find always helps.
Catherine Erdly: Oh, that’s such great advice. Yeah. Thank you so much for that. I call them the 3:00 AM thoughts. It’s like sometimes you have to just get done all your worries, like the things that wake you up in the night. But I love what you said about how 10 things are often five. So true would be like, well, what if this happens?
Then what if that happens? And you’re like, well, that’s kind of the same route. And also so true about, about assumptions. Do you have examples of times that you’ve made assumptions? And then when you’ve kind of looked into it, you’re like, okay, that’s just my opinion.
Toks Aruoture: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, oh, I can’t even think right now. There’s so many. Maybe I have a situation with a client that You know, maybe the order didn’t go too well or maybe she’s asked, she wants to place an order, but then she’s worried about, or she’s pulling back, I might make the assumption that she changed her mind because maybe she looked me up and she wasn’t comfortable with who I was as a person, just stupid stuff like that.
You know, so that could be an assumption or when I had challenges with paying rent at the beginning, I would make the assumption that if I’m late by one day, cause I’d never, I mean, I’d had commercial rent when I was in the U S but the business was thriving. So I never had any issues with that, but I would worry.
Oh my goodness. if I’m late by one day, they’re going to tell me I need to leave the property. So that’s just a total lack of understanding of how things work and was me drawing assumptions, you know, or if an order doesn’t go through because the customer changed their mind or they’re late or just so many random things, this mind of mine. I would have made assumptions about things, you know, from dealing with customers to the business, or even down to when we first started. So now we have our own brand. Like we have the BCS collection, which is designed in store at The Baby Cot Shop in Chelsea on the carpet I sat down with my assistant and we designed our range. Now prior to that we had, we were selling brands, especially from the EU. One of the challenges, especially one particular brand, I remember would always arrive damaged. So whenever we have a shipment coming in, I would make assumptions that it was going to come damaged and I will be. I am put things in place and then I would freeze through the night and not sleep because I’m like, it’s going to be damaged.
What am I going to do if it’s damaged? What will I say to the customer? Because the baby’s is coming. I wouldn’t be able to have another one made on time. And it just spirals. And so these are all assumptions I’m making of a situation that’s not even true. And then the furniture arrives and it’s fine, you know, so
Catherine Erdly: It’s such a good point. I’m only laughing because I feel like I totally recognize that and I’m sure most people listening will go, Oh yeah, I do that too. It’s like before something’s even happened then I’ve just decided something’s going to go wrong. And therefore you’re getting like stressed.
And I think it’s always, I feel like there’s a quote that always makes me laugh. I think it was Mark Twain. And he said something like, I’ve suffered many disasters in my life. Most of which have never happened.
Toks Aruoture: that’s such a good one. Most of which has never happened. Hmm.
Catherine Erdly: And it’s like that thing you, you, but I’m sure. I mean, for example, one of the things, the big things that I know that I’ve talked to lots of people about the last couple of months is you buy all your Christmas stock. I know baby’s not quite as seasonal for Christmas as some other areas, but, you know, if you’re a seasonal Christmas brand, you buy all your Christmas stock.
And then you have to sit there in October and November sometimes sort of to mid to late November before those sales really kick in and it’s that whole every day almost saying, right, well, what if nobody buys it? What if nobody buys it? What if I’m left with all the stock and it’s that, that exactly that thing.
So I love that technique of just write it all down, just get it out of your head,
Toks Aruoture: Exactly. Exactly. Sit and journal journal and, and, and even for the ones that you can’t shake, because that’s such a good example, what if it doesn’t sell? What if my stock stays right through till January and doesn’t get sold? Then you come up with contingency plans, you know, if you have to, Discount, then do a discount if you have to, you know, but something I read this morning it says, forget the things that lie behind.
And I really took that to heart because a lot of times when things go wrong, or when we have a fear of something going wrong, we carry it with us into the future. If it’s gone wrong, it’s gone wrong. You know, and just grow from the place that you’re now standing. So you’ll have Christmas stock that didn’t shift.
Just grow from where you stand today.
You know, that was the technique I used during the pandemic when we were locked down. I had to rewire my thinking and tell myself the whole world is paused. So ignore everything that you would have made during the pandemic. Let it go. And just grow from where you are now, pretend you’re starting a new business if needed, and just start from there, grow from there.
Catherine Erdly: That’s such great advice because people have very different experiences during the pandemic and for some people one of the things that they’ve struggled with the most has been that they had an amazing time if they were e com brand and that everyone was locked down in 2020 and into 2021 and almost in 22 and 23 what they’ve really struggled with is accepting that what happened in those years was an anomaly and it’s like you say you have to almost say right if I’m starting from scratch today but that can be a tough thing to grapple with.
Toks Aruoture: Yeah, absolutely. You that’s, that’s so true. I didn’t actually think of that. Catherine about people who had the boom during the pandemic and would hope that it will continue. And then it went, I never actually considered that. So that’s quite an interesting, it’s an interesting place to be but then again, it’s acceptance that that was an anomaly, like you said, and you accept it and then, Oh, while we, we don’t want to pray for another pandemic and hope that we can recreate the circumstances, we just have to make do with the fact that anomalies do happen, that was a nice spike.
What can I do? And even being at peace with it might never even happen again. can you be at peace with the fact that it may not happen again? And can I continue on the trajectory I was before the pandemic happened?
Catherine Erdly: Yeah. Yeah. Like, as you say, letting go of what’s behind you. Can I just ask a little bit about one of the things that I think small business owners it’s particularly hard for them is a lot of people have a lot of self criticism. So, for example, they’ll say, Oh, I must have done something or it’s nobody likes my product anymore.
I often talk to people who say it jokingly but I think it goes deeper that the minute they have a quiet sales day they immediately flip into oh well it’s because I’m terrible at what I do or I’ve made a big mistake. How do you manage that sort of self talk?
Toks Aruoture: we all do it cause I do it too, but it’s because As human beings, we naturally seek, closure or completion. Things need to make sense to us. We don’t like things not making sense. And so we’re always. Looking for the reason why, and if we don’t know the reason why we create the reason why, so if no one’s buying from me, the tendency would be, I’m going to create a reason why.
And that reason is because they don’t like the products anymore. And it’s really dealing with a cognitive dissonance of what I desire to see happen on the inside versus what’s really happening on the outside. The mind is constantly trying to get rid of that dissonance and find balance. And we can either find balance by changing what’s going on on the outside, i. e. increasing the sales and people are buying, or we accept what’s happening on the outside and we tell ourselves that it’s justified and it’s supposed to happen, and then that balance comes into place. So the way that I deal with it is. Regularly reminding myself, first of all, that my path is unique and different.
I think that a lot of that mindset and that thought process comes through comparison as well, because. I wouldn’t have thought no one liked my business during the pandemic when nobody was shopping at the Baby Cot Shop because the shop was closed.
Catherine Erdly: Mm hmm.
Toks Aruoture: But if I had heard of a competitor who was really killing it during the pandemic, I would have had a problem.
I would suddenly say they prefer her to me or prefer him to me. So. One, there’s always that need to find a reason, but, sometimes it comes to comparison because what exactly is the standard with which you’re measuring your success with? If people are no longer buying, why do you think they should be buying in this situation?
Like, for example, with The Baby Cot Shop, we don’t sell a lot of furniture over Christmas time because people are more focused on toys and gifts and Christmas, but come January, then it spikes up again for us. So it wouldn’t make sense for me to complain at Christmas time and say, well, it’s because they don’t, no one likes me,
Catherine Erdly: Mm.
Toks Aruoture: I guess what I’m trying to say is.
Being logical in our thinking and not always pointing things back to us being the cause of it. And there are times we don’t always have an answer for why things are going on. And we just need to try different, try something else. It’s not always about us.
I think if we have the mindset that it’s not always about us, it would be a lot easier.
There are circumstances that happen. Interest rates go up, people spending pattern changes. there are so many reasons that have zilch to do with us, why sales could drop. And once you’re able to look outside as opposed to inside, well, it’s good to look inside as well because it could just be that I’m not pulling my weight like I should be, or maybe I’ve done something different.
It’s good to identify and check and see if that’s also the case. But a lot of times things happen that are outside of our control and we struggle to accept it. But I think… We accept that that things do happen that we have no control over. It actually gives us the power to navigate the situation and find other solutions to it.
There was a time this was before I had the shop. So now we’re going back probably 10 years ago when sales were really low and sales were very slow and, and I just went to the British library, which I recommend the IP center in Houston, I went there and went onto the computer and I typed in what is a business because I felt like I had so many holes in my foundation and I felt like.
It may have, you know, I couldn’t identify why there were no sales. I was doing everything I knew I could do. And I convinced myself that what the issue was a lack of knowledge somewhere. So how I, how about I pretend I don’t have a clue and go and rebuild from scratch and go and check and see what is a business and then check, how do I market?
And just really go back to basics again, and see if something could come out of it. And that actually did help. Absolutely.
Catherine Erdly: kind of took that step back. You said, right, let’s just assume that I’ve got some gaps somewhere. You went to the business and IP center at the British library, which I agree is fabulous. It’s a great resource and free. Right. And, and then just started, right. Let’s look at it with fresh eyes. Yeah.
Toks Aruoture: And another time I engaged the services of a mentor and he mentored me and really did help my business grow he mentored me for a number of years, it’s still very much in my life today. And that was one of the best decisions I made. An established CEO who had been through cycles of recession and cycles of different types of sales seasons in the UK.
And the company is called, it’s called Gray for Gold. Which is exchange my gray hair for gold. I don’t know if you’ve heard of gray for gold.
Catherine Erdly: no,
Toks Aruoture: mentor is Roland G. Oh yeah, brilliant. Because it’s made up of ex CEOs of some of the top brands like M& S and Hugo Boss and the rest of them, and they mentor entrepreneurs.
So I had the services of Roland and that really did help. So sometimes it helps to get another pair of eyes. Because there is nothing new under the sun. So whatever it is, we’re going through retail today has happened before. May have presented differently, but it has happened. And there is somebody somewhere who’s familiar with it and they can guide you on what to do.
Catherine Erdly: Fantastic. Yes, I completely agree. I certainly think I’m in my 23rd year in the retail industry and it definitely feels like, certainly. We’ve been through some of this before, but it just you know, exactly as you said, it presents differently. I love that. thank you so much for joining me today.
It’s been absolutely brilliant to have you. So tell me what’s next for you and how can people find out more about what you do and about the Baby Cot Shop? Amazing.
Toks Aruoture: on the Kings Road, 408 Kings Road in Chelsea, London. And we’re also online at AmelieCutShop. com. And we design the most beautiful nursery rooms, children’s rooms, playrooms. In the world, um, products are also available for sale. So you can just go jump onto our website or visit us in store and say, but in addition to that, I do business coaching and mentoring as well, or not, not business coaching, mindset coaching, because your, your mind goes wherever you go, whether you’re in business or just doing life.
So I do some mindset coaching and I’ve got my TED talk coming up soon. I’m super excited about that.
Catherine Erdly: That’s so exciting.
Toks Aruoture: Yeah, so I will definitely share it with you. But yeah, well, that’s mean. Thank you.
Catherine Erdly: Thank you so much. And I’ll put all of those links into the show notes so people can check you out.
Toks Aruoture: Thank you, Catherine. Thanks for having me. I’ve enjoyed our chats.
Catherine Erdly: Thank you so much for listening in. I hope you enjoyed that episode. Why not head over to Resilient Retail Club and share with me your thoughts. What did you take away from today’s episode? And do also share your photos of where you are listening in. I love to see where you are when you’re listening to the podcast.
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