One of the 100 highlighted small businesses by Small Business Saturday UK is “Elevate Your Sole” – an independent boutique shoe shop in Prestatyn in northern Wales. Owner and Zettler Hal Holmes-Pierce reveals his learnings from starting, running and growing a business built on passion. In September he opened up his second independent shoe shop.
Three years ago Hal Holmes-Pierce went traveling around the Middle East and East Africa. On the beautiful shores of Zanzibar he had plenty of time to plan the future; he had been working in the merchant navy for years but felt that it was about time to shift to something he was more passionate about. He had always had a strong desire to start his own business and decided to embrace his passion for shoes.
Only months later he opened up a shop in his home town of Prestatyn, Wales. We sat down for a chat the days prior to Small Business Saturday UK.
All of ‘my’ best buying decisions have been based on recommendations from customers. I always listen to them and encourage conversations.
Hey Hal, congratulations on being among the ‘Small Biz 100’!
– Thank you! Since there are 5.3 million so called micro-businesses (employing 0-9 people) in the UK according to the House of Commons, I feel both happy and honoured that “Elevate Your Sole” was picked up by Small Business Saturday UK this year!
You launched “Elevate Your Sole” four years ago – how’s your life different now compared to when you were employed?
– I love my job! The hours are long and the work can be tough, but the rewards more than make up for it. The feeling of being in charge of my own destiny has given me a steady focus. I’m getting married next year, so there’s much to be excited about!
Specialist footwear retailers are in decline, yet there are opportunities that the big chains can’t take advantage of, according to Hal Holmes-Pierce:
Personal service: A warm friendly smile and some interesting chat has put me on first name terms with a lot of my customers. They have the confidence to feed back about their experience and the current selection of shoes – this is great as it allows me to improve my future buying decisions.
Choice: We’re not under pressure to expand our profit margins or answer to shareholders. A chain store will be driven to sell one type of shoe in 5 different shades of black. I’m able to sell everything from the unusual ‘Ruby Shoo’, to Spanish Boots by ‘Alpe’ or handcrafted mens shoes by ‘Anatomic’. Fashion, comfort and style.
What are your major learnings?
– I always listen to my customers, nearly all of ‘my’ best buying decisions have been based on their recommendations. I have dropped some brands and picked up others. Don’t reinvent, just improve.
I love my job! The hours are long and work can be tough, but the rewards more than make up for it.
How do you stay in contact with other businesses in the area?
I’m extremely lucky to be operating in areas with really strong business communities. I’ve recently been made the chair of Prestatyn Business Forum and we’re currently planning a landscaping project on the high street. We all have a common interest in improving the community and we all work towards that goal.
How will you continue to grow your business?
– My latest idea is to open up a shoe shop focussed on men who want high quality footwear. I have a fantastic relationship with Loake, who make handcrafted shoes here in the UK. I’d like to be able to show their full range to my customers and maybe introduce some matching wax jackets too!
Hal Holmes-Pierces initially chose Zettle for payments at Elevate Your Sole because he liked the sales interface and didn’t want to get stuck in contracts.