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From market stall trader to successful business women: A profile of Marj Cook

Marj Cook is the owner of Tiger lily an independent retailer of clothing, accessories and gemstone silver jewellery.
 
“I stock several brands including: Desigual, ethical brands; Skunkfunk and Komodo, Matt & Nat vegan leather handbags and accessories.
 
“I opened on Gloucester Road in January this year but have another shop in Ludlow, South Shropshire which I opened nearly ten years ago. We are about to celebrate our 10th birthday!
 
“I started as an indie retailer whilst travelling in Asia and Latin America during in the 1990’s. Inspired by the skills of the artisans there I would commission beautiful products to import and to sell at markets, festivals and beaches around Europe. It was an amazing lifestyle.
 
“I studied Latin American studies and a Spanish degree at university and subsequently worked with a refugee organisation as a training co-ordinator and EFL teacher. I am also a qualified yoga instructor, which is one of my passions. Over the years I have taught adults, children and babies in a wide range of settings in the public and private sector in the UK and in Latin America.
 
“When my son was born in 2005 I decided the itinerant lifestyle was less convenient and opened my first shop in Ludlow, South Shropshire. It has been a huge success although not without its challenges - mainly juggling work and family life (I’m a single parent) and struggling through the last recession.
 
“There are times when I wonder if a salaried job would be preferable but ultimately I enjoy the freedom of self-employment – such as the ability to take time off during school holidays. It’s very much a lifestyle choice for me.
 
“I’m acutely aware that the nature of the high street is changing fast and shopping habits are shifting online. With this in mind, I’m working on developing the Tiger Lily website (www.tigerlilyshop.co.uk) further to add another ‘string to my bow’. This will be really important in the next decade.
 
“But I still think that people like coming into the shop: I love to meet customers and find out what they want, and they seem to enjoying coming in to say hello and have a browse – so do swing by and have a look. If I’m not here you can come and chat to one of our friendly local staff!
 
“My favourite independent store at the moment is ‘Mercantile’ in Spitalfields, East London. I love the quirky variety of products they sell, friendly staff and their visual merchandising is second to none...a pleasure to shop in. Closer to home in Bristol there are loads of exciting independents, particularly down Gloucester Road. Independent retailers offer a unique style of customer service hard to come across in mainstream retail and I feel very excited to be part of the Gloucester Road trading community.
 
“My average day at the moment consists of school run and a cycle across town from Southville to the shop (rain or shine!). Then it’s down to business; checking and mailing online orders, updating the website, polishing jewellery, planning visual displays, researching and ordering new products and, of course meeting and greeting all my customers . There is never a dull day and I absolutely love meeting new people, especially on Gloucester road.
 
“I’ve only been living in Bristol since Sept 2014 - it’s a big change but I’m really enjoying it. It’s European Green Capital 2015 and I think it’s one of the most creative, diverse cities in the UK. Bristol definitely feels like the place to be at the moment!”
 
Tiger Lily Limited
22 Bull Ring
Ludlow SY8 1AA
United Kingdom

tigerlilybiz@gmail.com

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