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Irene’s passion for interiors turned into Highland retailer Lucy Wagtail

Irene Massey, owner of Lucy Wagtail.
Irene Massey, owner of Lucy Wagtail.

Every Monday, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Irene Massey of Inverness-based interior furnishings retailer Lucy Wagtail.

How and why did you start in business?

My varied working life has been great training for running my own business.

I gained an HND in business studies from Inverness College when my children were young, and have since worked in different departments in local government as a paralegal. I’ve also run a small business administration service on a self-employed basis in between.

I felt like something new and Lucy Wagtail – named after our cocker spaniel – started off as a part-time hobby in 2014, my main focus being on providing craft classes and workshops.

How did you get to where you are today?

Growing online sales and thriving craft classes gave me the push I needed to go full time.

Then the pandemic hit and face-to-face classes stopped immediately, so I was left with online sales.

Fortunately, lampshade and soft furnishing sales boomed, forcing me out of the spare bedroom and into a workshop between lockdowns.

Not only that but my daughter, Ashleigh (Gibson), joined me as head of design and Lindi (Konoso), our marketing and sales manager, arrived more recently.

We quickly outgrew the workshop, so moved to 7A Canal Road. Our new site offered both a larger workshop and retail space – an absolute dream.

Today we sell through the shop, as well as nationally and internationally online – the prefect blend.

Who helped you?

Our shipping partners, Royal Mail and DHL, have been key to our success and we’re very grateful.

My husband, David, of The Apprentice Store, in Inverness, is a fantastic sounding board and a constant source of advice, and he keeps my accounts and IT headaches to a minimum too.

The Federation of Small Businesses’ webinars, which cover an amazingly wide range of topics, have been invaluable, especially those on Brexit, and I’m looking forward to meeting other members at in-person networking events soon.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

Keep on top of your accounts. The busier you get the more attention your accounts require, and it’s easy to procrastinate. Up-to-date accounts mean fingers are always on the pulse.

What is your biggest mistake?

Not valuing my own time. At first I was wheeling two or three trolleys of parcels to the post office every day, which took a lot of time and effort and was clearly unsustainable.

Switching to doorstep collection, while costing more, freed up six hours of valuable time a week and has proved a real game-changer, especially at Christmas.

What is your greatest achievement?

Growing the business to allow me to employ Ashleigh and Lindi full time.

If you were in power in government, what would you change?

I’d oblige employers to give their staff their birthdays off, which is great for morale.

What do you still hope to achieve?

I’d like to expand the shop over the next few months to offer a wider range of interior homewares, and to continue to develop our relationships with local potters, wood turners, artists and so on, allowing us to offer customers unique and special items, both in the shop and online.

I’m also working on projects with interior designers and small B&Bs, hotels and restaurants across the UK, and I plan to develop this further over the next year.

What do you do to relax?

I love taking Lucy on long Sunday walks – my day off, if days off exist for the self-employed.

Spending time with my grandchildren is wonderful too, making me relax, forget about business and have some fun.

We’ve recently moved house, and are busy refurbishing it and tending the huge garden – all a long-held dream.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

I take advantage of Highland library service’s free audiobooks, listening on my commute and for half an hour before bed. On TV it has to be Interior Design Challenge, of course.

What do you waste your money on?

I don’t, and anyway those nails won’t paint themselves.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

After waking to the smell of fresh coffee, placed by my bed by David, I walk Lucy, breakfast in the garden if the weather’s good, then meet Ashleigh and Lindi to make plans for the day. An online business is never closed.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

I love my four-year-old Renault Clio. It’s perfect for Lucy and the grandchildren, plus parcels for local delivery when needed.

As to the future, I’d love one of the boats that sail up and down the canal outside our shop.

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