Here's a recipe for success you won't find written on a Job Centre pamphlet: take the 'filthiest' word in the English language, reclaim it, and create a range of eye-catching accessories the like of which could only be made in Liverpool...
How do you get from zero to online hero in less than a year? Have a firm belief in what you’re doing, spot a, ahem, hole in the market, and give the people what they want. At least, that’s the formula that’s paying off for Braidy Maloney, aka Quirky Boutique.
Make no mistake. Claire’s Accessories this is not. Quirky Boutique is a day-glo, retro-inspired jewellery, gifts, cards, bags and ‘hair candy’ store of wonders – of the likes you simply just won’t find in Liverpool ONE. Feminine? Yes. Shy and retiring? We wouldn’t bet on it.
“I was a stay at home mum of two children and needed to go back to work, but my son was still young and I didn’t want to leave him,” Maloney says.
“I’d always had an interest jewellery making, and was getting fed up with seeing the same things for sale in the shops. Luckily for me my husband Paul is a web designer (tropicaweb.co.uk) so he was able to design the website and give me on tap advice about the workings of the internet. Pretty soon after that Quirky Boutique was born,” she says.
We’re curious. SevenStreets knows how important a good looking website is. But what about the business plan? Stock control? Cash flow? All those other things that stop the rest of us jumping in and really testing the water. What experience did Maloney have before she opened her virtual shop for the first time?
“Zilch!” she freely admits. For Maloney, (on the left in the photo) like so many others in this city, the enterprise was borne out of a passion, not some accountancy-hatched money making plan. “I’ve always loved making jewellery, and used to spend all my money in the local craft shop. I’d sit for hours messing with beads. My friends and family used to ask where it was from, once I explained I had made it I was soon making things for them too, and it escalated from there…”
Still, mindful of the fact that this had to be more than a hobby if she was to be able to stay at home with her son, Maloney approached Train 2000, the Liverpool based charity who provide business training for women (SevenStreets has featured them here).
“They were fantastic,” Maloney says. “They helped me put together a business plan and went through different aspects of running a business. After that I was luckily enough to get a grant from Liverpool Vision which helped me get started.”
Ultimately, of course, the success story is all Maloney’s. Her clever, empowering and refreshing range of tattoo and rockabilly-inspired baubles, bangles and beads hit the spot immediately. In a high street filled with Swarovski, fascinators and mock-croc studded bucket bags, of TV ‘style experts’ assaulting women with while-you-wait makeovers (available at Debenhams), Quirky Boutique comprehensively shot a bullet through all that, and shouted a defiant ‘See You Next Tuesday’ to Gok and co.
“I think that people have become more creative in what they wear, they are letting their personalities do the talking through the clothes they wear and they accessories they buy,” Maloney says. “Many people like unique and handmade things that aren’t mass-produced, it’s no fun having the same style as a million other people so I think they choose to be creative and mix things up rather than play it safe.”
She’s obviously on to something. Since its launch last year, Quirky Boutique has become a byword for distinctive, and eye-catching style. But, we have to admit, some pieces are more eye-catching than others. What about that necklace?
“My Profanity Club necklaces have proved so popular with customers they fly off the shelves as soon as I get them,” Maloney reveals. “People often tell me that they receive so many compliments on them which is nice. And the C word? Well, people say it’s the most offensive word in the English language. Do we care? Hell no…”
It seems it’s not just the online world that’s taken to Maloney’s particular spelling bee success story.
“Four of my word necklaces have just gone on sale in Supermarket Sarah in Selfridges, which I am absolutely stoked about. Not bad for my first stockist, eh?” Not bad at all.
All of which means Maloney might be working from home, but she’s never been busier.
“The business is quite time consuming, as it’s online, having a presence is essential, so I spend a lot of time social networking and doing lots of e-commerce. Then there’s the post office runs too, and obviously making the jewellery so it can be pretty tiresome on days. I’m gearing up to do The Liverpool Tattoo Convention in May which will be a blast, and, of course, I’m out a lot, looking for inspiration for my next range.”
“One day it would be nice to open a bricks and mortar shop and have customers come in and browse my wares, to see Quirky Boutique above the door would be lovely, but for now I’m happy on the internet…”
With shops like Quirky Boutique single handedly showing our larger stores that not every woman wants to join in the hateful ‘here come to girls’ conga line to the checkout, what’s the betting the window displays of our city stores are about to get a whole lot more interesting in the coming months?
What’s right about Liverpool right now?
There’s so much happening in Liverpool all of the time, the music, fashion, burlesque and tattoo scenes bring people in from all over the country which makes Liverpool the place to be.
Liverpool city has its own identity. People always know where you’re from, which can’t be said for many places. I loving living here.
What’s wrong about Liverpool right now?
The fashion scene is always on form in Liverpool, people here aren’t scared to try something different, although someone needs to tell the girls that going out in pyjamas won’t ever catch on.
I wouldn’t say there’s anything bad in Liverpool right now, the only thing I would say is people’s perception of Liverpool needs to change. A lot of the time in the media Liverpool is perceived as being a rough city with lots of crime and bad people. I have only lived in Liverpool for the last seven years and as an outsider I have to say people’s perceptions are way off the mark. Scousers are by far some of the nicest people I have ever met. I for one am proud to be an adopted Scouser.
Quirky Boutique at the Liverpool Tattoo Convention @ The Adelphi Hotel 14th/15th May 2011.