How this all got started

So I decided to change my life, not only my working life but my personal life. I have decided to change my business – close down my vintage clothes shop – Painted Black, and open Shop Dog N8. Not only am I doing this I am doing it with my boyfriend and not only that I have only been with my boyfriend a year. Oh and we live together too who says you need personal space?!

I am not great at routine, I have moved every few years since I was 17. So the fact that I kept Painted Black for 5 1/2 years is surprising. I opened Painted Black when I was 28, the exact age my boyfriend is now opening his first shop with me. I had a great deal of success with Painted Black, won awards, used in national campaigns, interviewed in national magazine, favoured by costume designers and stylists. All of this came as a huge surprise to me. I was a girl from Tottenham, grew up in a council house my parents were both on benefits – I think that is where my love for second hand clothes come from. I dreamt for years of different businesses I could do, I have notebooks filled with ideas some already existed, some are just stupid – like a microwave that fits just a single cup? So when I found my shop online for rent, I couldn’t believe my luck, I borrowed a few thousand off my mum and friends and fit the shop out with help from my friends and family, paint found in skips, signs hand made. To begin with I sold all my own clothes and just hoped I would make enough to keep it alive and I did it even bloomed. I made some of my best friends through the shop. Then everything changed, vintage fell out of favour, buying habits changed, the way people interact with high streets changes, I got an e commerce shop, I put on parties, I did eye grabbing windows and stupid windows. But it was like there had been a zombie apocalypse. People just stopped coming in, I asked my shop neighbours and everyone was in the same boat. Where had everyone gone?

I would say I am a pessimist yet I don’t give up, which makes no sense – I know. I thought about what did I want to do with my life, I had been very lucky to have had the shop but this couldn’t carry on, it was soul destroying. I needed to change things. So I got my thinking cap on and came up with two ideas. Both I loved. It is interesting these ideas really divided my friends and family. Some people I assumed wouldn’t get or like one of my ideas loved it. The first idea was to open a communist grilled cheese sandwich shop, as its communist it only has one sandwich, one sauce, one drink. No questions asked and the decoration of an Eastern German canteen. Called The Communist Cheese State. I truly loved this idea – but after thinking about it, I realised it was a fad too like the vintage shop – people like having an experience its very in vogue and part of the Instagram generation, its funny and self deprecating. But it doesn’t have legs. Much to my oldest and dearest friends dismay I walked away from this, my friend Gary loved this idea so much we ended having a argument outside a pub and I stormed off.

The other idea is Shop Dog N8. I have been a vegetarian since I was four when I went to a farm and asked what happened to the animals – I went militant. I truly love animals and dogs. I got my dog Rose when I was 21 and my mum couldn’t stop me! I like to think I have given Rose a good life, she has always come to work with me, before I was a gardener and would take her with me, she comes everywhere with me. So opening Shop Dog made sense to me – I get paid to knock about with dogs, go to woods and parks and have fun – whats not to love… Oh the mounds of dog poo, I hear you! As luck would have it my boyfriend, my brand new shiny boyfriend is a dog trainer, a really good one too. So one night I turned to him and said my idea and would he like to be a part of it. The next few months were busy with making lists, thinking endlessly about what we could offer, how fun we could make it, what dogs love, how can we make them happy and living a life that I would want my dog to have?

Then I had to end things with Painted Black, I did a huge closing down sale, I sold everything and hoped that with any money I have left once I paid the rent the bills I would reinvest in doing Shop Dog up.The closing down sale was conflicting, people coming in who I really liked who I had built up a bond with over the five years – some people were sad, worried that I was put out of business by landlords and government. Most people really loved it when I told them I am keeping the premises just changing business, most people said that makes sense as they all know Rose. Some were mean about it and would ask very personal questions. So with closing down sale I found myself sad and relieved at points, but aware that once its gone its gone and five years of building up a name for Painted Black was going to be gone. I had little idea if this new shop would make any money at all. Of course we had done market research, but there wasn’t anything quiet like us in London. We don’t put dogs in cages, or in a small space with just a bed, your dog doesn’t go for hours at a time in a van outside of London to a massive doggy day care. We were niche, fun, playful. We wanted a space with all the needs for dogs covered not just physical safety but to engage with their minds too.