I sold clothing from the back of my car... now I have my own boutique

CHRIS DUNNE catches up with a young woman from Blackpool who started a new retail clothing business during the pandemic
I sold clothing from the back of my car... now I have my own boutique

Amy Nagle from Diva Boutique.

AMY Nagle has come a long way since trading out of the boot of her car two years ago.

The young entrepreneur from Blackpool has moved her business to a unit on the Watercourse Road from where she stocks and sells her range, Diva clothing.

Christmas, 2021, was a bumper festive season for her when she found herself stockless as shoppers clamoured to buy her affordable fashion range in the pre- Christmas sale.

“I was completely sold out with only days to go to the big day,” says Amy, 27, who gave up her managerial job in a deli when she got a light-bulb moment to start her own business during the pandemic.

“I frantically rang my suppliers who thankfully sorted me out for the last minute shoppers two days before Christmas Day - all that stock sold out too!”

When did Amy get that light-bulb moment to go into business for herself?

“It was strange really,” says Amy.

“Whenever I was browsing in shops around town, I realised everything seemed the same. There wasn’t much variety like you’d see in the UK for instance. The same thing was for sale over and over again in all the shops. And the choice for curvier girls wasn’t very good at all. I’m a curvy girl!

“I started looking online for affordable clothes that were fashionable and that came in bigger sizes.”

But Amy already had a job that she enjoyed?

“I’m a real people person and I loved my full-time job in the deli in Mace. When I decided to quit and start Diva Clothing, people asked me was I mad! I began with €100 and I decided to find a wholesaler online. I bought tee-shirts to begin with to start my business idea. I just thought it was the right time for me.”

The tee-shirts hit a chord with lots of people.

“The slogan on the first batch of tee-shirts said; ‘Alexa says reset 2020’. That got a lot of attention and I soon sold out.”

After starting a small project in March trading from the boot of her car in a number of locations with the help of her mother, Amy found herself going full-time in July of the same year.

“I set up my Facebook page and group, Diva Clothing and Mini Divas Cork. Every time I gained a new member I was thrilled. There are now over 17,000 members in the group and I hope by my second anniversary in March, 2022, I’ll hit 20,000 members.

“The phone is always hopping; it was tricky at first getting used to running a business full-time but I got there.”

Amy’s lounge wear was a big hit too.

“Around May, 2020, I put in another order for lounge wear to see how that would go. I found people wanted comfort and style. Comfort is the key. I took a gamble on lounge-wear and everyone loved it. I got loads of photos with people wearing my lounge-wear and it put a smile on my face.”

Amy was keen to do business.

“I started collection points all over the Northside,” says Amy.

Everyone needs a wing-woman.

“I’d beg my mum to come with me; I dragged her along! We would sell from the car boot three nights a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6pm to 8pm for collections. The queues would be around the corner! We branched out to Glanmire as we got busier.”

Success was looming for Amy and for Diva Clothing.

“I realised after a few weeks that this was definitely going to be a full-time job for me now that I had built a good customer base online in the Cork area,” says Amy.

“I quit my job at Mace in July to try and find a space to sell out of. I was positive about Diva Clothing and I felt it was the right time.”

The DPD delivery man was busy delivering to Amy’s home in St Mary’s Road.

“He was delivering four or five boxes a day depending on how much people wanted. I’m sure he got sick of it!

“I secured a small unit in the business park on the old Mallow Road near Bracken’s bakery,” says Amy. “There was a small room over a hairdressers and I jumped at it.”

Amy had arrived.

“In my eyes the small shop was a huge shop and it was now my biggest challenge,” says Amy.

“It seemed such a big achievement coming from my car boot to this shop and now being able to store and display all the new clothing. Now it was easier to gain more of a following and with a postal address for returns; it was more professional.”

Lockdown loomed.

“I stayed in that premises for a few months when we were in lockdown,” says Amy.

“Then I decided to start a delivery service in the Cork area and I could be sending between 40 to 50 bags out each day to individual customers. A lot of retail outlets were closed and there was nowhere to buy basic items like tee-shirts, jumpers, or kids clothes. I changed the Facebook group name to let people know that we stock children’s wear.”

Amy was going up in the world.

“Last year I moved to a bigger spot on the Watercourse Road,” she says.

“It was a huge risk in my very first year but the location made a huge difference to business.

“And I took on my helper, Shannon, who is a great help to me. 2021 was harder business-wise with Brexit. June, July and August provided a learning curve when restrictions lifted. My summer clothes still sold well. In September, business really picked up due to word of mouth from my regular customers.

“Now I source my suppliers inside the EU and it has worked out so far. I do bigger sizes for the curvier girl. I think that is important.”

Amy was amazed that her stock was sold out by December 22.

“I had a new delivery the day before and the next day the shop was empty! There was nothing on the walls, nothing on the shelves, nothing on the mannequins!

“When I managed to get more stock from my biggest supplier, it sold out the same day!”

What does Amy put her success down to?

“Hard work and commitment,” she says. “My customers got behind me and spread the word. It may have seemed like a crazy idea, I had no clue when I started, I had no business background, but it worked out.”

There is always a price to be paid for success in the business world.

“I have no social life!” says Amy.

But she likes being self-employed.

“I can put in my own hours or change my hours when I work. It was difficult to do that before. I’m extremely happy, my family are really happy for me, and I hope to keep growing.”

What else does she hope for?

“I hope to have Diva Clothing in a shopping centre some day!”

The businesswoman has advice for other young entrepreneurs.

“Take in what comes your way, you may make mistakes at first but you’ll make your own future.”

See Diva Clothing and Mini Divas on Facebook Email:divaclothingcork.com

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