Self employed people contribute strongly to the UK economy, with over 5 million self employed people and represent over 15% of the labour market. This blog aims to shout out to just some of the hard working and talented self employed people I know.
This week we profile Milly Edge, founder of Radical Giving a lifestyle store based online and in Lewes, East Sussex. Opening and successfully running a retail store in a time of complete chaos and confusion takes a certain kind of person. Milly's background and attitude is a perfect example of where experience and vision come together to create a successful business.
Describe your business (and your big idea):
Radical Giving is a wellbeing and lifestyle store stocking zero waste and ethical gifts sourced from charities and social enterprises in the UK and Worldwide.
Alongside this we stock products from small indie companies that have a positive impact for people, our communities and the environment, with a core mission to inspire positive shopping.
We launched with a Crowdfunder campaign in 2018 and we have built on this community vibe by creating brilliant relationships with our radical, forward thinking suppliers and customers.
We have a shared ethos that life is all about meaningful connections and this runs through the very heart of Radical Giving.
Our big idea is to ultimately create a large hub of positivity, including products, people and places!
What is your background? How does it link to what you are doing now?
As far back as I can remember I've always been playing shops. My upbringing was very entrepreneurial orientated and everyone in my family is self employed, I think that says it all haha.
When I was at University I opened a business called ‘Bookends’ with my best friend and we sold books in Brick Lane market. After this I started my own vintage clothing company called ‘More Amelia’ where I learnt many lessons that have helped me along the way.
Career wise, I’ve been in retail now for fifteen years starting as a Saturday girl at Topshop and then working my way up to head office for Arcadia at BHS and Miss Selfridge.
Obviously there’s been a lot about Arcadia in the press recently and this is really where I experienced many of the errors that big businesses are making and this inspired me to start my own company that prioritised our planet and people before profit.
What was your breakthrough moment?:
For the last few years I’ve been growing Radical Giving whilst working a part time job in London. It was only in lockdown that I realised that magical moment where you can just slip into working for yourself was never going to come, so after a few crucial calculations we decided to move the entire business and ourselves to Lewes in East Sussex.
It seemed like a major thing at the time and many hours went into the planning and moving, but we literally couldn’t be happier, so it was definitely the right decision.
What is one of your proudest business moments?
We started the business with a crowdfunder and for anyone that’s done a crowdfunder they will know how much work and anxiety is involved! I’d definitely say that my proudest business moment so far was when we reached our funding target and were able launch. Radical Giving is always about people and we’ll be eternally grateful to each and every person who donated to our crowdfunder campaign.
What was your plan?:
To be honest, we’ve always been quite structured with our plan. We’re lucky as there’s two of us working on the business (me and my partner Steve) so a lot of planning and discussion goes into everything we do. We knew we wanted to start small and see if the idea takes off and then move onto bigger things one step at a time.
Starting online and then opening stalls at Spitalfields and Broadway markets was actually part of the initial plan, so was opening our first store shortly after, but the location was never finalised, so there’s been a slight rewrite with that one haha.
How and when did you launch?
During our crowdfunder campaign, we had already started to build relationships with some of our longest standing suppliers and this proved to be a great starting point once the campaign was successful. We launched with a small amount of products online and then opened our first stall a few months later at Spitalfields Market. It felt quite slow to begin with, but when you focus your time and energy into something it soon becomes a major part of your daily existence, and this is exactly what happened with Radical Giving.
How have you continued to build your brand?
We’re constantly sourcing new products and new suppliers that fit with our ethos. The pandemic has really kept us on our toes and forced us to think outside the box.
When you work with ‘suppliers’ for a long time, they become friends and these relationships become the key to moving through difficult times.
The same can be said about our amazing and radical customers, who share the same beliefs as our own. When customers are buying products from you for the same reasons that you are buying products from your suppliers the whole operation becomes a very solid close knit community of like minded people.
What challenges have you faced?:
Apart from the obvious pandemic, being squeezed by time and money when first launching the business was quite tough, but this gets better with time and when you learn how to manage things.
Working markets in the winter can be hard when it gets dark earlier and the temperature drops - (smart clothing investments come in handy here!)
The Internet feels like a big place and where to start with things like advertising and social media feels daunting at first, but when you learn more about it, it can become a very useful tool.
How do you stay motivated?
We like to stay positive and turn problems into challenges. There’s a lot of reframing that goes on in our office! Working for ourselves is a shared dream for the both of us. Being passionate about what you do everyday is very powerful.
What have you got your eye on for the future?:
We’re still settling into our new shop and the wonderful community of Lewes and we’re very excited to build a real radical hub for the area.
One part of our plan (before the pandemic) was to start some workshops. We now have the space to do this and when we can, we’ll be offering classes, talks, screenings, art shows and other community events, so stay tuned for that!
What are you favourite things to carry around with you?
Here come the product plugs haha!!! Right now I’m always carrying one of our Kind Bags (amazing for shopping!) and my Black & Blum lunch box and insulated water bottle, which I put my tea in and finally, not forgetting my concealer and lipstick.
Do you have a motto? If so , what is it?
We definitely have a few quotes that keep us inspired and this is our favourite right now...
“It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong” - Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia founder).
How can people get in touch with you?
Check out our website here - https://radicalgiving.co.uk/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/radicalgiving/