I think we’ve all dreamt of opening our own shop at some point, haven’t we? Mine would be a books-and-cake place, with wine in the evening. The interiors would be heaven, and I would swan around meeting my public and generally enjoying myself. In reality, I know that there is a lot less swanning around involved with running a business. It is proper hard graft and I have the utmost respect for anyone who takes on the challenge.
I met Antonia Sanchez-Toomey a few months ago on Instagram and saw that as well as launching a blog (like me!) she had recently taken the plunge and opened a shop, Tinker Tailor in Enfield, North London. Last week I went to meet her, check out the store and chat about her hopes and dreams for the business.
Tinker Tailor opened in September 2017, and it’s more than a shop and more than a cafe. It’s a shopping, eating, chatting, social hub. With workshops sprinkled on top.
Antonia describes it as a lifestyle destination, “Tinker Tailor is born from my mission to improve and enhance my own life by taking a chance on myself. In spite of all those daft voices in my head that so often hold us back”.
Shop til you drop
The boss admits, “I’m a shopper. I get a rush when I see something I really like. I want people to have that feeling when they come here”.
Pretty, minimal soaps and candles by Sevin London catch my eye, and Neon Marl slogan sweatshirts, there are baskets, pretty notepads, jewellery and more. “I want people to be excited about my stock, and for this to be somewhere you can discover new brands”, says Antonia.
The shop is a converted butcher’s, and still maintains an industrial feel. But it has been repurposed for the needs of the high street in 2018, so now there is a coffee machine behind the counter and tables for people to gather around.
The road to the high street
Antonia describes her journey to opening Tinker Tailer “higgledy-piggledy”. She is half English, half Spanish and mum to three girls. She’s worked in the travel industry, started small businesses, and then became a teacher.
But two years ago she reached a point where she was deeply unhappy with her career, “I looked into the future and thought, do I really want to be doing this for the next 20 years? I just didn’t”.
“I have always liked the idea of working for myself, I like being free, and I always felt that I could tap into what people wanted”.
A shop was always the end goal. But while she waited for the right opportunity to come up Antonia launched her own blog, Tinker Tailer Online. She felt it would be useful to develop an online audience for the brand.
“For a long time, I had been reading blogs, thinking ‘I could do this’ too”.
“Blogging took off in a way I didn’t expect and I started working with well-known brands like Next and Marks & Spencer, but making money from a blog is really hard. People’s perception of the lifestyle is very different to the reality.”
A space to learn
As a former teacher, she is passionate that teaching, learning and mentoring plays a part in the Tinker Tailor brand.
There is a timetable of creative workshops on things like social media training, screen printing, even arm knitting. It’s hoped that the shop can become a place for groups and small businesses to meet and inspire one another.
“I have met so many people who are trying to re-write the rule book on how women operate in the workplace and how we manage our lives and career, I want to be part of that and offer that service to other people”.
Keeping it real
“It’s a dream, but sometimes it doesn’t feel very dreamy”.
Six months into the Tinker Tailor bricks and mortar enterprise and Antonia admits that day to day it is “incredibly hard, and definitely not for the faint-hearted. The hours, the responsibility, the really dull stuff like worrying about whether we have enough milk…”
She says that she is “managing a work-life balance that no longer exists”, but she’s driven by a desire to make the business work and create the kind of future she wants for herself and her family.
The next phase of the project is to launch a range of branded Tinker Tailor products such as clothing, candles and homeware. Antonia is working with small brands such as Neon Marl and Join candles. The aim is to take the business beyond the high street by collaborating with other ambitious independent companies.
The Last Word
“Tinker Tailor is about dream chasing. I’m proving that – yes – you absolutely can follow your dream and make it happen for yourself, as cheesy as that sounds. I built Tinker Tailor with nothing but an idea and a big leap of faith. I’ve just got to make it work now”.
Antonia Sanchez-Toomey, founder, Tinker Tailor Online
Do you have dreams of starting a business? Please share them, perhaps it’ll take them a step closer to becoming a reality…