meet jean young, businesswoman, shop owner and proud founder of jean@uptowngirl
Business owner and passionate customer service advocate Jean Young has long established herself among the elite in shoes and accessories. Priding herself on offering only the very best, bespoke service for her loyal clients looking to make their special occasions even more special. Her journey from private sector admin and management to proud business owner of a proper bricks and mortar shop, Jean knows all about taking over and running a hugely successful business and customer base offering VIP events, bridal accessories and gorgeous designer, and often exclusive, brands. You only have to read through her customer reviews to see how much of an impact she makes upon her loyal fan base.
I absolutely loved reading though Jean's story, such positivity and honesty from a fantastic lady. I am both proud and thrilled to have her on board as one of our inspirational business owners and for her to share her journey with you. Over to you jean…
So, Jean, What’s your story?
I have had a very varied and challenging career path. I worked mainly in the private sector starting in retail for a short time as my first job to then spending many years in office based admin and managerial roles. I overcame and dealt with redundancy not once twice but four times! I was forced to move on and find new employment. During this time I became divorced from my first husband. My daughter Stacey was very young at the time and I spent many years raising her as a single parent. My gorgeous girl is now 26yrs old. I somehow coped with single parenting whilst holding down full-time employment, dealing with redundancies and even went back to college, fast-tracking on a Saturday morning to gain an HND in Admin & Information Management!
I finally ended up working in the public sector and was a Civil Servant for a number of years. I had a relatively secure job with a salary and pension but I was unhappy and became very stressed in the environment I was working in. I really started to dislike my job and dreaded going in every day.
In February 2015 my partner Alan proposed out of the blue which came as a bit of a shock to me – really didn’t see that one coming! I set to work planning all the wedding details, project managing everything myself and we were married only a few months later in June 2015 in Antigua, which was truly amazing. I loved every minute of it. I realised that I needed wedding shoes and I bought them from the previous owner of what is now my very own shop.
I didn’t know anything about the shop back then but it was on the High Street in the town where I worked and I knew she sold wedding shoes, we got chatting about the fact the business was up for sale at the time. I returned after my wedding to get my shoes dyed purple (my fave colour) and I couldn’t stop thinking about this shop. It just felt so right and owning a shop like it had always been a dream of mine.
I knew that if I didn’t try I would always wonder what if? I had no idea how I was going to do it but I did the whole vision board bit, putting a picture of the shop and my wedding shoes on it with the word ‘Believe’ written above it.
Less than a year later I took ownership of those very shop keys, in April 2016 I became the proud owner of Uptown Girl. I had to pinch myself at the time. I had resigned and walked away from my old day job taking a massive leap of faith. My husband deals in finance so he is a figures man and he did have concerns about me giving up my job and going self-employed but he has always supported me in my decision. I had never done anything like this before so it has been a huge learning curve. Everyday is a school day and I am constantly learning.
Retail is very hard in the current climate and involves long hours with very little time off. I have no regrets whatsoever though as I LOVE the shop and what I do! I can’t imagine doing anything else now.
A friend gave me a framed quote by Marilyn Monroe as a gift, which I hung in the shop on day one. It reads ‘Give a girl the right pair of shoes and she can conquer the world’ and we all know the story of Cinderella and those shoes. I may not be conquering the world but that one pair of wedding shoes led me to where I am today – living the dream!
Sometimes dreams really do come true.
What’s the first thing you check within your business daily?
I usually check emails, messages, banking and Facebook early morning at home in my office before I leave for the shop. Once I get to the shop I have a routine I undertake for opening up & preparing to welcome my lovely customers.
What makes your business different from others in the marketplace?
I offer a bespoke personal one-to-one shopping experience and will happily spend as long as is required to help my customers find the perfect accessories to compliment their outfits. I love helping my ladies feel fabulous when they leave the shop. I pride myself on delivering excellent customer service and won’t just sell them anything just for the sake of getting a sale. My Facebook customer reviews are testament that I often do go the extra mile to help them. You can see them here.
How do you handle criticism?
I think it can be hard to hear criticism and not react at times. It can sometimes make us question or doubt ourselves. If it is constructive criticism and well meaning I will take someone’s point on board and if it it's something I can improve on then I will work to do that.
Who inspires you?
This is an easy one – My dad! He is 94yrs Young and amazing!
He is a true inspiration having survived many health issues & still tries to remain active. He is the most sociable outgoing person I know and has a great outlook on life.
How would your best friend describe you?
Difficult to say how friends view you personally, but I asked my friend this recently & she said “aiming high in life”
I would never have thought she would say that!
What’s the most exciting project you have been involved with for your business?
It has been an exciting journey right from the outset on day one!
In April 2018 I celebrated 2yrs as owner of the business and finalised completion of the actual shop purchase, which was a major biggie for me. This was always my goal and I have worked very hard to achieve this. I celebrated by rebranding and renaming the shop ‘Jean@UptownGirl’ and my new sign just went up the same weekend of my 2yr celebration! This put my final personal stamp on the shop and I love it! I was very excited and so chuffed to see my name go up over the shop. It was a proud moment for me.
The shop has also recently had a makeover and refurbishment with a complete new ceiling, rewiring, heating panels and gorgeous new lighting installed. This was a major project in itself for me which ran over schedule, as these things do, and was a tad stressful and exhausting! I took on this massive project at the same time as I moved house which everyone told me was completely insane but I never did take the easy route and do like a bit of a challenge! The shop is looking fabulous and I am delighted with the end result! Customers have been very complimentary on the new look and feel of the shop.
What’s next for Jean@Uptown Girl?
I am always on the lookout for new and exciting products to bring into the shop especially if I can gain exclusivity with certain items. I did this recently with a lovely young Designer of Handbags and I am the first and only retailer currently anywhere in the world to stock her products! I am constantly thinking about ways to improve the shop and learning what works best for the customers and myself. I am building relationships daily with my customers, suppliers and networking with a lot of other businesses. I still have a long way to go on this journey and feel I am only just starting to get to where I want to be. I am looking forward to many more continued successful years.
What three things do you need as a business owner in your marketplace to be successful?
Originality – thinking outside the box & not just following everyone else
Faith & Belief in myself
Delivering Excellent Customer Service
What’s your top tip for the awesome girl bosses reading this article?
If you are really passionate, dedicated and committed about something then go for it! Do your homework & research. Don’t expect to be an overnight success and never give up at the first hurdle.
What would you change about your journey or what would you avoid if you could do it over again?
I have had so many life lessons and experiences that have taught me so much but I believe this has made me the strong person that I am today. The one thing I could have avoided was the sleepless nights spent worrying about things.
What’s the number one played song on your iPod?
I have a few favourites but I love Happy by Pharrell Williams – can't not smile or sing along to it!
What do you know for sure?
Life is too short and we let it pass us by too often. We should live in and try to enjoy every day being grateful for all the wonderful life experiences.
Do you have a book or favourite podcast recommendation for our Female CEO members?
I don’t have any special favourites but when I read ‘The Secret’ a number of years ago something seemed to click & I found myself trying to turn the negative thinking into positives. It definitely changed my outlook on life and I started to feel much better about things in general.
What has been your greatest life lesson?
My dad has always been my rock and mentor and taught me a lot. The best piece of advice he ever gave me was never to lose my sense of humour, as it would get me through a hell of a lot in life. So true! I try to live by this but also know that, as a worrier by nature, I have spent far too long worrying about things rather than just living and enjoying the moment.
If you want to know more about Jean or have a question about Jean@uptowngirl you can visit her website here, drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or at her shop on 01383 515400 or indeed here on Facebook