When I think of women who inspire me, one that instantly springs to mind is Mhairi McDermott, Company Director at M Boutique. Why? In 2011 she opened M Boutique in my home town, Broughty Ferry, at a time when online shopping was taking over and few stylish independent shops were around. Fast forward five years and Mhairi has established M Boutique’s personality and, in turn, an extremely loyal customer base (which includes Britain’s national treasure, Lorraine Kelly), proving that she understands and listens to her customer while never losing sight of her goals. What’s more, Mhairi opened her second shop in Dundee’s city centre last year, despite the risk involved; against all the odds, M Boutique the brand is thriving at a time when many other independent retailers are being forced to shut their doors. Mhairi is an inspiration to me because of her vision, focus, dedication and hard work but also because she is one of the most lovely women I’ve had the pleasure of working (and chatting extensively!) with.
Where are you from?
I’m from Motherwell, just outside Glasgow on the West Coast.
Where do you live?
In the little village of Letham, 15 miles north of Dundee – I’m surrounding by the most beautiful countryside.
What did you want to be when growing up?
A primary school teacher or a DJ…In my very early teens, I used to go to a trendy bar in Glasgow at the weekend and thought the DJ was amazing, she was so cool! I would never have done it though, I was way too shy.
What does your job involve?
Being a business owner, I think you need to know every aspect of your business so I’m involved in and have responsibility over pretty much everything from buying and budgeting to marketing and managing staff. I suppose that’s what makes the whole thing so interesting.
What does your average working day look like?
I like to be organised, so I’m up early checking emails, then breakfast before heading off to one of the shops. If I’m not at the shop, it’s usually because I’m buying or at meetings.
Best thing about your work?
Having free reign of what I do with M Boutique and seeing it flourish. I also love the fact I can choose who I work with, and I work with genuinely lovely people. Oh and buying, it’s my favourite time of the year!
Worst thing about your work?
The dreaded paperwork.
I like to have everything to hand – I find desk work tedious so if I need to move to find anything, I’ll find a reason to be distracted! The iMac and my iPhone are always essential.
What has been your career highlight so far?
Celebrating M Boutique’s 5th birthday this year and opening a second boutique in the city centre last year – with so many businesses sadly closing down I count this as a real achievement.
How have things changed since you started out?
The trend for buying online continues to soar and goes hand-in-hand with all forms of social media. We have continued to build our online business and have focused much more on various aspects of social media more recently – the trick is finding the balance between how much time and money is spent on this and, more importantly, our stores.
Who or what is your inspiration/motivation?
I love what I do so that in itself keeps me motivated, but I also have amazing customers that love our brand and products and get excited when they visit us. This spurs me on to keep getting better.
Best piece of professional advice you’ve received?
Trust your own instincts and be friendly – you’ll get more out of people if you’re nice to them.
Top tip for getting into the industry?
Do your homework and take time to understand your customer. Once you’ve set your buying budgets, stick to them as closely as you can.
Something we don’t know about you?
I have an unhealthy obsession for peanut M&Ms.
Paper or Digital: Digital but I do like a paper diary
Tea or Coffee: Coffee in the morning, tea by early afternoon
Heels or Flats: Flats (although always heels in the evening)
Save or Spend: Spend, most definitely spend
Day or Night: Night
Beach or Snow: Beach (I’m longing for warm weather)
Phone or Email: Phone
Dogs or Cats: Dogs
Sweet or Savoury: Savoury
Champagne or Cocktails: Who doesn’t love a champagne cocktail?