|Tamsyn our guest editor|
For the past two years I’ve worked part time at Magpie and Bear, an accessories boutique in Bath directed by Karen Keenan. What initially began as a few hours flyering when the shop first opened soon grew into a weekend position as a retail assistant and has since developed to three days a week in our new premises at number 7 Green Street. Over the years I have worked this job alongside summer positions and full time study and it has been a great experience thus far.
I wanted to turn things around and share some of the reasons why I love working for an independent, in the hope that it might inspire others to take up a position in one of the many independent businesses in Bath.
The vast majority (98%) of independents employ less than 10 people, therefore it’s likely that when working for one of these businesses you become part of a tight knit team. You are treated as a person, rather than another number on the payroll. You’ll probably get to know your boss and colleagues well and if you’re lucky like me, you’ll feel genuinely looked after and appreciated by your employe. This leads to great working relationships based on the ability to give and take. For example, during my most busy (and stressful!) periods of study I was able to reduce my hours as needed. On the flip side, when my boss has required extra cover, I have been happy to help out. A level of mutual respect can be developed where flexibility on both parts is valued. I know it is important to give plenty of notice when time off is required and by doing so, I know that every effort will be made to grant my request. It’s easy to ascertain a common ground when working for a small company and when each part is invested in the businesses success a good working dynamic can be established.
There is a certain pride and loyalty that comes from working for an independent. You feel part of a team, you know you are valued and you can take pleasure in what you do. Having been with Magpie and Bear since it first opened two years ago I’ve had the opportunity to see the business grow and go from strength to strength. I’ve been a part of this business’ journey and I’ve been able to witness first-hand the hard work that goes into it, as well as get the sense that I might have contributed in some small way to its success. I cannot stress enough how rewarding it is to feel valued and part of a team all working towards a common goal; based on a firm, caring and thoughtful philosophy.
Working for an independent and particularly working alongside your boss or the director of the business, provides a unique chance to learn about how a business is run and get a behind the scenes look which might not be feasible in larger firms. Obviously you may not be privy to such information in all cases of working for an independent, but I have learnt a lot about the buying process, working alongside suppliers, developing a website, an online store and more. It gives perspective on how much hard work is required to run an independent business, particularly in the current economic climate and also cultivates a deep appreciation and respect for those who do it on a daily basis.
Before working for an independent retailer I have to admit that I was very limited in terms of the places I ate, drank and shopped. You’d catch me in many of the ‘same old’ chains, sticking to my regular haunts and never daring to try somewhere new. They simply weren’t on my radar! Now however, my eyes are open and I find myself delighted with new finds. I get excited about supporting new ventures within the city. There is nothing better than finding a hidden gem and taking a friend to visit – knowing it will be a unique experience and they aren’t likely to find the exact same place a few miles down the road. It helps foster a sense of pride for the city of Bath, knowing how many exclusive places there are available. I now consciously make an effort to support independents as much as I can, whether it means going for dinner at a family run restaurant, or simply buying my bottle of water and a snack from a sandwich shop instead of a large supermarket.
There is something that feels wholesome and good about supporting local, independent businesses through the purchases you make, and this increases tenfold when you find yourself working for one. I encourage anyone who is flexible, loyal, hardworking and looking for employment to consider working for an independent. Give it a try, you might end up feeling like an important part of a team, learning fantastic skills and even better - meeting great new people.