Here we go, the first blog of many... I promised myself I wouldn't overthink this, but I find myself doing it already!
It's a beautiful summer's day in North Wales and it seems like the perfect opportunity to reflect on my journey to becoming a shoe salesman and running my own business.
It all started on a sunny beach in Zanzibar. It was the end of another journey that I had taken with my long time partner Lesley. We had been travelling around the Middle East and Africa for the previous 3 months. I had promised that we could go home for Christmas and had booked flights for the 24th December. This didn't exactly go as planned, landing at the wrong airport 9 hours late! A sympathetic Mother set off for London at 11pm on Christmas Eve to collect us! Anyway, back to the beach.....
It's not often that I find myself sitting still on an exotic beach with nobody around except Lesley and myself; not only for the fact that I don't often find myself in such exotic places, but I have a serious problem just hanging around! It was quite an emotional day, talking of the amazing experiences and memories that Africa and the Middle East had given us. We didn't exactly stick to the tourist hot spots, travelling on the back of beer trucks, motorbikes, boats, bicycles and even the odd camel!
After well and truly 'living in the moment' for 90 days, we decided to plan for our future. I had been working in the offshore industry for a number of years, most recently as a senior officer in charge of a 5,000 ton dive ship and ultimately responsible for the lives of those divers working on the seabed. My job also gave me opportunities to travel to new places as well as allowing me to work 6 weeks on, 6 weeks off....nice! But having reached the end of our trip, I had made up my mind that I no longer wanted to work away from home; I wanted to settle down and run my own business. I loved the idea of being able to set my own agenda....more time, more freedom and more happiness, or so I thought.
Well, I am definitely happier in myself and I finally feel in complete control of my own destiny. I feel more independent, more responsible and more able to pursue the things that I want. As for more time and more freedom, those in business will understand this was one of my more naive expectations!
During our time travelling we met some extraordinary people, each on their own journey of discovery. A lot of them were escaping being at home, but for me it was a very different experience.....I wanted to explore! It was all about trying new things, meeting new people, removing the comfort barriers and learning about the lives of others.
The thing is I love being home; I love the proximity of the beach (my dog's favourite) and the mountains (possibly my favourite). I love the fact that you can be shopping for shoes one minute and be trekking the countryside the next. You're never too far away from the hustle and bustle but can get away from it all in just minutes. The air is fresh, the water sweet and the people sweeter; my family and closest friends are within throwing distance (except you Gaz, if you're reading this...). I can think of no better place to live, work and play.
So there's the location for my business sorted, easy! Not quite....it took a lot of time and patience to get the place I wanted. Location is important for any business and Prestatyn is built on a hillside and most of the parking is at the bottom of town. It is also home to the new 'Parc Prestatyn' with the likes of M&S, River Island and Next, but competition for retail space at the bottom is tough and the top of the high street more sexy!
In the end I chose an old bakery turned clothes shop positioned half way up the High Street and in need of a little TLC. In fact, when I pulled back the plasterboard, I found an old poster with a message from the previous owner dated 1991. My shop has a beautiful frontage, large vertical glass windows, a large sandstone slab for a step, worn by the feet of bread eaters for 100+ years. Perfect you might think, but I had a huge task ahead. I worked flat out 7:30am-11pm for two weeks to ensure that I finished in time for an event organised by the Town Council.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the joiner (Craig), the plasterers (Dave and Kev) and my family and friends who helped construct, paint, clean and (due to a misunderstanding with one of my suppliers) take a 200 mile round trip to make sure I got my stock in time for opening (thanks Rob!). It ended with a sprint finish, hanging the new sign from a wobbly trestle for my shop 'elevate your sole' at 11pm, Friday 9th August. This was a huge delight to the many passers by on their way from 'The Clwydian' (now William Morgan) to one of the trendy bars at the top of town.
In the end it was all worth it. I have a fantastic looking shop, opened by the Mayor at 10am to a celebration of champagne, nibbles and a lot of shoes! Prestatyn town was packed, an incredible day that I will always remember.
So, why shoes? To put it simply, I really like them! I am an honest person and therefore to sell something passionately I need to believe in the benefit of everything that I stock. For that reason I pick every single pair of shoes that enters my shop (with the help of Lesley and my Mum). It's not just about making money for me, which is why I offer a selection of shoes suitable for all adult ages. Choosing those shoes is another story and deserves a post in itself.....
On a personal note, I would like to thank Lesley and my Mum for your understanding and ever lasting patience with my 'ideas' but look, I'm writing a blog about one of those ideas becoming a reality.
I hope you enjoyed reading my first blog. If you'd like to see some photos of my shop and stock that we have to offer, please visit my website www.elevateyoursole.co.uk, Facebook, Twitter or G+ pages.
Hal Holmes-Pierce (Proprietor: elevate your sole)
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