I love my Women at Work series. I find it fascinating to meet women who over a period of time have discovered exactly where they wish to be when it comes to work and are now “making work, work for them” Discovering the journey they have taken to get to where they are is always interesting and today is no different.
Tell me more about yourself and what you currently do?
I have had my business, Madison Boutique in Constantia for the past fifteen years. Its is a woman’s clothing store where every item is hand picked and sourced from all over the world. We carry ranges from Australia, France, Columbia and Amsterdam… just to name a few places. We search for unique, beautiful and exclusive ranges that cater to the woman with a discerning eye for style and wonderful fabrics.
When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
I don’t think I ever consciously decided that this was what I wanted…. it just kind of happened to me! I have always loved fashion and am constantly amazed by the designers ability to re-inspire people to express themselves. Its an exciting industry as it is constantly changing.
What did you study – was it in this field or something different?
I haven’t ever studied fashion or anything related to it. When I left school I moved to London and studied photography at Central St Martins.
What was your first job in the industry? and what path has your career taken since?
I have always worked in clothing retail since I was sixteen. My first job in retail was at a store called Space Station at the Waterfront. It was one of the first stores that used to import one off unusual pieces and I think I used my whole salary on buying a wardrobe using my staff discount! After working in a few different retails brands, locally and internationally, I eventually opened my own store.
What have been the highlights? What’s the best part of your job?
It has been the most incredible journey and I think the best part about it is watching the business grow and being able to share all the brilliant ranges we find with all our customers. The relationships that I have formed with people over the past years have been some of the best in my life. Through customers and suppliers, I have met and made such fantastic friends.
What is the most challenging part?
The most difficult part of my business is planning the seasons. As all our ranges are imported we basically order our stock a year in advance. Its hard to stay present to what is happening in the store as I am always focused on a different season. I am incredibly decisive in what I order, however having been in this business for quite some time, I have a different view on what I love and what is actually commercially saleable! Sometimes I am surprised by what does and doesn’t sell. Not often though!
What is your typical day?
A typical day includes a walk with my dogs, a buying, marketing or merchandising meeting and at least four hours or more in my store.
What are the “secrets” to your success?
I believe the secret to my success is that I am actively involved in the store every single day watching out for customer requests and making sure we are doing everything we can to make the shopping experience a good one. Service and friendliness are the two top priorities for us and we are happy to go the extra mile for every customer. I wake up every day and think ‘how can I make my business better today’ – this is what keeps me inspired to do better all the time.
What do you do for fun in your down time?
The best way for me to unwind and switch off from work is walking on the mountain and spending time on the beach. Living in Cape Town is like heaven on earth for me, I love being outdoors and I am passionate about travelling and discovering new places and spaces.
What do you still want to achieve?
I am very grateful for the amazing business I have and what I have achieved….I do often have great ideas of expanding and bringing in different elements to the store and the brand that is Madison, but for the most part the biggest lesson I have learnt in business is to do one thing and do it well. In short – stay focused. But… ask me again next year 🙂
Thanks so much for giving us all a glimpse behind the scenes in your life and work Debbie!