While the majority of the UK’s independent stores are currently physically closed (due to Covid-19 restrictions), we still want to transport you virtually to stylish shops across the UK and beyond to offer temporary escapism and show support for our shopkeepers in this challenging time. Don’t forget that many have online shops, so you can still buy their wares (so much temptation, we know!)…
This month, we talk to No Guts No Glory owner Hayley Maker about her business in Exeter’s thriving creative quarter, and her experience of authentically carving out a career based on what you most love and value – so no day really feels like ‘work’.
Tell us about No Guts No Glory…
It’s a bit of a haven in the city, filled with rare houseplants, books and everything to support a slower style of living, including a curated collection of inspirational artwork, ceramics and homewares made by independent artists, as well as a range of slow fashion pieces and a vintage capsule collection that is updated weekly. It’s basically everything you need in one beautifully designed space.
Who are the key people behind your business?
NGNG is owned and run by myself and my partner Nathan, we’ve curated, crafted and carved everything within these walls with the help of our talented community. I would say that the wonderful Becca Allen has been a key part of NGNG since the beginning, we’re completely on the same wavelength when it comes to design and selecting pieces for the shop.
Becca is a graphic designer specialising in circular design, and we’ve collaborated with her on everything from interior design, branding, and now our own plant-based sister café, Sacred Grounds, which sits within McCoy’s Arcade just over the road. Working alongside her over the past ten years has been incredible, she always has her finger on the pulse of new design and we really bounce off each other so well, which makes ideas easy to turn into something tangible. The artists we’ve worked with hold a key part of our community and there are so many cherished friendships that have formed over the years – part of the joy of the shop is seeing where people have gone with their work and watching new ideas and pathways develop for artists and makers, that’s so inspiring in itself.
What inspired your business, and how did you develop it?
No Guts No Glory has always been inspired by the creative community. Our original goal for the shop was to create a platform for aspiring artists and designers – it was inspired by a D.I.Y lifestyle and the shop was at first a home for zines and self-published books, art work and photography as well as our own range of artist designed t-shirts. It has developed over the years significantly. We always said that the shop would follow our own path and it really has. It’s been a vessel for our ideas and dreams and has transitioned from a design agency to a framing studio – we’ve followed what inspires and interests us and delved into ideas around that.
We’ve always been interested in sustainability and slow living, so that is an underlying theme throughout everything we do. NGNG has naturally and organically followed our interests and has been shaped by those boundaries.
When did you set up NGNG, and what did you do previously?
The business was set up in 2009 – it has been ten years of living the dream! It is hard to believe that it’s been that long, as the time has truly flown by! I spent a lot of time travelling, working and living abroad before NGNG, and I really feel that this is where a lot of my energy and influence has come from. I worked in so many different jobs and always found a way to weave creativity and sustainability into every role I held. When I began working on the project, and even to this day, it’s like everything I did before was the perfect prep for the very diverse role of being an independent shopkeeper!
What are the values behind NGNG?
The concept of the store is green living and sustainable good design. We run on green energy and stock lots of beautifully handmade and independently made work, the shop is always a changing canvas.
Tell us about the area and community around you…
We’re based in the independent West Quarter of Exeter, it’s a beautiful part of the city and filled with so many great creative projects, a lot of which are run by friends so it feels like one big community where we all support each other. We’re surrounded by indie shops and businesses and many more keep popping up all the time, it’s an area that’s continually developing and growing.
How did you choose your location?
Fore Street in Exeter has always held a special place in my heart – as a child I used to come here to the vintage and art shops, and I suppose it’s only natural that I gravitated back towards this place. It’s been a real motivation to keep the flame of creativity alive in this area.
How valuable is the online community to your work?
Social media has definitely played a key part in the growth of the business, and it’s great for inspiration. I love the connection and community it creates, and it’s really helped to connect me with other business owners and artists. I think the biggest value is in the personal connection that this platform can provide and I try not to worry too much about ‘having to post something’ – I really like to be inspired about sharing something with our community as opposed to feeling like I’m forcing my voice.
How did you approach the design of your space?
The space inside the shop is really homely, people often come in and say how calm and peaceful they feel in the space. We designed all the fittings to maximise light whilst maintaining the softness of the space.
How do you source your products?
We get a lot of submissions, but we do also actively look for new products and artwork. More often than not, someone that we know of already makes something really wonderful that we want to stock in the shop. It’s the power of the network, and of course, Instagram is a constant source of inspiration and great for showcasing new artists and makers.
How did you first discover your passion for what you do?
I honestly feel like the shop, and most things in my life, have just unfolded for me. I’ve worked hard and poured all my passion into everything I’ve ever done. I really do believe that if you set your mind and heart to anything, you can achieve it. I feel like I’ve had such hopes and dreams for the shop that somehow through this we’ve manifested a space that really feels like us, and the direction has never really been set – it’s just that the shop has been a vehicle for all our dreams and ideas to come to fruition.
As an independent retailer, what are the joys, and the challenges?
So many joys and so many challenges… The main joys are that I love what I do, I love the community locally and internationally, of shopkeepers, makers, artists and designers – it’s a catalyst for inspiration and constant creation of new things and ideas. I also get to study houseplants which are a true passion of mine, surrounding myself with them and caring for them brings me so much joy.
I love that I get to offer the things that I find and treasure to a community and hopefully inspire someone else, and create and share objects that become part of a personal story. The challenges are in finding the line between work and life – it’s definitely a really fine line when you love what you do and the temptation to keep going when what you truly need is rest and relaxation is really tough. The shop has taught me so much about myself and how I work best, it’s about defining your boundaries and trusting what feels right – and when things don’t, having the courage to stop and find a new direction.
What have been your business highlights?
Biggest highlights have been opening our café, Sacred Grounds. It was great to have another dream of ours realised and see how we pulled on all our resources and talents as a trio to create something really innovative, with such a lot of potential for growth.
Describe your working day…
A typical working day for me is so varied, but it always involves a bit of buying and sourcing new products, some social media planning, photography, visual merchandising, and the day-to-day tasks when running a shop. I honestly have the nicest customers who come to visit the shop; it’s a total joy to be there every day.
How do you approach marketing and PR?
We have always tended to have a really flexible and organic approach to PR and marketing, we tend to pour our budget for this into events, and hardly ever pay for advertising. Things just seem to happen quite naturally for the shop and I think if you use social media as a network, you can use this as a great tool for growth and exposure.
Favourite products, makers or bestsellers…
I’m absolutely loving the Naked Generation dresses that we have in store – they are so timeless and wearable through any season, they hold a lot of magic as they are block printed in India with hand carved blocks and plant dyes. Sustainable and totally beautiful, they are made to order and so beautifully designed, I haven’t taken mine off since they arrived.
Any tips for aspiring store owners?
My advice would be to define your ethos first, as this will be your compass for everything that you do. A good business always has a reason or motivator behind it and that’s where you’ll find the passion to go deeper into what you love doing. It will also give you the sticking power to keep going if things get difficult, the underpinning theme will define and shape your whole business. Define what makes you authentic and different to anything else out there already, what makes it original? Start here and you’ll easily begin to carve out something special. I would also say not to stress about anything you don’t know about, as there is so much advice out there and you can always reach out to someone in your community.
Finally, what’s your ideal day off?
A day in the forest or by the sea is my idea of an ideal day off, I really cherish those days of wild times whatever the weather. I’m happiest when surrounded by ferns or on a clifftop staring out at the ocean. I also love to write, paint and draw, and have creative times with our five-year-old, Edie. I truly believe that you need to immerse yourself in nature in order to function as a human being – it’s probably the reason that the shop is like walking into a jungle most days, it’s the ebb and flow, the input and output… I like to get in touch with the rhythms of the moon and the seasons, and that’s when I feel most creative naturally. I’m a really cyclically motivated person and like to trust my intuition with everything that I do. I find that when I’m doing this, everything flows more naturally.