8 July 2010
Black Sunshine Interview
Amy started Black Sunshine in 2004 as a mail order company based on the Isle of Wight. She had decided to start up the business as there was nowhere on the Island to buy gothic and alternative clothing and accessories. She began the business with a small amount of her own money, and after 6 months she visited the Prince's Trust to see if they could help her with funding to rent a shop. They turned her down saying that there was no calling for such a shop on the Isle of Wight. But Amy was undeterred and carried on, opening a small shop in Newport IOW in 2005 where the business still resides.
From her shop and her website she sells clothing from brands such as Darkside and Queen of Darkness, and also some handmade items. Besides the shop, Amy also makes custom dreads and runs a store on Etsy selling pre-made dreads, handmade cushions and bags. Amy told us "Black Sunshine is just a one women business, but I have great support and help from my friends and parents."
EGL Magazine met up with Black Sunshine at The Alt Collective where they had a trade stall, and here's our interview with Amy (pictured right)
What is the biggest lesson you've learned through starting up and running your own business?
Being self employed may sound like a relatively easy option, but I will tell you now that it is more hard work than I ever imagined. You're basically tied to your job 24/7, but as the alternative scene is something I love I don't mind too much! Also, networking! It's a major part of building relationships between old and new customers. I think that Facebook (although sad to say!) is a huge part of this as it allows you to update your customers and keep up a relationship with them.
How do you ensure you stand out from other alternative and gothic retailers?
On the Isle of Wight there are only a couple of other shops that sell vaguely alt clothing, so that side isn't too difficult. I always ask my customers what they are looking for and, when I can, I order specific items in for them. I never like to have too much of the same thing in my store so I usually do small orders from a range of companies to keep things interesting in the shop. Plus I sell handmade items such as gothic cushions and bags, which are all one of a kind items, and stock items of jewellery and artwork from independent artists on the Island. I do the same with the web store; I like to have a wide range of choice for the customers, so they know whenever they return there will always be something new for them.
How has your business changed and developed since you started in 2004?
From when I started in 2004 we were a mail order catalogue business, on a very low budget! My friends helped me out with the photography for the catalogue, mainly Luci Phillips, who has over these past years turned into a great photographer and still does photography for me today, although not in the tiny attic room where we started out!
When I rented the premises in 2005 was when things really started to take off, allowing any passer by to come in and check out our wares!
In 2009 I set up the web store making Black Sunshine available worldwide, and a couple of months ago I opened an Etsy store selling all of my handmade dreads, cushions, hair accessories and loads of other goodies.
What has been the best experience of running Black Sunshine?
This is an easy one! Meeting some really great people that I would never have got to meet if it wasn't for Black Sunshine, in the shop and at alt events like the Alt Collective that I have attended. Also, you just can't beat working for yourself, it may be hard work but I do love having no one to answer to and being free in my choices, especially when it comes to my appearance.
What advice would you give to someone considering setting up a similar business?
Never give up! Running your own business is damn hard work and it can sometimes get to you that you can't go out and party with your friends, or when you have a quiet time sales-wise. The whole thing can be very disheartening. You just have to take the rough with the smooth. And help each other out! Find other small businesses online or in your location and do banner/flyer swaps. I have found this really helps promote your business and gives you a chance to meet some really nice people; I know, I have!
What are your plans for the future of Black Sunshine?
Sadly I just announced that is very likely that our shop in Newport will be closing in early November. I have put a lot of thought into this and it seems like the best option. Over the last few years the Isle of Wight alternative/goth scene numbers have dwindled and the other main reason - money, or lack of! I am very sad to have had to make this decision but it is not the end of Black Sunshine. And I see this as more of a progression than an ending. I will still run the web store and Etsy. Having much lower over-heads per month will allow me to stock a wider range of clothing and accessories for the site, plus allow me more time to make dreads and other handmade goodies for the Etsy store!
Article written by...
Keller is EGL Magazine's editor. She has a degree in Creative Writing and is a published horror and fantasy writer. She loves punk and rockabilly, roller derby, and creepy foreign horror movies.