Michelle Gillies

  • Words and Photography. Bree Caggiati

Art | April 12 2017

Michelle Gillies the sweet soul behind popular Brisbane design and gift store, Nook, has a passion for supporting local and small business’. Stepping inside her store feels like going to your coolest friend’s house, which makes sense as the space was converted from her own home’s front rooms. Nook stocks a range of products including cute cards, a beautiful range of ceramics, colourful home wares, clothing samples, jewellery, nail polish and a host of other knick knacks that you never knew you wanted. The front windows keep all these trinkets bathed in sunny Brisbane light – you’ll likely find one of Michelle’s foster cats curled up in the sun too – and lots of indoor plants make everything feel really cosy. Can’t get to the West End location? Nook has recently teamed up with the retail-giant Uniqlo for the Brisbane city store’s one year anniversary to host some upcoming events in May, as well as an in-store pop-up.

What’s the story behind Nook?

I’ve had Nook for seven and a half years. I live behind the shop, so I lived here before I turned the front into the shop and I decided to do it because I was sort of making things and selling them on Etsy and there weren’t too many stores that were stocking locally made craft and things. I had this space in the front of my house in the middle of West End and I thought it would be a good opportunity to just try it and see how it goes because it would mean not having to take out a lease or taking too many risks. When I started I really had no idea how it was going to work. I’d never worked in retail before. I thought it would be for me just something I did a few days a week. It sort of took off and since then it’s doubled in size, we’ve moved into another room and open five days a week.

So did it originally come out of wanting to sell craft pieces made by you and your friends?

Yeah just wanting somewhere to stock locally made things. I mean retail is hard anyway and it’s definitely hard having a small business because they don’t have the mark up that larger companies do so it’s kind of hard to stay afloat. But having it in my house is a life saver. No huge overheads or anything like that.

How do you make your connections with potential suppliers? How do you decide who you’re going to stock?

It’s kind of changed a bit from when I started. When I first opened it was a bit more craftier where as now its a bit more design focussed. People have gotten really good at their craft! I generally find people through markets and on Instagram, word of mouth, sometimes I just get sent emails from artists. It’s not strictly Brisbane, I get a lot of stuff from Melbourne and a few greeting card companies from overseas but they are all sort of small companies.

You’ve obviously maintained that original passion of supporting small business’.

Yeah definitely and for lots of reasons too.

When you support local and small business’ you end up with more unique things. It’s also just more pleasant to work with small business’, everyone is really lovely and supportive.

Tell me about this collaboration with Uniqlo?

Yeah that kind of came out of nowhere. They came in during December just to check out the place then they contacted me in January and asked me if I’d like to partner with them. They’ve chosen three small business’ in Brisbane. It’s been really fun. It’s a bit of an unusual partnership to be working with such a large multi-national company! But I’ve actually always quite liked Uniqlo, their clothes last white a long time and also because I go to Japan every year I kind of like the Japanese element of it. They’ve been lovely to work with.

We’re running a few little events in their store, so we’ve got West End Tea doing an event and Kester Black so they should get a bit of exposure too which is great.

On the business side of things, what was that process like? Was it difficult beginning with little experience?

I was always more confident with the product than the business side of things, but it was something that I just learnt as I went.

There were some other things that were a bit hard, like personality – I’m not really outgoing, I’m more introverted so I found it quite challenging to put myself out there. Social media can be a bit tricky with that too.

I even used to get nervous wrapping presents in front of people, I would shake and stuff, but now thankfully that’s gone away.

What’s been your experience being a woman in business?

In this community everyone is really supportive and other women are really supportive of each other. We’ve had a few little meet ups with local business women in the area like Vlada from Junky (Junky Comics) and Cat from Betty’s (Betty’s Espresso & Bar) so I think women really support each other. It’s really nice to see women dominating the business scene in West End.

Nook, 19 Browning St, Brisbane City QLD 4101

Find them online!

Uniqlo ‘Celebrating Brisbane’ events presented by Nook
Tea Party: Friday 5th May | 4-7pm
Nail art: Friday 12th May | 4-7pm
Brisbane city store, 170 Queen St, Brisbane City QLD 4000

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