Meet Laura, the visionary who took Curiouser out of her head and put it on Broughton Street. Humble, kind and all-round-lovely, she will chat with you as if you knew each other for a lifetime. Together with her husband Ian and sister Rachel, Laura makes Curiouser the family business that it is today. She has a long-standing interest in art and her buying choices make the shop a boutique you love browsing in. Let's get to know her a little bit better.
How did you make Curiouser a reality? Can you tell us about the beginnings of the first shop?
When Ian and I got together, we shared a passion for opening a business. Over a period of about 2 years we looked at buying existing businesses in Edinburgh, delis and cafes mostly. Over time we realised that none of the businesses quite fitted us. Once we moved away from that idea, we quickly realised that a gift shop might suit us better. We loved Broughton Street and knew it had huge potential to be a great spot. Our landlord is a really lovely guy and took a punt on us, despite us having no previous experience...the rest is history.
How did it come to be what it is now?
We opened Curiouser and Curiouser on Broughton Street on the 16th September 2010, just as the UK was coming out of a recession. A lot of our early customers commented that they thought we were being really brave opening at that time. We saw it as an opportunity, a lot of businesses had closed down, opening up lots of retail spaces, very similar to now. So it gave new businesses like ours the opportunity to start something new.
We decided to spread the risk when we opened by offering a wide range of products - framing, gift cards, jewellery, homewares, stationery, etc. The plan was to get a feel for what sold best and then mould our stock around that. As it happened, it worked as a business model and we haven't really changed our core offerings - I work hard at finding new makers, designers and producers to keep the shops looking fresh.
What makes you most proud when you look at the history of your two shops?
I think there is a lot to feel proud of. I opened the business when I was in my twenties, when I was young and a little naive. I have always worked really hard and running a business gives you a tangible feel for what hard work can achieve. There are two things that I am proud of - one is weathering the last couple of years as a business! We worked really hard in a very short space of time to create a website that reflected what we sell in store. Ian, Rachel and I listed over 2000 products in a very short space of time so that we could continue to sell while our shops were shut. We now have our entire catalogue listed online and an integrated Point Of Sale system. We would never have had time to do this with the shops still open, so we see this very much as a brightside to Covid, as it has made running the business a whole lot easier. The second thing is community, we are really lucky to have two shops in residential parts of the city. The people in both districts have been so supportive of small independent businesses and I hope we can continue to be a hub for people to pop into.
Tell me about the process of finding new artists and makers. How do you keep being open and curious about homewares and art?
The last couple of years have reduced my energy for searching for new designers and makers. It has felt like a big risk to make any big changes to our stock. It has been lovely this year to feel some of the stress lift and to be able to put some more time into finding some new people to work with. It has always been such a joy to find new products to buy and to see them arrive in the shops so we can add them to our shelves. I still get a kick when our customers start commenting on the new ranges and buying them.
How does it feel to work with family?
I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with Ian, my husband, for the last 12 years. Obviously it comes with its challenges, but I honestly would not change a second of the last 12 years running Curiouser together. We are a good team, complimenting each other and challenging each other in equal measure.
My sister, Rachel, joined us in 2019 having worked as a nurse for a long time. She was ready for a change just at the point when Ian was starting to think about retiring. Rach and I have always been close, so it has been great to see her settle and find her place in the business. She has a great drive and it's great getting to spend so much time with my best buddy.
How do you balance work with life and how big a part of it are rescue greyhounds?
I think that having a dog is great for helping you to create space in your life for stuff that isn't work!! They provide a structure to your day and are on hand for cuddles when needed. We love having the excuse to head off for walks in our favourite places...perhaps stopping for coffee and cake on the way! There are so many great things about greyhounds, but we have always loved their laid back demeanour. They have a way of slotting into your life so effortlessly, they make great shop dogs for that very reason.
I actually think that the time that we had during covid provided us with a little perspective. I would work 6 days a week and not really think anything of it. It was only when we stopped that I realised what an impact that was having on my life. Ian and I have been looking to move out of Edinburgh for a few years, but that idea became concrete during that period. We recently bought a crumbly old cottage in East Lothian and I hope that will help give us a little more space from the business to enjoy our lives a little more!!
What are you most grateful for looking at where you are in life right now?
Being able to see friends and family again. I think all of us felt really isolated over the last couple of years. It makes you appreciate the time we all have together now, whether that be lunch with family or barbecues with friends. I won't take that for granted again.
What genre of a movie would you make about your life? What would the plot be?
I don't remember many of my dreams. The ones I remember most frequently involve me being an actor in an action movie - stunts, guns, espionage, you name it...so I guess that would be my choice, as that is what my subconscious chooses for me :)