My Week: Yolanda Hinchliffe of Suka Sport

The retail entrepreneur on the challenges of her new shop's launch week, working with her partner, and 5am runs.

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Suka Sport was founded on a rainy Sunday in Oldenburg, my partner Alex's home town in Germany. We were talking about shops that we loved and shops we wished we owned. We love the way certain markets such as food, fashion and coffee have embraced independents with an emphasis on quality goods sold by expert passionate staff. We wanted to do the same in the sports field - with a shop that would look great and be the perfect showcase for our products. We came up with the Suka concept last August and were already designing our first range by September; we found our property in Soho in December, and this week we were finally ready to open.

The builders left on Tuesday, ten days late. They're from 'up north' - and from what I can understand, they hate London. The tea doesn't taste right, the tube is overcrowded and it's expensive. To be fair, we didn't help matters by deciding that we weren't sure about (read passionately hated) some walls - so they had to go back to Birmingham (where the builders are based) to be trimmed and re-sprayed. We scoured the area for vintage furniture to add the finishing touches (including a vaulting horse from eBay, lovingly repaired).

This should have been a fun task but it turned out to be a little fraught. Alex and I disagreed on everything, insulted each other's taste, and finally settled for the exact opposite of what we set out to get. A pretty standard day, then... We have had a few screaming matches and slammed doors and silences in the last few months, I must admit. We're good business partners though because we have very different skill sets. I'm the creative one, and I've got experience of running retail so I'm all about the customer; he's all about the detail and the technical side, happiest in front of a spreadsheet. We just can't work in the same place; he needs everything just so, whereas I need a huge desk with mood boards and stuff. So we've had separate offices from day one!

For the last week we've been living in the shop. We eat all three meals there and Nanuk, our puppy, even has a bed there. Normally we've been getting home to Maida Vale about 1 and then getting back in at 6. But because the weather's been so amazing, we've been getting up early to fit in a morning run round Little Venice and Regent's Park. It's never easy to get up, but it's a vital moment; the run clears our heads before all the tasks of the day.

We've had a few last-minute hassles. When we plugged the tills in on Tuesday, the internet didn't work; this meant we couldn't start barcoding the stock until 8pm last night and only finished at midnight. We hooked up with Orchard Pig, who provided us with home grown cider for the launch evening, but it turned up nine miles north of Maida Vale, so we had to get it sent down in an Addison Lee.

But it was all worthwhile when we launched on Thursday. Although that wasn't without incident either: suddenly it was almost 7 and we rushed to swap the smoothies for the cider, which had ended up being delivered 12 miles away and we had to send a courier to pick it up. It was all worth it though. Lots of people arrived in quick succession: friends and family, suppliers, press... Juice was flowing (it is the week before the London marathon remember) and we had chance to thank everyone that had supported us thus far.

By 10 we were mopping the floor & loading the car w empty bottles to take to recycle. It was our first day and we had money in the till, lovely feedback, and only 17 hours spent on the shop floor. Suka has begun!  
Yolanda Hinchliffe and her partner Alexander Neumuller are the co-owners of Suka Sport, a new sports boutique in the heart of Carnaby.

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