Published: 08/03/2022

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2022

Retailers

Sarah Molloy owns Carleton News in Blackpool with her husband Andrew. They bought the established family business in 2006 and maintaining the family feel has been extremely important to them. 

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, we spoke to Sarah to learn more about her life as a business owner and the impact it has had on her local community, her own family and the challenges of running a business.

Sarah, please tell us a bit about your business. How long have you been running it and how would you describe your customer base?

“Our store is a newsagents and myself and my husband took it over in September 2006. Over the years, we’ve established ourselves as part of the local community and have got a very loyal customer base. We spend a lot of time chatting to our customers, listening to their stories, laughing with them and helping people out - it’s one of the things I love most about my job.”

Could you outline your typical working day? What hours do you generally work and what does your day involve?

“The store is open from 6am in the morning to 6pm at night and my husband and I manage this between us. Andrew goes in to work first thing in the morning and I will usually join him at around 9.30-10am. Between us, we serve our customers, help people out, take in parcels, clean, listen and talk to our customers - we’re busy all the time. It’s a great social space to be in. 

I love talking to people and really listening to them and you really do become part of their family. This is especially true of our older customers who maybe don’t see people very often. Some people call up to pay for their papers so I will spend a lot of my time on the phone talking to them too. It’s a long day but a good day and there’s so much more to it than being a newsagent. It’s very rewarding.”

How many hours a day do you work on average?

“I work from around 9.30am-6pm, 7 days a week, except for a Sunday when I will usually work for half a day. However, I generally do a food shop for another lady on a Sunday and also take care of my dad as well as being there for my three children who are now grown up. It’s very busy but we do what we need to do to take care of the house and our loved ones.”

What does being a business owner mean to you and what drove you to become a business owner in the first place?

“My husband and I bought the business when he was made redundant and we had a young family to care for and it’s been part of the family ever since. Prior to that, I worked in customer service but my parents had always had a shop so I had grown up around it and was familiar with how it worked. It was an established business, and I knew it was a good business, so I was confident we could make a success of it. We knew the hours would be long and it would be hard work but it has paid off and supported our family for the past 16 years. 

Our children were 11, 6 and 2 when we first took over the business. Now, one has been through university and become a teacher, one is working in retail and the youngest is about to go to university too. For us, it was more about doing something we could do well and be happy in rather than ‘being in business. It has allowed us to support our family and one of us has always been able to go to school plays or sports days. My husband and I are a good team and have worked together for a long time now. We’re stronger than ever and, for us, it’s not been about making lots of money but being happy as a family unit and able to support ourselves. 

The store belonged to another family from 1963 and we are still in touch with them. After it was taken over by someone else for a few years, the original owners were thrilled we had bought the business and that it is part of a family, once again.” 

How has being a business owner impacted your family life?

“There are some things we have missed out on and we don’t get to go on holiday much because there are just the two of us running the business. I have taken the children away with my sister so there’s always someone who stays behind to run the store but my husband and I last went away together about 13 years ago for a weekend. However, this really isn’t a big deal to us because our lives are filled with other positive things and it’s not all about going on holiday for us. What is more important is having a good quality of life all of the time. 

We are a good family unit and it works for us. Not spending much time away from the business is probably the biggest downside but we don’t really see it like that and just make it work for us. We did employ someone for a few years and this allowed us to foster several children at the time from babies up to age six. 

Our children grew up in and around the store where they were used to being around customers and talking to people. They are now well-rounded and happy grown-ups and we’ve always taught them to treat others with respect. They’re kind, helpful, hardworking and have encountered people from all walks of life and I truly believe that growing up around our store has helped them to become the well-rounded people they are today.”

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

“We have rooted ourselves as an essential part of the community over the past 16 years. Having been successful amongst the local people, I wouldn’t say there has been one outstanding achievement but I do believe we have made a big difference in lots of people’s lives. To me, it feels like an ongoing success which is the most important part.”

What is your favourite aspect of being a business owner?

“Being rooted in the community is definitely my favourite part of being a business owner.”

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to other retailers?

“The thing that makes it work is me and my husband, Andy. The cornerstone of our business is the customer service we provide. We deliver hundreds of papers in the morning, keep a level of professionalism, listen to the customer and provide a service that really does go above and beyond. My husband and I have a good, solid relationship, support network and we work really well together. 

For us, that’s what makes our business work because we put the customers at the centre of everything.”

What is the most important thing you have learned as a small business owner over the years?

“Be organised, keep on top of everything, don’t juggle too much and it’s okay to say no to things. It’s hard work and there is always a lot to do but you can’t do everything all of the time so it’s important to stay focused on the main aim of your business. I always think back to the main reason we went into business in the first place and try to stay true to myself - it really helps to keep the fire burning.”

Who has been your greatest inspiration in life?

“My parents. They have always looked after each other and my dad had an amazing sweet shop - it was full of sweets, floor to ceiling, and it was just perfect. They were really professional and their customer service was amazing. They have supported us when we’ve needed it, as have my husband’s parents, and have stuck together through thick and thin which has all paid off. It’s not all about making lots of money, it’s about laying the foundations for your family, being loved, loving other people and being happy. That’s what makes our life work.

We’ve tried to follow in our parent's footsteps and set the same example for our children too. Family is the most important thing. It’s our own little empire and it works for us.”

          

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