We chat to Sophie Cornish MBE is co-founder and non-executive Director of award-winning online marketplace notonthehighstreet.com, which provides a retail platform for more than 5,000 small creative and entrepreneurial businesses. Founded in 2006, the company now employs 200 people at its offices in Richmond-upon-Thames.
Tell us about Colour Saturday?
Notonthehighstreet.com is launching its first Colour Saturday event on 5th December – a day dedicated to celebrating the value, vibrancy and colour that creative small businesses bring to customers and the UK shopping landscape as a whole.
What inspired the campaign?
At a time of year increasingly synonymous with mass consumption embodied by events like Black Friday – we wanted to shine a light on the heart of our creative industries and the 5,000 creative businesses we support.
We’d love people to take a brief moment to consider just how amazing small creative businesses are in terms of the heartfelt nature of their products and the uniqueness they bring in what sometimes feels like a ubiquitous modern retail landscape.
Can our readers follow Colour Saturday via social media?
Absolutely! Throughout the week, customers are invited to join the campaign socially via an interactive competition for thoughtful gifts via the @ColourSaturday Instagram feed. People can also follow @ColourSaturday on Twitter and like the Facebook page for updates on the campaign.
Notonthehighstreet.com are passionate about small businesses. How do you think their growth impacts on the economy?
Small businesses are crucial to economic growth in the UK, and now more than ever we’re seeing some of the world’s most innovative design-led businesses originate here. Notonthehighstreet.com has injected in excess of £400 million into the UK economy through sales generated by our 5,000 Partners. It’s amazing to see how the success of our Partners has a ripple effect – generating jobs in their local communities and also boosting local economies.
As an entrepreneur, what advice would you give to readers looking to start their own business?
Starting your own business is daunting and I would encourage anyone wanting to set up on their own to rigorously test their idea to be sure that it is commercially sound. There are lots of great business books out there that are written to help people in the early stages (including our own Build A Business From Your Kitchen Table). It’s important to test that your business idea is original, competitive, able to make money and able to expand. Facing challenges and making sacrifices is very much part of being an entrepreneur and unfortunately – particularly in the early days – friends and family often have to come second. In my experience you will need different types of advice at different stages of your business but being able to draw on the strength of your commitment to your idea and keep driving that forward is the key to success.
Talk us through a day in your busy life?
I get up early around 6 am and check emails whilst grabbing some fruit. I also rely on my Nespresso machine first thing – my morning caffeine is a habit that I just can’t break (I have tried once or twice!)
I’ll then head out to take my daughter to school – it’s the perfect time to chat – then to a CrossFit session. I like to get my exercise in early so I can spend the rest of the day focusing on tasks at hand. After working out I’ll head back home for a quick call with our CEO Simon Belsham who now leads the business – it’s great to catch up on his areas of focus and strategic view of the business.
I’m mentoring several small businesses at the moment so I’m often out meeting with them to check in on their progress, how they’re getting on in terms of overcoming challenges we’ve discussed previously and offering counsel on any new challenges they’re facing.
At the end of the day I’m never happier than spending time at home with my family or I’ll round off the day meeting close friends or one of my sisters for supper or drinks by the river in Richmond – we’re lucky to have so many great restaurants locally.
You’re a former Beauty Editor, what are your desert island must-haves?
Some Moroccan Argan Oil for my hair and Clarins HydraQuench Cream would be all I’d need. I’ll take any excuse to go without makeup, but I guess if I was being rescued I’d also put on a little Nars Satin Lipstick and Bobbi Brown Everything Mascara – my go-to beauty essentials.
Alongside the magazines you contribute to, which are your favourites to read on a day off?
I am a true magazine aficionado. I started my career working at Cosmopolitan magazine in the 1980s and ever since then I’ve been hooked and catch up on my magazine reading whenever I can. These days, I love to read Red magazine and lately, my favourite daily catch up is online with The Pool. I also love Stylist and Grazia with their mix of fashion, people and current hot issues.
How do you like to relax?
I love CrossFit and find it the perfect way to clear and focus my mind before I work or even de-stress after a busy day – I’ve been a fan for a long time now. I also find nothing more soothing than walking my Hungarian Viszla, Rufus, in Bushy Park – I know every inch and corner of that park, and all its nuances and changes of the seasons.
I also love to travel with my husband Simon, and our now rather grown up children. Our son, Ollie, has just gone off to university and daughter Honor is studying for her A-Levels so it’s always great to be able to get away as a family and reconnect. We recently went on holiday to Tulum in Mexico which was incredible to experience as a family.
Finally, and onto a very pressing question… what are your family asking for this Christmas?
My son Ollie has his eye on a personalised table top football game from notonthehighstreet.com; it is destined to make its way to his university accommodation, much to my husband’s dismay. I have a feeling I’ll be buying two of these so they can play when Ollie is home during the holidays.
My daughter Honor is hoping for Tanya Burr’s book, ‘Love, Tanya’ and would also love another Monica Vinader friendship bracelet to add to her collection.
Simon, my husband is the most incredible cook so I’m getting him a fish and seafood masterclass from notonthehighstreet.com, which I know he’ll absolutely love and we’ll all reap the rewards throughout next year!