This week, we are delighted to introduce the fourth feature in our ‘Inspirational Women’ series.
Our interview this Thursday was with Kim Duncan, Co-Founder of Treehouse. Kim is a brilliant and inspirational business woman and retailer. Together with her sister she has created an innovative and successful business while balancing home life and self care. Find out some of the secrets to her success...
Can you tell us about your incredible business?
Hi Antoinette! I set up Treehouse with my sister Sophie in Spring 2012 after a year of planning prior to opening our doors. Treehouse is a mini department store for kids, as we stock a large number of products across footwear, toys, books, clothing, nursery decor, gifts & stationery and an interactive kids hairdressing department. We wanted to bring something a little different to retail which is where the fun and interactive elements come from. We love being social and really believe parents and caregivers still want to touch, feel, try on and gain advice in purchasing items for their children, so our physical shop (based in Stockbridge, Edinburgh) is so vital to our present and future plans. This is especially true for our professional shoe fitting department which is our fastest growing area of the business.
More recently we have grown our online store so we have embraced the SEO and the tags, and the google ads. This last year has pushed us on a steep learning curve and we are seeing huge growth in this area which may slow down once shops open again but will still be a growth area for us to focus on and grow. We have around 90% of stock online and we currently ship throughout the UK and soon globally.
How did you end up becoming a retailing ‘goddess’?
I love this title!! It really stems from our family, as our Dad owned and ran several pharmacies which we worked in during during school and University. When I was little, the pharmacy, was one of the main retailers on the high street so would stock a large number of product areas and my Dads small shops would have large numbers of staff with stock being delivered twice a day. I loved the busy, vibrant, often chaotic (behind the scenes) atmosphere, but where you worked as a team and friendships were made. Working in retail is physically demanding and you really feel like you've worked hard by the end of the day. When I think about why I wanted to own a shop it just seemed like an obvious path - I love to make people happy and find joy in their purchase.
What is your personal story? How have you gotten to where you are today?
I didn't know what I wanted to do and so I chose to study a BA Hons Degree in Business Studies at The Robert Gordon University, as it was broad in terms of subjects and the 3rd year was an industrial placement which really appealed. After this I really followed a path of ticking boxes - I applied to all the big graduate jobs, and I accepted a placement with RBS on the Retail scheme. I worked for RBS for 8 years, in both branches and head office, and my last role was in recruitment and development of future talent. You can't really ask for a better start to work as I learnt so much from all this experience. Once the credit crunch hit in 2018/19 it changed a lot for me and I left to work with my Dad (he owned 4 pharmacies at the time) and I implemented 'Investors in People' which was a great journey and led me to wanting to do something for myself. It became a fire in the belly, and fitted well with my sisters story and we came nicely together for setting up Treehouse.
What do you love most about your job(s)?
I love working with my sister - we are both growing our families and growing our business simultaneously. I am very proud of that. I could not run this business without her!
Providing a worthwhile service to our customers, the buying, recruiting and leading a team, being able to help out with meaningful charities and give back is all so rewarding. So much of my job is a joy! We are a drop-off point for Kids Love Clothes, an absolutely amazing Lothians based charity, and our customers have been so generous with donations. Giving back to something so worthwhile is what makes me cry, in the really good way.
Can you tell us about your life achievements to date?
My life achievements are my two girls who are 6 and 3 - they are everything.
I want to show them that I still continued my dreams despite becoming a mother and that I can grow a business and grow a family at the same time.
How do you celebrate your wins?
I'm getting better at this! I'm part of a women's coaching group with 'Hannah Buchan Coaching' which has helped me practise some really fantastic habits including celebrating wins. Since starting this, I've found that I need to dig deep and write them down as this process helps acknowledge and share them. It's so important to have positive people around you to celebrate with you and you them.
How do you deal with the losses?
I'm not sure I do - I'm really hard on myself and I'm very determined so if something doesn't work out I'll probably fight until it does. This isn't necessarily the best approach but some parts of your personality are hard to change. I focus more and more on my health now than I used to and I think this helps overall including getting enough sleep. I also like to listen to podcasts and read lots of leadership and business improvement books. The best thing I've learned from podcasts is that no-one really knows what they are doing, we are all just trying our best.
How do you balance work and life responsibilities?
Again a skill I'm learning through my coaching work, Hannah has shown me how to 'time block' which has massively helped. I acknowledge that I could work more hours and grow my business faster but that would not align with my values and wouldn't make me happy. My values work with Hannah has shown me that I need to prioritise other aspects of me to really feel alive.
How are you coping with lockdown?
Well it's been a lot easier with the kids back at school and nursery! It's been really tough and I've felt less energy to do things. My husband is an essential worker so he's out all day which has left little time to do things just for me. I'm a social person and crave connection but so lucky to have great neighbours and friends that live locally. My parents also live nearby but I miss going in to their house and having a coffee/catchup. So basically I'm ready for getting back to being sociable!
How do you motivate yourself - whether that is the during really tough day, juggling work or just having to cook a meal at the end of a long lockdown day? What are your coping strategies?
I'm not going to pretend I always have my shit together because I've definitely had lazy days or shouty days or down days. My favourite things are to go for a bath, a walk with friends or read a book. I've read more books than ever this year! Exercise always helps....even when its the last thing you want. Joe Wicks is an absolute hero for promoting exercise more for your head than your body!
Who are the incredible women who have inspired you and why?
My sisters, my mum, my friends, local female business owners, Hannah and her coaching. The real inspiration is the people around me and not those on instagram or TV. It's the females doing their best to make themselves happy and following their dreams.