Inspiring Co Down-based Nicole Hollinger tells KATHRYN MCKENNA about launching her first boutique, Chapter 35 at just 24 years of age
When I speak to Nicole Hollinger, the 24-year-old County Down PR and events turned proud new business owner, she is in a bit of a whirlwind, having just launched her new boutique only a matter of days ago.
Specialising in pre-owned clothes, Chapter 35 in Holywood, Nicole reports happily: “It has been busy, busy - but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
“It has all been going so well. We just had the launch a few days ago and people have been really excited about it. We have got loads of new pre-loved items coming in each day, from some outstanding designers, so I am really excited to see how it goes”, Nicole enthuses.
“I wanted to focus on the previously loved clothes, but we do have different styles of new ranges as well from shoes to a blazer, a bodysuit and dresses from a couple of different companies in London and Spain.
“They are really lovely and really summery, so perfect for going away and also when we hopefully get the good weather back”, Nicole laughs.
“With the pre-loved collection, it is a real mixure from bridal wear to formal wear, to handbags, shoes and everything else in between.
“We have jackets, skirts, jeans, casual tops, jewellery and more - it is kind of like a cove - we have something for everyone. I just love it when people come in for a browse as theydiscover all of the gems - because there is a lot.”
One of these gems includes a pre-loved wedding dress, as Nicole enthuses: “It is £295 and has only been worn once and has been dry-cleaned. Then I have items on the more low-end of the budget, such as scarves for £12 up to a pair of Gucci trousers for £325. There is a real variety of prices here which is what I wanted. Holywood has such a tremondous choice of boutiques but they would all be more towards the higher-end of the spectrum, so I wanted to have a diverse range to cater for all budgets.”
Whilst Nicole explains the new ranges would be tailored towards the 25 to 40 years of age bracket, the pre-loved range is all-inclusive, starting from just six months and going up to Mother-of-the-Bride options and above.
Showing the power of local community support, Nicole was able to stock her boutique for her highly-anticipated launch last week by simply putting up a poster appeal in her shop window. Since then she has also been inundated on social media. “Word-of-mouth and social media have proven to be invaluable”, Nicole explains. “For such a small town it has been great.”
Born and bred in County Down, Nicole has lived in Holywood for seven years, and tells of many happy memories going to visit family in Holywood throughout her childhood: My family are from here so I spent my whole childhood in the town, going to the park and I just love it - I am very passionate about it”, she explains.
“I have always wanted to do this, I have always wanted to be my own boss but the timing just never felt right. But then this unit came up, and I just felt like it was perfect timing as I have no no kids, no house, none of those big commitments.
“All of my family are self-employed from my grandparents to my dad, so I think it is almost a rite of passage for the Hollinger family.”
Having left her role in Public Relations and events to pursue her goal, Nicole explains: “I loved my job but I just thouht to myself - I can always go back to it, but I just knew I had to go out on my own now. The time was right and the unit would have snapped up if I didn’t act fast. It was available and I was ready - it was fate.” Having handed in her notice, hard-working Nicole’s boutique was open for the launch just over one month later.
“I might be only 24 but I think it is the perfect time to do this. I have done my travelling, and I have been so privileged to work in amazing jobs. But I have a very old soul, I have always been very mature for my age. At the end of the day age is just a number. “
And whilst Nicole has done this entirely on her own, even funding her own finances, she has thanked her family for their “incredible” support.
“I wanted to do it all myself and hopefully I will get back what I have put in”, Nicole says. “I am extremely close to all my family, and they are the reason as well why I want to do this. Whenever you work full-time anywhere it is very hard to balance work-life. Now I am working in my family’s home town I will be able to see them much more. This is very much a family-orientated business.
“My mum Julie, dad Stephen, sister Kerie and brother Ryan have been such an incredible support.”