Racing fan Louise opens the throttle on Edinburgh gift shop venture

The Dragonfly gift shop in Broughton Street, Edinburgh
The Dragonfly gift shop in Broughton Street, Edinburgh
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The relaxing ambience that greets customers at the Dragonfly gift shop and boutique gives nothing away about the high-octane lifestyle of its owner.

A motor sport enthusiast for as long as she can remember, Louise Nichol is just as comfortable on the racetrack as she is behind the counter.

The fast pace she enjoys in her leisure time also extends to her professional life, where she now combines a full-time job in corporate procurement with running the shop in Broughton Street.

The idea of setting up her own retail business was originally intended as an alternative to her demanding day job and an escape from the long hours and travelling she found herself tied to in the early stages of her career.

“It was something I was thinking about long-term, perhaps in another ten years, when the opportunity basically fell into my lap in 2011 and a small business I really liked came up for sale,” says Louise.

By coincidence, she had just applied for a contract with RBS, which led to the job she has today. Undaunted, she decided to go ahead with her offer for the shop.

“I remember going for the job interview on the Monday, being offered a six-month contract on the Wednesday and then hearing that my offer for the shop had been accepted on the Friday. It was quite a week,” says the former Balerno High School pupil.

Within six weeks, Louise had set up her own company trading as The Dragonfly and had made arrangements for existing shop assistants Alice Newman and Elfreda Crehan to transfer to the new 
business.

She says: “I wanted to take the six-month contract while opening the shop because it allowed me to pay the mortgage and gave me a financial safety net in case things didn’t go to plan.”

By the time the contract turned into an offer of an exciting full-time job, Louise knew Alice and Elfreda were more than capable of taking responsibility for the day-to-day running of the shop.

She now takes care of the business side of things, including all the buying, book-keeping and invoicing. She has also focused on creating her own brand – combining classic, retro, vintage and chic in a range of gifts, clothing and homeware from traditional and independent suppliers.

“The shop was already a gift shop when I took over, but I wanted to stamp my own personality on it. I think it is the unique range of goods that makes us stand out. We really do have an eclectic mix of items, the majority of which cannot be found on the high street,” adds Louise.

After racing sidecars with her father Charlie for 25 years – competing in the UK, Isle of Man and on the continent – it was a serious accident that eventually persuaded her to slow things down.

When she is not tied up with the shop, or visiting trade fairs with her mum Marie, she now spends much of her free time with her cats, her horse and husband Brian, who is still involved in motorcycle racing.

The Dragonfly, 111a Broughton Street, 0131 629 4246 hello@thedragonflygifts.co.uk, www.thedragonflygifts.co.uk.