Teacher by trade and fashion lover by nature , Mary-Anne McKinney was always destined to open her own boutique. With a little determination she transformed the Narromine Scout Hall into a stunning shopping destination for ladies near and far.
Tell us about Ollie & I Boutique.
Ollie and I is a ladies’ boutique in the heart of Narromine and named after my beautiful, late Mother Olive, affectionately known as ‘Ollie’. She was an amazing woman who had a love for fashion and her own creations. Olive taught me the importance of working with quality fabrics and always admiring gorgeous clothes.
In April 2016, an opportunity arose with a small shop becoming vacant in the Main hub of the town, and I thought this an excellent opportunity to open my own store. Being a Teacher by trade, retail was very different to the classroom, but my gut feeling was I wanted to give it a go! I juggled teaching, retail, and four children for the first five years.
Lucky for me, I’ve always had a very supportive husband and some fabulous ladies that have worked in the store to support and help me along the way. From there, Ollie & I grew and, with that, a lovely network of customers.
We quickly outgrew the space, and in 2020 we moved into Narromine Scout Hall, which was perfect for us. This gorgeous building needed a little TLC, but with a few coats of paint and a revamp, the Scout Hall became our home. Being out of the main shopping precinct, many doubted its potential, but I always envisioned what it could be and stuck to my guns.
Not only did we now have a much bigger space, but we have created a shopping destination that is fun, colourful, exciting and caters for large groups of ladies to visit and enjoy some group retail therapy! It was a big move but perfect for my business to grow. I am now lucky enough to walk into a beautiful, big open store that caters for so many.
Although it has been an amazing ride, there have been obstacles along the way. Retail always throws afew curvy ones!! We feel so lucky to have made it through and continue to provide a retail destination for women near and far.
What makes Ollie & I unique?
Ollie & I is unique in many ways, and I love that it offers something different from most other stores. Our shop used as an old scout hall and now is home to a range of beautiful clothing and giftware. It’s a magnificent old building with a fireplace, high ceilings, and lots of character.
We love getting to know our customers when they call in to say hello or try on a few things. We like to offer a personal shopping experience that women walk away from wanting to return!
What challenges have you have faced since starting your own business?
Retail has been a very challenging industry for all local businesses in our area. In the seven years I’ve had my store, we have experienced a drought, mice plagues, a few covid lockdowns and floods. The drought was what impacted our store the most. It went on for several years, and it rocked our whole community.
When funds are tight, women tend to make sacrifices, and treating themselves is the last thing they do. As a new retail business owner, I have found it challenging to determine stock orders and manage inventory across online platforms. However, I have gained valuable experience over time and continue to learn.
What’s one thing every woman should know about being successful in her career and life?
You’ve got to have the want and passion for what you are doing. If you don’t love it you’ll find it hard to stick to it and it may not work for you. As the saying goes,
‘choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’.
How do you balance work & life responsibilities?
This is a tricky one! I don’t think I’ve always got the balance right, and there have been times when the housework has just had to wait. Lucky for me, I have two daughters who have helped me along the way.
‘Don’t stress the small stuff’ is a good motto to keep in mind. The housework will always be there, but moments spent with family are fleeting. Life is a juggling act, but all you can do is your best. There’s no secret to it; just do whatever works for you!
What advice would you give to the next generation of female business owners?
Start small and build from there. Making business decisions can be stressful. If you start small, you can always learn from each step without putting too much pressure on yourself. Women are unique. We’re good at juggling many roles and are masters of multitasking, which is why you see many great women running their own businesses. It is essential to always make time for exercise; it’s good for the body and mind. Mental health is important, and owning your own business is consuming, so you must always make time for yourself!
What’s on the horizon for Ollie & I in 2023?
We will continue to grow and change as the brand develops and we adapt to meet our clients. The biggest goal for the store this year is to expand our online presence and marketing. Although we have an online store, and are across a few digital platforms, refining our presence is advantageous for Ollie & I.
Location: Narromine, NSW
Instagram: Ollie & I Boutique