5 Minutes With Mags Walker, Founder, Toolally

Mags Walker's career highlights includes becoming FD of a global company while still in her 20s before she started her own marketing agency. She also runs online accessories store Toolally as a way of channelling her creative energy. To this day she runs both simultaneously, so we caught up with her to find how she does it.

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Mags Walker

Tell us about the Toolally story.

Having worked in branding and marketing for many years I wanted to create a brand of my own. I also wanted to be able to use my creativity, after years of previously working in the finance industry, and found making jewellery to be a great outlet for this as well as being able to create beautiful accessories that make dressing up as easy and enjoyable as it should be.

What gap in the UK retail market does Toolally strive to address?

I spotted a big gap in the market for statement yet easy to wear jewellery, and we design and hand-make what are probably the most comfortable statement earrings in the world.

What’s in store for Toolally for the rest of 2018?

We are launching the brand to an international audience in Paris in September, and then plan to grow Toolally even further across the world.
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How is Toolally addressing some of the challenges facing the retail industry as a whole?

We are forging strong mutually beneficial partnerships with established and successful prestigious retailers, as well as establishing a loyal, direct online customer base. We keep our customers at the centre of everything we do and try to offer a luxury customer experience including a bespoke service and free repairs for life but at accessible prices.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit and fear for the economy means people are spending less. Costs of imported goods are rising and it will be difficult to pass those increases on to shoppers, so retailers are caught in the middle. As a uk manufacturer as well as retailer we have an advantage.

Describe your role and responsibilities as founder of Toolally.

Business and marketing strategy and creative direction. I design the collections, develop new products and make now and again. I’m also responsible for finance and like to meet customers as often as possible at trade shows and live events, pop ups and in store.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I started my work life as a chartered accountant at PwC before becoming FD of a creative agency whilst in my 20s. I then moved away from finance, as well as moving out of London and back up north to Yorkshire, and started my own branding and creative agency 12 years ago. I began Toolally in 2015, and the brand has gone strength to strength since then.

What got you into retail in the first place?

I started working with retail clients with the branding agency and loved it. I find consumer behaviour fascinating- what makes people buy things and what makes them spend more on one product than another, and what makes them fall in love with a brand. On a personal level I love shopping.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?
Having worked in both finance and marketing I have a good understanding of what it takes to build a successful company and how to do it.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Staying focused. I am constantly thinking of new things I want to do, new ways to stay relevant and interesting.

Keeping ahead of the trends, and as a consequence continually fighting counterfeiting. Protecting the Toolally brand is very important to me, and when you have an interesting product there will always be counterfeiters.

And the most rewarding?

Seeing my designs and brand in the best retailers in the UK as well as reading customer reviews and letters. And building a manufacturing company in my home town that makes beautiful things and can employ amazingly talented, creative people is incredibly rewarding.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?

Have a plan, a clear strategy and keep your customer and what they want at the heart of everything you do. Retail is 24/7 hard work, it’s not for the faint hearted – but who doesn’t love shopping.

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