Jill Phillips says she was “very cross” when she was made redundant from her job in credit control in September 2011. However, within 12 months she became the owner of The ZipYard in Basingstoke and admits it was probably the best thing that ever happened to her.
Jill lived in Hanover, Germany from the age of 14 with her father, an ex-RAF serviceman, and German mother. In 2006, after both parents passed away, she decided to move back to the UK. It was then she met husband-to-be Gerald and became a credit analyst in the UK offices of a major US corporation based in Basingstoke.
But after five years with the company and having worked her way up to team leader, Jill was informed she was to be made redundant. “I thought it was a job for life and I didn’t know what to do with myself,” she explains. Jill returned to Germany for a couple of weeks to visit friends and spent time considering her future on her return to the UK. “I couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm to do anything, then Christmas came and I thought ‘Right, you’ve got to get yourself going girl’,” she says.
Soon after Jill’s husband returned home from a trip to the doctors clutching an advertisement he’d seen in a magazine in the waiting room about The ZipYard. She agreed to contact Nigel Toplis, franchisor of The ZipYard, to find out more about the business. Nigel suggested she pay a visit to Richard McConnell, owner of The ZipYard in Altrincham. Jill explains: “Gerald and I went to stay in Altrincham for a Valentine’s weekend break and visited Richard’s centre.
We were excited by what we saw and I felt I could manage this kind of business. That was in the February and after that it all happened very quickly – finding premises, training, hiring staff and doing all the legal stuff. We opened on Monday, May 21, 2012. I was nervous, but quietly confident.” Since launch, sales have been good. Jill adds: “The feedback from local people is so encouraging. People come into the centre and say to me: ‘This is just what Basingstoke needs. Thanks for opening here’.
And, says Jill, the franchisor has been very supportive: “The whole team has been fantastic. From the training, which was very hands-on, to the huge level of support I’ve had, it’s all been great. Although it’s my business and the buck stops with me, I’ve never felt alone or out on a limb. It’s been teamwork from day one. “Once my business has been up and running for a while, I’d love to branch out with another one somewhere else. But for now I’m happy focusing my efforts on Basingstoke and making a success of it. I’ve just taken on another seamstress, so the business is growing already.”
Would she recommend The ZipYard to other potential franchisees?“Most definitely,” Jill says. “I’m learning all the time and it’s such a sociable business.
I enjoy talking to the customers and get a feeling of satisfaction from seeing how happy they are when their clothes fit properly.” “As a woman, I can recommend the business. All I’d say is you have to want to succeed and know what your capabilities are.”