We first met today’s Friday Folks interviewee, Keeley Harris, quite a few years ago now. She was, and still is, the organiser of a vintage fair we attended that was held at the beautiful Victoria Baths in Manchester. Since then our paths cross regularly, both online and in person. We’ve featured her on our blog before, when we’ve talked about the fair and when we reviewed her book – more of that and much more below – read on!
Who are you & what do you do?
My name is Keeley Harris and I’ve been head honcho at Discover Vintage since 2009, running various vintage events each and every year. My biggest event is the Festival of Vintage, which happens once a year at York Racecourse. That’s the one I’m planning for at the moment as it’s this month (23rd & 24th April). It takes 6 months of preparation as it offers lots more than just a typical vintage fair. We are two stages filled with entertainment, workshops to organise and a massive classic vehicle display to arrange amongst other things. Visitors come from across the UK; I’m proud that it’s seen as a key event in the Vintage Social calendar.
How did you get into the business?
I’ve always sold vintage, even with my dad as a child (quite a few years ago). When I moved back to Leeds in 2008, I started selling at fairs. I quickly realised that I could use my skills as an event manager (former proper job) to create really fab vintage events! Hence Discover Vintage was launched in 2009. Then, in 2011, I started the Festival of Vintage as I noticed a gap in the market for a large-scale festival in the north of the UK.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by my customers each and every day, the stall holders and visitors are the ones that give me ‘light bulb’ moments for new ideas. I love chatting to them to find out all about what they want from an event. My inspiration drives me to create new events that are unique and interesting, offering something people don’t always expect. I’d also say that entrepreneurs and the wider business world give me massive inspiration and make me feel that anything is possible. I’m very driven and love working hard to create the best events I can, there’s no better feeling than the end of a fabulous event!
What has been your greatest success?
Writing a book is my greatest success. I have mild dyslexia, so writing doesn’t come naturally to me and I had to lock myself away from everything for a few months so that I could put every effort into getting it just right. The huge sense of achievement in seeing my book on the bookshelves of many stores gave me a warm glow of excitement. However, I have to say that planning a big festival all by myself is probably a close second!
Have you got any advice for someone wanting to break into the vintage business?
I would advise not to treat a vintage business as a hobby and give it real commitment if you want to succeed. Value your customers and look after them, they tend to return again and again. Embrace social media in all its forms. Be prepared to spend a percentage of your income on advertising as you can’t expect people to come and find you!
All images (except book) ©Laura and James Adams, Grandma Eileen’s