A former IT manager who took a career break to raise her children has returned to her Italian roots by opening a boutique in Aberdeen city centre.
Having spent her childhood helping out in her father’s chain of high-end handbag shops in Milan, Serena Venegoni decided to invest £150k to launch her own outlet, Stellar.
Carrying a range of exclusive leather handbags, sourced with the help of her aunt and cousin who currently run their own accessories shop in the Italian fashion capital, the 46-year-old has just unveiled a new line of scarves made from Lake Como silk.
Using her eye for detail, Serena designed each of the three scarves herself to reflect the character of Milan, Rome and Verona. The scarves are exclusive to her Chapel Street store.
Serena said: “It seems retail is in my DNA! Every Saturday during my teenage years I would work in one of my father’s shops. It didn’t matter what else was happening, or if it was your birthday, working in the shop came first and I learnt so much from that experience. Sadly, my dad died before my sister or I were old enough to take over the reins but I am happy to have inherited his eye for detail and quality.
“I decided last year it was now or never to open the shop, and thanks to my family connections with key suppliers in Italy I have been able to stock many brands you cannot get anywhere else in the UK. Knowing I had that connection gave me the confidence to go to Business Gateway with my idea. My adviser has been a great support. She provided me with market research reports and a property search. She then helped me write my business plan and highlighted workshops I should attend. Having never worked or run a shop in the UK before, having access to her local knowledge and guidance has been invaluable.”
Carron Taylor, of Business Gateway who helped with the opening, said: “Taking time out to raise her family gave Serena an opportunity to re-evaluate her career goals, and once she realised that opening a shop was top of her to do list she turned to us for advice on how to make it a reality. Using our Information Service she gained valuable market insight, while 1:1 support and our workshop programme helped guide her through the set up process. Now that the business is open, being part of our Business Boost programme, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, is providing Serena with expert support to help with her growth strategy, marketing and HR as well digital support to help her grow and expand her business online.”
Having initially graduated from university in Italy, Serena moved to London where she worked for a multi-national IT and software company covering different managerial roles.
In 2008, she moved to Aberdeen and carried on working in middle management in IT before taking a break to raise her children and to study Project Management at Robert Gordon University, where she graduated in summer 2016. During that time she spotted a gap in the market for a high-end, independent boutique in the city.
She said: “In Milan, shops are where you meet your friends – and spend your money – and everyone loves to walk between stores browsing the vast range of independent retailers that fill the city. When I moved to Aberdeen I immediately noticed that people tended to shop in just one place and I wanted to bring a little bit of Italian shopping culture to the city. Locals love the quality and design of the bags and accessories I offer and I hope the new scarves will be a hit too, especially as there is more call for a warm, luxurious and eye-catching scarf in Aberdeen as silk can be the perfect barrier to the cold.”