Dada Masilo


16 October 11 words: Kelly Holgate
It's a shop. And an art gallery. And a record label. And a club night

Nathaniel Coltrane, Mimm, September 2011. Pic: Carla Mundy 

How did you get your start?
When I was sixteen, there was a shop in Hockley called 2AD. I just loved the whole ethos of the place; there was art on the wall, exclusive clothing for sale, and the owner would source brands that he knew would be the next big thing. I started by volunteering and eventually he took me on as staff. I was offered the manager’s position but turned it down - I was always told by my parents to get a trade, so I went off to do an apprenticeship, but unfortunately got made redundant three years down the line. So I approached The Prince’s Trust, attended a business course and created my own business plan, which normally takes up to six months but I was so determined that I managed to get it done in six weeks. I then went through to a Dragons’ Den situation in front of three successful business owners, pitched my business plan and they caught on to the idea. I then used my loan to rent a small space in Shop on Canning Circus, and things went from there.

Why Mimm?
It stands for ‘Music Is My Motive’. I’m also a DJ and I know that people who seek out underground music want to be as unique and individual as the music. They don’t want everyone to know what they are listening to; they want it to be personal to them. I don’t want to slate certain things, but there are people who are quite happy to follow the crowd and they aren’t the kind of people I target. I also like my brands to have a bit of a backstory, so there’s an ethical sense to them and a deeper meaning. Obviously the design is the first thing which catches your eye, but if you choose to look a little bit deeper then you’ll find some of the brands have a little bit more about them. I think that Nottingham is alive with so much talent in terms of art, clothing and music, and opening the shop is an attempt to create a hub for those people. They can showcase their talent and I like to support them as much as possible.

You started last year on Derby Road. Now you’re on Broad Street. Has being more central helped the business, or has it just brought more overheads?
Being in the heart of Hockley brings more people into the shop, which means more potential sales. When I was at Canning Circus I did promote Mimm a lot, but since moving to Hockley I have noticed more people wanting to get involved with what the shop is all about. I also want to help the younger generation of artists by linking them with the older generation; it takes a certain person to approach someone they don’t know. I intend to push the promotions hard - I mean, some people in Nottingham have never even heard of the Broadway Cinema, which is shocking, so introducing Mimm to the locals is something I really want to do.

There’s not many shops that have started their own music label. What’s the deal there?
It’s different. It’s a good advert for us - with each release we put out a limited edition t-shirt. The artist is from Nottingham and so is the designer. It’s all about creating something of value. We sold out the first release of t-shirts in two weeks.

What’s an average work day at Mimm?
Right now it is quite busy with winter orders being placed, but in general it is a pretty relaxed job. The promotional side can be stressful though, as that’s where the real work lies; having to stand outside venues at silly o’clock handing out flyers. In terms of the promotion and the shop itself, I take full responsibility - that way I can’t blame anyone if things aren’t going to plan. I also like to make people feel comfortable when they come in; I don’t force a sale on anyone. Eventually I want to take a back seat at Mimm and let the next generation carry it forward; people who believe in the shop.


Nathaniel Coltrane, Mimm, September 2011. Pic: Carla Mundy 

We’ve seen a lot of good independent shops been taken down by the recession. How have you coped?
Well I have two jobs just to support myself - without that extra job I wouldn’t feel so relaxed about the recession. I think having a business which relies on more than one source does help. For example, we’ve just set up a digital label where we are pushing Notts artists, and also selling local art in the shop and doing exhibitions. This means you have three different aspects which attract people to the shop. I feel it’s important to focus on more than one thing nowadays - and because we push the shop in everything we promote it puts us in people’s faces as much as possible. You can’t rest on your laurels, and if you survive then it can only mean good things in the future for your business.

Nottingham likes to bill itself as a ‘shopping mecca’. Are we?
I think a lot of East Midlands-based people come to Nottingham for the shopping and the nightlife. There has been a big decline in independent stores here, but we still have a lot of good vintage shops such as Wild and Cow. There’s a good mix of these stores as well as the big brands and it helps that the centre is pretty compact and easy to get around.

What independent shops in town can you look at and say ‘yeah, they’re doing it right’?
Montana is doing very well, with the art as well as the clothing. I was inspired by them, but didn’t want to be a copycat version, and to be honest I don’t really know of any other store like mine in Nottingham. I also like Size; even though they aren’t independent, I like the vibe and the set-up; it feels like an independent shop sometimes which is really nice.

Who’s designing your clothes?
I have many local designers selling in the shop, as well as unique brands from outside the UK which are not seen that much over here. People can approach me and show me what they’ve got, and of course there have been times when I have offended people by turning away their designs, which is not to say they aren’t any good, but they aren’t for me. I try to give Mimm exclusivity by stocking brands that other places in the UK do not have, but the door is always open to new designers.

Any advice for people looking to start up in Notts?
Make sure that you get your promotion down tight, especially your branding and  what you want to project to people; keep people’s interest with different things but don’t lose yourself by copying others. I looked at 2AD for inspiration but I never wanted to be a carbon copy, I wanted to inject my own personality into Mimm. Make it fun and don’t get too serious; we recently had a night at Bar Eleven on the weekend of the Notting Hill Carnival and were handing out whistles to create that carnival atmosphere, again making people aware of Mimm and what we are all about.

Anything else you’d like to say?
I’ve got a quote for you; “Creativity is freedom: creativity is the absence of fear.”  People look at the shop and may fear to come in, but the door is open to everyone and anyone. I want to be a part of putting Nottingham on the map creatively. If I can do that, then it’s job done for me. Thank you to all that have helped me on my journey so far you know who you are. And a special thank you to Ste Allan and Lukas Cole who have truly inspired me to do what I do.

Mimm, 13 Broad Street, NG1 3AJ.

Mimm website

Jay Rayner

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