Going uphill Rue d’Argens in Gżira, you would think it impossible to come across some herd of sheep or at least one unless you’re creative enough to imagine cars as such. You might have also missed The White Sheep, a project run by siblings Tania Attard and Sarah Borg since June 2009, which is at the last few hundred metres of Rue D’Argens.
This feature interview is all about The White Sheep, a ‘local market’ where, every day, clients can purchase the finest, great-tasting produce, that’s free from additives and preservatives, from across Europe and beyond.”
REDWHITEmt spoke to Sarah, 41, the woman who switched from her design and publishing career into a world of food. She told us about her love of good food, and how her past experience in design and marketing helped her move on to such a venture. Through her childhood she always wished to excel in whatever she decided to do or whatever life brought on as an adult so this idea might well be a dream-come-true.
Just like her inner child, Sarah aims to excel in whatever she does. She believes that as long as something is done to the best of her ability and with as much perfection as humanly possible, she would be happy.
Where did you come up with the idea for The White Sheep?
We are foodies. We travel and have always been fascinated by the quality of foods you find abroad. We wanted to pick the best foods from different countries, different origins, different cultures, backgrounds and stories, and put them under one roof. We seem to have succeeded.
Before The White Sheep, you were an editor for a local magazine. What made you switch to this new path?
All my life, all I’ve known was the marketing, advertising and publishing worlds. Even before setting up the publishing house and editing my own magazine, I’ve always worked as a graphic designer and had also co-owned an advertising and design agency. 20 years of that and it was serious time for change. The White Sheep was the only new project to excite me.
Did you find it difficult switching from an editorial/design profession to an entrepreneur?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I find it very difficult be told what to do and how to do it, I’m just not made for that. I have quite a clear idea of how I’d like things to look, and how I’d like them to run. From as far back as 1993, I’ve always run my own businesses. The White Sheep is totally different. It is the most pleasurable one I’ve ever run, mainly because I’ve found my ideal business partner in my sister Tania, with whom I’ve become extremely close. We work amazingly well together, we share the same vision, the same sense of style and creativity, the same level of perfection, and I guess all this shows in our work. We have fun with it!
What obstacles have you faced in the first year, especially during startup?
All businesses need very hard work and extreme dedication, especially in the first years. There is no such thing as ‘easy money’ especially in this day and age, when competition is extremely fierce and the market is becoming more fickle by the day. I would say that this kind of business is particularly harder, because of the level of attention it requires every day. Food, especially the artisan food we carry which is naturally free from preservatives, requires plenty of work and dedication.
What inspired the branding of The White Sheep? How did you go about implementing it?
The name is the fruition of a serious amount of hours of brain storming. It is a simple name in itself, but it is the anti-thesis of the ‘black sheep’. Where the latter is the ‘unwanted’, the ‘White Sheep’ is the favourite. Back then we hoped that the store would become a favourite among foodies, a hub for good food lovers and it seems like we’re succeeding in that. The implementation of the branding came naturally, one thing just led to another. We wanted to create a simple, feel-good and natural tone that compliments our ‘good, honest food’ ethos.
How was the branding applied to the interior design of the Gzira shop?
Tania and I knew exactly what we wanted and how we wanted The White Sheep to look. We found extremely good craftsmen and it all fell into place. Not without a good measure of hard work and drama!
Are there any specific marketing tools that you employ? As a designer and entrepreneur, do you have a professional philosophy that guides you?
Be honest firstly with yourself, and [very close] secondly, with your colleagues, your clients, your viewers. They will come to appreciate your honesty and place their trust in you. Treat your clients, readers, viewers with intelligence and respect and they will reciprocate.
What has been the key to success in your business?
I really believe one either has the right qualities and natural aptitude for success or one simply doesn’t! That is why there are successful businesses and mediocre ones. Believing in oneself and in the business one develops, and being generally positive, are key.