How long has it been since you opened the doors to PlayVintage?
Daniel: A year to the date. August 29th 2020
How did the decision to start your own business come about?
Andrew: Not wanting to work for someone else and work in an industry I’m passionate about.
I used to work in a music store as a teenager, then I started operating/selling online from my home garage for about 4 or 5 years on a smaller scale just to make ends meet. I saw a need in the vintage guitar market in Malta and wanted to fill it basically. Last year Daniel had approached me with the idea of joining ventures to open up a storefront together.
Daniel: It has been something I have always wanted to pursue. After years of learning the trade working for other companies I felt I had the proper experience to go at it with a like minded business partner, as well as the fact of wanting to be my own boss was a lifelong career dream to me.
Can you give us an idea of the timeline between COVID emerging its ugly head and opening up PlayVintage? How did this affect any business decision making?
Daniel: It wasn’t the perfect timing! But we had bit the bullet and sitting on our hands would have been money down the drain, when a business such as ours was self financed out of personal investment , you need to power through no matter what. We knew it would be an unpredictable venture opening in a large-scale global pandemic but it needed to be done. The pandemic won’t last forever and people were thankfully purchasing more instruments due to lockdowns with more idle time on their hands etc
Andrew: When we had come up with the idea to open the store, covid had just started to emerge in other countries such as Italy and when we finally found our premises, just before starting to refurbish it, the first few cases of covid had been recorded in Malta. So we had come up with the idea basically at the exact same time as covid appeared and still decided to go ahead with it. We really believed in our concept for the store and creating a community around it too.It hadn’t really affected our decision making process at that point. It did slow down the process, but we just took it day by day. To be honest, we didn’t think covid was going to turn out as big as it did.
What have been some of the most significant impacts COVID has had on your business?
Andrew: The significant decrease in stock, stock availability and the very long transit times regarding shipping etc. All of these elements slowed down business. If we are unable to get certain models of guitars that people want then, it’s a problem.
Daniel: The lack of stock is a domino effect. Availability and or availability of shipping containers slowed down and hampered sales, as well as the loss of live entertainment which also had an impact on general sales.
Why do you think PlayVintage has still managed to remain a success through a pandemic?
Daniel: The free time that most people found themselves having unexpectedly helped boost that market, not to mention being the newer kids on the block with the wanted brands and very calculated spending had helped weather the storm.
Andrew: We have actually seen an increase in sales despite the drop in supply. I think a lot of people seem to be picking up instruments a lot more during this time. People want to do something that has substance in it and now finally, are finding they actually have the time to. Even those who already played are getting back into it .
What sets you apart from the rest in Malta?
Andrew: We are the only music shop here with this concept. Buying, selling and trading used high end guitars and also stocking new brands such as Gibson, Epiphone and Guild. We are catering for every level of guitar player and the shop is totally guitar based. We wanted to make it a point of creating not just a shop, but a community who feel welcome to hang out, chat and try out whatever they like. Also people feel they can come in and not necessarily feel obliged to buy something when they are here which makes such a difference to the shop’s warm and welcoming atmosphere. It’s part of what creates a PlayVintage community.
What’s the best thing about working for yourself?
Daniel: Freedom for one and flexibility, but the satisfaction is far greater knowing you’re putting in the extra effort and hours for YOU to enjoy
Andrew: Yeah and definitely the freedom of making your own decisions
What’s the most challenging thing about working for yourself?
Andrew: The uncertainty of finances.
Daniel: Come rain or shine, bills need to be paid and constant re evaluation of expenditures and cost effective decisions and measures
Can you give our readers who may be contemplating starting their own business some advice?
Andrew: Choose something that drives your passion. This way working just becomes a nice part of life not something you dread going to every day. Start slowly and ensure you have a good solid foundation before you take bigger plunges into business. I had started working in a music shop as a teenager which gave me a better idea of how the business side of guitars works. I had sold 100’s of guitars before I opened up a store front.
Daniel: Be sure of what market segment you are wishing to target. Is it a passion of yours, or just a means to an end? Do your utmost best to be different in any way you can from your competition and focus on client relations and if in sales or services then don’t neglect the all important after sales. Products can literally sell themselves nowadays but the human factor is still key in winning trust and clients.
What would you say to someone looking to take the leap into entrepreneurship but is apprehensive about its somewhat unpredictable nature?
Daniel: Be prepared to be told you can’t or won’t succeed. Always be prepared for whatever comes your way. Running and building your own business from the ground up takes a lot of energy, preparations and thinking and thinking and more thinking. You always need to have your ear to the ground and never remain stagnant in your chosen sector.
Andrew: You have to be ready to lose it all to gain something good. If I am fearful and super conservative about making money then I would have just become an accountant. If it’s the right decision then the feeling of fear will not override the decision to take the risk.
What’s one obstacle you believe small businesses in Malta have to endure which can negatively impact getting business off the ground?
Daniel: The initial starting up could be a lot more streamlined. There is a massive tail of setbacks and red tape one faces from the government to the banks themselves. You’re actually made to feel like you’re being done a favour when things get greenlit.
Andrew: Yeah, there is definitely no rule or guide book. The government and banks make it very difficult for new businesses to open. It can be a very tedious and slow process with a lot of bureaucracy, red tape and obstacles to jump over. Almost feels like a privilege here rather than a right to open up a shop.
What is your favourite guitar in the shop right now?
Andrew: The sweet little national Varsity from the 1960’s.
Daniel: The 77 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Gold Top