Spex in the City: catching up with our campaign star

We met up with Simply Business customer, and star of our brand campaign, Gillian Caplan, to see how she’s coping with her new-found frame.

Gillian was one of two Simply Business customers to feature in our nationwide brand campaign, celebrating the best names in small business.

From the London Underground to the Manchester Evening News, the Spex in the City owner has been spotted by friends and family alike.

Here’s what she had to say on everything from her fantastic business name to her passion for eyewear…

When did you launch Spex in the City?

Around the year 2000 when Sex and the City was at the height of its popularity.

What made you choose the name?

I was enjoying a bottle of champagne together with an episode of my favourite show – Sex and the City if you hadn’t guessed – and I got thinking, wouldn’t it be a great name for the store?

When was the first time you saw yourself on a billboard and how did it make you feel?

About three days into the campaign! It was amazing but I wore sunglasses at first so I wouldn’t be spotted. I’m used to it now, and it makes me smile when I see a huge billboard on my home tube stop.

The customers are loving it too and we’ve received extra business from the campaign. Thank you to Simply Business and, specifically, for the half page ad in the Manchester Evening News – a bonus because it meant my mum and dad saw it. Very timely and I never forget where I started from.

Where are you from?

I hail from Manchester, where my family is from. It keeps me down to earth and stops me from being completely swept away by the glitterati of the big city.

What made you choose Covent Garden and the bustling Seven Dials district as the location for your boutique?

Well, it was presented to me by a friend and I fell in love with the 17th century building. And it’s just seconds away from the beautiful Seven Dials monument – I think it’s perfect!

When did you discover your passion for eyewear?

I studied in London before training in Paris – then onto New York where I managed a boutique in for the revered eyewear designer Alain Mikli, he inspired me and my love for wonderful handmade glasses.

What’s your favourite brand of glasses, and how many different frames do you stock?

My favourites are by Bruno Chaussignand – they’re simply stunning and one of a kind.

I work with a very select number of six or seven exclusive eyewear designers, and I host my own private collection which is only available in my store. You can learn more about them here.

How many people do you employ?

It’s me and Gordon at the moment, a wonderful young guy who shares my passion for stunning designer eyewear. He’s amazing with customers and I love him to bits!

You also run a charity called Spex in the Country – can you tell us more?

We work with a number of charities, including one in Kenya, and through a scheme where if a customer purchases a frame we will match the price and send a pair of frames to a Kenyan eye clinic.

We also donate proceeds to an orphanage in Capetown and, closer to home, a foodbank in South London. All great causes that we’re proud to be a part of!

You can check out their charity work here.

What’s it like being a small business owner and could the government do more to support you?

I think there could be more help in keeping rates and rents affordable to independents.

This would prevent the chain stores taking over iconic shopping districts such as Seven Dials, which should be allowed to retain their personality and selection of unique shopping experiences.

And finally – we had to ask – who is your favourite character from Sex and the City?

It has to be Carrie Bradshaw, although Stanford was brilliant, too.

Sign up for our newsletter

Looking for the latest news and features to help you stay ahead? Sign up for our monthly newsletter and get the inside track on the issues that matter to you.

Sign up now