Belfast-born Nicky Kinnaird is the owner and founder of Space NK Apothecary, the cult beauty store. Its eighth outlet opens this month

"I QUALIFIED in estate management from Reading University and went on to do my charted surveying qualifications in London. I worked in that field for about six years.

"I gradually realised I was a lot more interested in what my clients, fashionable retailers, were involved in than my own situation, which was purely site-finding for them. So I went to work for a firm of retail consultants, which was an invaluable training ground.

"The opportunity for the first Space NK store came up at the end of 1992. The developers of the Thomas Neal Centre at Covent Garden were looking for an anchor store and approached me to come up with a business plan.

"I think it was important that we started off with a different viewpoint - not having a retail background I saw things from a customer viewpoint, which was a totally different approach in the marketplace. My greatest fear was always `what if no customers come through the door?' That hasn't happened yet, touch wood, but you spend many sleepless nights when you're starting off a business from scratch. You can also forget having any kind of life outside work for the first three years.

"We're still a retail baby. Our next challenge is opening the first Manchester store this month. That's a whole new ball game - if something goes wrong you can't jump into a cab and fix it.

"I was lucky to get the chance to build something I was totally into. It's totally personal - a lot of the products in the apothecary are ones I bring back for my own use. I spent years bringing suitcases full from the States, and it's great to be able to share them."