Total Image Consultants, of Lynn, Mass. helps women over forty with a heartfelt fashion makeover so they love how they look inside and out.
‘Ah ha’ moment that led to launching this business: After struggling with my own image through my 20’s I attended a 3-day workshop on ‘fashion, color & image.’ Within the first hour I knew I would be starting a business and I have been at it ever since.
Ideal customer/target market: My ideal client is a mature, passionate, authentic, delightful 40+ year old woman who has been frustrated by her wardrobe because her body or lifestyle has changed or who finally realizes it’s time to do something for herself after giving to everyone else for years. She does not, however, want just any wardrobe but rather one that speaks to her inner essence and reflects what makes her special and beautiful!
First customer or client: This was way before websites or the internet. I put a box in my hairdresser’s salon and invited women to enter to win a free makeover. It worked!
Measuring success: I have always loved Maya Angelou’s definition of success, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” One of the earliest successes I remember is a client who was in her mid-50’s (she worked with me until she was 82 and moved out of town) asked me if I would take her shopping. Until then I had only done color analysis and makeup consultations. I told her I had never done it and didn’t know how. She said, “That’s okay you’ll still do better than I will do on my own.” So we went shopping and she was thrilled. I realized I was good at it and after that shopping became an integral part of the services I offer.
Biggest struggle: Keeping track of all my clients and who has done what with me. It was overwhelming and I would always be surprised when someone said to me, “Wow, I didn’t know you did that!” Now, rather than working hourly and piecemeal which always felt so scattered, I offer my services in programs of varying sizes. That way my clients get what they need and deserve without having to wonder what they are missing and I know each of my clients even better. It’s a win-win!
Surprise!: How much I still love doing what I do after 28 years. No signs of burnout!
Promoting business: Two things: Always keep my website current, interesting and completely genuine. And, for most of the past 20 years I have worked with a life coach. I couldn’t have done it alone.
Two things you wish you would’ve known: 1. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. I remember trying to sell lines of clothing to make it convenient for my clients and I even tried working with men. It was exhausting and not fun. I learned to stick to what I do best and I can always find the other resources to share with my clients. 2. I wish I had understood 28 years ago how powerful my mind is and that it is critical to spend as much time managing my energy and understanding how my thoughts and beliefs directly affect my success and peace of mind as it is to work with my clients and take care of all the practical aspects of running a business. This has been a priceless learning experience.
What keeps you up at night (business-wise!)?: Getting too excited about new possibilities!
Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job? Never! I remember many years ago when business was slower or I hit a bump in the road and I thought well I can either figure this out or I can go back to working a 9 to 5 job. It never entered my mind for even 5 seconds to consider throwing in the towel. I knew I could figure it out and I did.
Biggest goal over the next year: While the private client portion of my business is very busy, I want to be able to reach more women. I have been doing that for several years with women all over the world through my virtual program, ‘Who Taught You How to Dress?’ It is so much fun, rewarding and amazing to watch the transformation in women I’ve never met in person. My goal is double the membership in the next year so I can reach and help more women feel great about how they look.
Pricing/advice on getting it right: Don’t underestimate what your expertise is worth. While your gift seems second nature to you and comes so easily to you, others want what you’ve got! If you undersell yourself you will be doing not only a great disservice to yourself and feel constantly as if you are playing catch up (financially or with all the details of running a business) and even possibly resent some of your clients, but you will be giving a message to other women that their talents are not worth paying well for. Everybody wins when you provide a valuable service and are well paid for it.
A few tips specific to your industry: Image consultants are generally very creative people with a love of fashion and helping others feel good about how they look. I have, however, seen too many image consultants go out of business because they don’t apply as much energy towards learning how to successfully market their business and take care of all the administrative work that is necessary to keep a business running. Either plan to do all of that work yourself or delegate it to others who love doing it and can support you to get it done well.
The absolute best part of owning my business is: empowering other women.
If I had to start over again, I would have: discovered the value of networking from the outset.
I never imagined: taking vacation and time away from my business would be so difficult.
If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout: learn to listen to your heart, find a way to overcome your limiting beliefs and hire a business coach immediately.