Stylish Consignments: Stylish Consignments is designed to inspire and assist women in living their best lives by making savvy shopping choices (40-80% off retail) and generating an extra stream of income by cleaning out their closets and consigning with us.
Life before business: I was an entrepreneur before I knew what the word meant. As a child, I sold candy to neighborhood kids and started a babysitting club. In college, I made and sold gift baskets to help pay expenses. But my dream was fashion. I majored in fashion merchandising at the University of Georgia and worked my way up the retail ranks into the buying office at Macy’s.
“Ah ha” moment: it came when my company’s massive layoff was announced on CNN while I was on maternity leave. I had already decided I did not want to return to work, but now I had no choice. It was either another job or my dream.
Target consumer: Trendy professional women on the Go-typically 30 to 50 years of age who want to look and feel good, while making savvy shopping decisions or women who purse designer items and want to resale them to earn cash!
My first: The day of my soft opening one of my first customers was the manager of another local consignment shop. She found a pair of comfy shoes. I was so nervous and full of emotion that I couldn’t figure out the credit card machine. She gave me cash instead, which I later had her sign and I framed on my wall. It was meant for her to use cash so I could have this as a keepsake.
Measure of success: I measure business success by setting a goal and either hitting it or surpassing it with proper planning or execution. I decided that I did not want to build a one-man show that was directly dependent on me. I am building a company – slowly. My biggest success has been steadily building and revising my internship program to help college students who aspire to have a store one day see, feel, and breathe what it really takes to start up a business. I am proud to not be bound to the store 24/7. I have a strong team and I challenge them to think on their feet.
Struggles: Juggling a million hats while continuously wanting to add more to it. My ideas and drive never slow down. But I am learning to pace myself. I just add things to my list and wait until the right time. I am learning to enjoy my journey along the way so I don’t burn out and resent it. I have cut back my operational hours to allow more time at home with my family.
Any surprises?: WOW! That is a big one. I would say it would have to be living with the feeling and believing this was meant for me and I was meant to be an entrepreneur, but actually knowing it now. I love it! What others may see as too much work, and not worth it, is so fulfilling for me; a million hats and all. It is a challenge-a fun challenge without limits or asking permission to try something new.
Best promotions: Events! Events! Events! I am the Queen of Collaboration. I partner with other experts on topics that my target market loves, such as our most recent Natural Beauty Event in which we partnered with Whole Foods to educate the women about healthy eating and natural beauty products and techniques. It was a huge success and well attended. We center an event around it and we have fun. We have a loyal following and we love our customers. They bring new friends each time and love shopping all the new arrivals when they come out.
In retrospect: You do not need every single thing that you have on that list before you open. Some things will naturally come to you along the way. Sometimes we want certain things because we assume it make us official. For instance, I thought I had to have the professional $200 thermal printer by day one instead of taking my handwritten receipt pad for a week or two. It wouldn’t have killed me and that money could have been saved or used for marketing, which is huge.
Middle of the night: New ideas, lots of virtual communicating, and planning keeps me up many nights. Since I am a military wife and mother of two, I want to be there for my family when I am home until they are asleep. I find myself sneaking up to work while it is silent. I get more done.
Ever tempted to give up?: NO WAY! I am going to have to get knocked down and drugged out before I give up on myself! A life without limits is so fulfilling for me. I was born to be an entrepreneur and inspire other women to live and experience this sense of freedom. Most call it taking risks; I call it learning how to get it right.
Biz goals: To create four steady streams of income, a solid organizational chart for my company and to develop a strong store manager so my company is not 100% reliant on my physical presence. If I get sick for a week or two, my company should still thrive. That is one aspect of what I would call a strong company.
Funding smarts: I used most of the money from my layoff as my launching pad. I purchased all used fixtures and décor, and got inventory from a failed boutique, family and friends. I heard over and over again the horror stories of people over spending and over borrowing, so I did neither. I went in with what I could afford at the time and I have been slowly building along the way. My fixtures came from Craigslist. A store that closed had a storage unit full of fixtures to sell. I purchased them (valued roughly at $3000) for only $500 and immediately resold unneeded fixtures to recoup my investment. I still have fixtures sitting in my garage for a rainy day.
Insider advice: In retail, it is always important to know and identify your target market. This will determine almost everything pertaining to your product and the services you offer. For instance, right now, over 60% of the women shopping with me are fashion conscious women on the go. They are savvy and can appreciate nicer items on consignment, which allow them to make responsible shopping decisions for their family. For this reason, I do not spend tons of money trying to market to juniors. I provide excellent service and products that my customer wants and can appreciate. Marketing and promotions play a huge role in many retail stores because consumers have tons of options and we are constantly trying to keep ourselves fresh on consumers minds.
Must-read: National Association for Resale and Thrift stores. I purchased my first how-to manual from this site and learned tons from the industry experts who have been in business for years.
If I had to start over again, I would have: slept a few more nights before starting. Since I have an 18-month old and a four year old, it’s all about them when I am home, so I did not get much rest at first. I still stay up several nights, but as more time has passed and the business becomes more structured, I find myself willing to step back a little and trust my team to deliver.
I never imagined: that balancing running a store and taking care of my body and health at the same time would be so difficult. I found that I have gained even more weight because of eating on the go due to lack of food preparation.
If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout,: doing what everyone is doing will get you what everyone else has. Listen to your inner spirit and follow your dreams. You have one life to live—give yourself a shot.