The fist dollar we ever made for our baby and maternity business was on Kathleen’s living room floor. Well, two-hundred and fifty of them, to be exact.
As fashion goes, the summer 2015 inventory which we had selected and put a deposit on back in January, started rolling in late July. Kathleen and I own a small children and maternity boutique in downtown Pinehurst, NC—we’ll open this month. We had been growing this little child of our own for exactly a year. As people coached us through the process, a year originally felt like a lifetime and it seemed impossible to me that the project could take so long. A year later, I feel incredibly satisfied that we pulled it off in only one year!
But don’t take so much awesome advice that you lose your identity.
In January, I also remember thinking, “There’s no way we’re still going to be waiting for money in six months,” so we submitted orders for two of our flagship brands—Kanz and Tea. Six months later, the product was coming in, the bank loan had stalled, and we hadn’t even signed our retail space lease yet.
Well, money ain’t gonna walk itself down to the bank, so we invited our Advisory Board members and some close friends for an open house in Kathleen’s living room. We opened shipment together, sold gifts for upcoming events, and even got some great feedback from everyone based on their reaction to the product. By the end of the afternoon, almost all of our product catalogs were out on the floor and we were going back and forth discussing pros and cons and comparing them to our original product choices. Some of the feedback was surprising! And now we know we’ve made some more consumer friendly choices because of items that received rave reviews even though we originally weren’t considering carrying them.
Every day feels like the saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.” We’re really excited to share what we learned, and what we wished we would have learned more quickly, with Pyragraph and our local community college. We’ve been asked by the same nonprofit organization that helped us get started to return the favor by speaking at some of those seminars and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
Here’s today’s lesson: Stay flexible.
Coordinating shipment, seasons, real estate, banks, etc., is like a fine dance—or more like a jungle-drum, chaotic, hypnotic mess. Just stay calm and ride the wave and let the pins get knocked down one at a time.
Ask for help everywhere and even consider creating a special dedicated advisory board. These members are volunteering their life and soul to you and will always answer questions honestly. Choose them wisely for their skills and strengths but also for their perception in comparison to your target market. We have four women of varying ages, educational backgrounds, and financial lifestyles. We also have two male investors and we lean on them heavily for financial advice.
But don’t take so much awesome advice that you lose your identity. We came into this knowing our vision and when we got confused, my business partner and I spoke privately about what changes we wanted to make and what changes would alter the direction of our business too significantly. Advice is wonderful and free! But don’t be afraid to say, “Oh, thanks, but I don’t think that will work for me!”
And finally, never miss an opportunity to make money! This stage of the game is all spending, so any excuse to make some cash—as in our holding that open house in Kathleen’s living room—is one that shouldn’t be missed. By involving our loved ones, we got to share the experience of seeing our merchandise for the first time together, and effortlessly generated sales! As the weeks roll by and the boxes roll in, my business partner and I will continue to do this, even before we officially open the doors to our retail space. There is always a demand for gorgeous goods and moving cash into the bank is a nice (and validating) change.