There is no greater reward than owning your own business because it can give you a perspective on life that you never would have otherwise gotten. However, no matter what type of business you own, the job of running it can be difficult just like life can be. There are so many everyday things that need to be taken care of that most people who never owned their own business do not even realize.
I owned a gift and consignment shop in Tuckahoe, NY across from the Crestwood train station. My store was called “Truly Yours, Kelly.” I ran it for three years until it closed this past November. I had opened my gift shop because I owned many collections and had no room to keep them anymore and wanted to put them to good use. With my parents’ help my store opened in 2009. I learned so much that I did not know prior to opening my store; things I would never have learned if I had not had this experience. For three years my store was my life and love. I made sure everything was done right and decorated my store according to my style and changed its layout around every day. I learned that if something is not selling and sitting on the shelf for a long time, moving it to another spot in the store could result in it selling. Moving things to another spot helped because customers then thought the item was new. The placement and where you put things is important and gives an overall look to your store.
“Truly Yours, Kelly” was not just run by me. I hired co-workers to help me run my store effectively and efficiently. My co-workers at times could have helped out more, done things differently and put in more time, but I found it extremely hard to find the perfect co-worker. First off, several of my co-workers were too young, still in high school, and did not know how to handle some things in certain situations. Overall, though, they were good people. I wish that I could have had a partner to help me manage everything. My dad helped me whenever possible, but the store was not his job; he set it up for me to run.
At my store, I took in consignment and I had around 150 people who brought different items in to me to consign on a regular basis. Because of my OCD personality, I accepted most of what people brought in and this became a problem because I did not have enough room for everything without overcrowding the store.
As everyone knows, the economy is not good and even though an item might have been worth a lot years ago, now it might be worth a lot less. My consignment vendors had a hard time accepting that their items were not as valuable as they were before and wanted me to sell their things above what I knew customers would be willing to pay. The prices I set in my store were reasonable to encourage sales and also because I was new to the area and wanted business. This is where the marketing of my store played a huge part.
Marketing is difficult to do, especially when you do not have the right funds. I tried everything to get the word out about my store and to prove to people that you could buy many of the same things in other stores, but at much higher prices. My store also had many unique and special items that could not be found anywhere else. We carried “Something Special for Everyone,” which was our slogan. My customers loved shopping in my store. They said I was an excellent sales person and knew a great deal for a person of my young age.
When I first opened my store, I was only 24, and in just three years I truly gained a significantly from the whole experience. Yes, there will always be things I could have done differently but mostly I would not change anything I did because everything in life is a learning process. Everything I did helped the overall outcome of my store in some way. We sure tired many forms of marketing. I wrote articles about the store for a local magazine. We made our own jingle and played it on the radio. We sent our hundreds of flyers to promote sales going on. We had amazing front windows and decorated them with lights. We had non-profit drives. We also had hundreds of photos and videos on our two websites. Some of these things worked and some of them did not but all of this experience will benefit me in the future. Life is a little bit of everything combined.
I used event marketing at my store where I would hold different events based upon the items I was selling. For example, my store sold dog toys so I had a canine event where a groomer came in and talked about the proper ways to groom your dog and people all shared stories and talked lovingly about their dogs. The canine event was well attended with about 40 people. Other events were not as well attended, like our auction that was held outside in front of the store, but you never know what will work until you try and give your best shot. Most things are not a success right out of the box the first time. It takes time for people to catch on to the idea of your type of store or business. I know now that although it was hard and a challenge, it was worth pursuing. I was actually lucky because many of my customers supported my efforts and really wanted me to be a success. People in the area were sad when they found out I was going out of business because Tuckahoe is a quiet town where there are not many shops, especially gift shops; and certainly there was never anything like my store in the town before.
I was not ready to go into business for myself, but with my parents’ support it helped me to grow up, put things into perspective and see what it takes to own a business no matter how big or small in size. To anyone who wants to start a business, remember the road ahead will not be easy and expect many things to go wrong along the way; but putting your name on something and looking back on all your efforts, you will be glad you took the step. Always start small and do not get ahead of yourself in the beginning. Good things will come in time. There were days when I only made one small sale for the entire day; and then there were days when I had 20 people in and sold a ton of stuff. You will never figure out the reason or logic behind why people buy the things they do. Some days are better than others in business and in life but keep a positive attitude as best you can and do not be afraid to try new, different and creative things. My advice is to take chances and do things out of the ordinary like I did much of the time in my store because you never know what just might work out.