How I almost became a boutique owner

How I almost became a boutique owner

There’s a reason I haven’t posted in the last three weeks.  The first two weeks were spent being insanely busy becoming a boutique owner.  This last week was spent being depressed that it didn’t work out.  But now I’m ready to talk about it, and even look on the bright side of things.

Here’s what’s been going on:

My mom and I decided to open a boutique.  A boutique selling handcrafted items.  I think I’ve mentioned before that my mom is quite crafty and makes a lot of things.  I do, too, but not nearly as much as her.  We’ve thought of setting her up with an Etsy account to sell her stuff online, but we’ve also sort of joked like, “you know, we should just open up a store in town!”

So, a few weeks ago, we drove around just for fun, to see if there were any places for rent on the square downtown (we live in a small town).  We ended up finding the perfect space in the perfect location, called the landlady, looked at it, loved it, and decided right then and there that we were actually going to do this crazy idea and open up a store!

For the next week and a half, we planned like crazy, and even ordered some things for the store.  It was the hardest I’ve worked on something in a long time.  Maybe ever.

We had given the landlady the deposit, but not yet met to sign the lease.  When we first met her and saw the space, she was super accommodating and awesome.  When we went back to see the space again and sign the lease, half the things she said she would do weren’t done.  (“Well I never said I would fix that!”)  And, the lease was absolutely ridiculous.  English is not her first language and there were tons of spelling errors for one.  For two, the lease contained crazy things like that if the furnace broke (the building is 100 years old) then we would have to pay for it!  Crazy.

So, anyway, between the crazy lease, going back on her word about a few things, and her changed attitude, we felt like we could no longer trust her.

And now, we are no longer going to open a store at all.  You might think that that is a rash decision, but honestly I am so disgusted at the rental market in my town (I had an almost identical situation two years ago with a different landlord regarding an apartment I was going to rent) that I am just so discouraged and want nothing to do with any of it.

We still could look around for another space, but half the appeal and reason we even decided to go ahead and open a store was because we found a space in a great location.  So without that, we worry we wouldn’t be as successful.

The bright side of all this is that it was a crazy learning experience and a great life lesson.  Here are a few things I learned:

  • Don’t give a deposit until you see and sign the lease.  And until you write down all the things that the landlord agrees to fix, and he/she signs that.  I’ve learned this lesson twice now and I think this time it’s stuck.
  • There are so many different kinds of gift boxes, bags, ribbons, and mailing envelopes.  And, you have to buy them in huge bulk quantities.  (Papermart.com was the cheapest I found, and the one we ended up going with.  I don’t even want to tell you how caught up I got in that site and how many hours I spent on it.  Which brings me to my next lesson:)
  • Don’t get caught up in frilly things.  Like colored gift boxes.  And coordinating ribbons.  And whether or not you want to offer free gift wrapping, and therefore which colors you want to offer.  All this is great to think about a few months down the road, once you see that you are successful and can afford this service.  But I thought of this right away and then spent way too much time planning it (and being overwhelmed with choices) when there were more pressing matters at hand.
  • Starting a business isn’t nearly as difficult as it’s made out to be.  It was a ton of work, yes.  And it would have been even more work had we kept going with it.  But we also learned that a lot of steps could be skipped, such as getting a business license and an accountant.  (In some states and for some business types, a business license is required.)  We just met with a consultant (for free!) from the local community college whose job is to help small businesses get started, and he explained everything to us and we were quite pleasantly surprised at the lack of paperwork, etc.
  • Getting over the mental hurdle of “can I actually do this?!” is one of the hardest things and the biggest obstacle to get over.  We literally joked about starting a business on Friday, drove around looking at spaces on Saturday, and met with the landlady, saw the space, and gave our deposit on Sunday.  And we told ourselves we’d open in 4 weeks.  It all happened so fast (in large part because someone else was interested in the space so we had to give a deposit lest potentially lose it.)  And all the while we were simultaneously excited and wondering if we were crazy.  Normally, we might have been considered crazy.  But.  I think that the fact that we went so fast was such a blessing.  Because the fact that we gave ourselves little time to think and to doubt, is what propelled us forward.  We could have easily decided we would open a store, then “research” for 6 months, then start looking for spaces, and really look at a lot to gauge the commercial rental market and find the “perfect” space, and then take another two months to choose paint colors and the store name, etc.  But what would that have accomplished except push us back another year?  We did ALL of that in two week’s time.  And while we feared that we didn’t know what we were doing, and felt that we should “research” more, I kept reminding us that there wasn’t really anything to research.  And that that was just an excuse and a delay.  And I think that so often, with myself and with countless others, we fool ourselves into thinking that we need to “prepare” because “starting a business is a big deal”, while really we are just giving ourselves permission to stall and stall and then possibly never actually take action and reach our goal.  So the fact that we just went for it is something that I am still really proud of.
  • Monthly costs add up.  This one should have maybe been a bit more obvious than it was at the time.  We had rent, which we were cool with.  But then utilities on top of that, phone and internet, and insurance – not to mention the costs of materials/stock and shopping bags, etc.  Which each new cost we remembered, that meant we’d have to sell that much more inventory each month, which got to be pretty daunting and intimidating.  But again, maybe if we had realized all this in the beginning, we would have let it delay us or even give up.  So maybe the gradual realization helped ease the scariness of the whole thing.
  • You don’t need nearly the startup capital that you might think.  Luckily we didn’t buy too much before the whole lease fiasco, but even the things we did buy were ridiculously cheap.  We bought some furniture pieces, to display our inventory, from Goodwill and other second hand places around town, and some paint.  We primed and painted the furniture to all match and look way more expensive than it was.  We also planned to bring in some furniture from our house that we were thinking to get rid of anyway.  With a bigger store, this would have been more expensive, but for our small space, we were able to get like half the tables we’d need for like $10 total!  And again, this was in only two weeks!

So, after this whole experience, I feel a few different things.  Pride.  Happiness.  Anger.  Disappointment.  Confusion.  Disgust.  Shame.  Curiosity.  Relief.

Relief because I don’t have all that work to look forward to!  But in the end, I am glad that at the very least I can take away multiple lessons from this – ones that I do think will serve me well in the future.  And the fact that I now have experience starting a business – and the awareness of what it takes and what it doesn’t take – will be a great head start for my next business.  Whatever that may be.

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Thrift Store Haul and Fabulous Finds!

Today my mom and I went crazy.

We went to literally every second-hand shop in town (minus Goodwill, because we went there yesterday, lol.)

We bought a few things at a few places but I’ll just mention the highlights.

There is one second hand store that I often have mixed feelings about.  This place is not in the best shape.  It has the ambiance of a neglected garage.  But my mom sometimes finds things there that she can use to make jewelry, so we decided to go.

And today, we found some of the best stuff ever!  On a table outside, was this snowman cookie jar.  Now, my mom has a snowman collection and every Christmas our house is just filled with them.  And I am normally not one to encourage her to buy anymore.  BUT!  I literally think that this snowman is the cutest thing I have ever seen.

LOOK HOW HAPPY HE IS.

But we were torn as to whether or not we should get him.  So I was like, “Let’s go inside and see how much it is, and then we’ll decide.”  So guess how much it cost?

$1.

Can you believe it?!  Total steal.  Then we went inside and picked up a few more things, including:

A 1.5 inch curling iron.  I wanted 2″ so as to make those really big, sexy, loose curls.  But I figure 1.5 will do just fine!  (I had been looking for awhile on eBay and they cost upwards of $10.)

Next is this (new with tags!  retails for $36!) button down shirt that I got for my friend Heath.  It didn’t come across in the photo but the color is really pretty and I think it will look great on him.

Also for Heath was this bluetooth keyboard with iPad stand.  This cost me a whopping $1 as well!  We later looked it up on eBay and including shipping it would cost $67!  Best deal ever!

(The blue thing behind it is the foldable case which turns into the stand to prop up the iPad!  (And yes, it works!)

Then for me I bought this floral print table cloth, but it’s huge and so my mom came up with the idea that I could cut it down the center and make two window curtain panels!  Yes!  (It matches my green/tree themed decor!)

And lastly I bought these bright emerald green skinny jeans (brighter and greener than they look in the picture.)  I haven’t tried them on yet but if they don’t fit I’ll just sell them on eBay because they look pretty new!

While I was in this store and finding all this great stuff, I had the thought “I am so lucky today!” which is funny because the name of the store is My Lucky Day.  Hahaha.

This was by far the most successful shopping day I have ever had.  So pleased.  So, so pleased.

Grand total for the things mentioned above: $8.

So is that snowman the cutest thing you have ever seen or what? 😉

DIY Refashioned 90’s Blouse

I have a project to share!

My mom and I are frequent crafters (she more than I).  We are also frequent Goodwill shoppers (our store has a 25 cent day every week so we stock up on tops to cut up and make into things.  I’ll post a link to her Etsy shop once she get her stuff online!)

I found this great navy top and, yes, it only cost 25 cents!

It had short sleeves and shoulder pads, buttons down the front, and a banded elastic waist, with a loose fit throughout the midsection.

As soon as I saw it, I thought it had potential, so I tried it on and we schemed that it could work to be made into a sleeveless top.  I had a vague idea which we ended up changing as we went, into something I liked better and found more flattering.  The whole project took probably 30 minutes (including planning it out!)

 

Here is the original shirt:

 

Step 1: Take out shoulder pads & cut off sleeves.  I left a bit of the sleeve beyond the hem because the original plan was to hem that bit under, and make thin straps by gathering the shoulder areas inward a bit.

 

But I didn’t want to make them thinner so we left them wide.  But the shirt looked kind of like a biker’s cutoff tee shirt (hah.  ew.) so…

 

Step 2: Cut off the corner and resew the seam, making a little upside-down v shape…

 

…and a nice rounded fit over the shoulder.

 

And we liked it like that, so then we just had to take in the side seams to make it not two sizes too big for me.  Here is the final result!

 

I couldn’t decide whether I liked it buttoned all the way or open.  I guess one is a look for fall and one is for summer!  I think it looks perfect with white jeans and unbuttoned for summer.

What do you think?