Life Lessons from owning a Ladies Boutique
We are in our last couple of weeks before we say goodbye to Emily’s Closet and as many of you will know, our final day, really can’t come soon enough.
It hasn’t been the rose-tinted experience of my imagination at all and as I have said numerous times, I now look at independent shop owners in awe and with a new-found appreciation for what they do. Value them, support them and patronize them because they are the last remnants of pure ‘Mom and Pop’ style service we have left in our communities.
I have always wanted a clothing boutique. As a very young girl I used to make clothes out of old dish rags and sit for hours drawing and designing dresses – nothing you would wear now, too may bows and big puffy sleeves but in the 80’s I would have rocked it!
The role of shop owner was one I had to pursue or I would have had a nagging feeling of ‘what if’ for the rest of my life. I’m not sure if you’re a bucket list kind of person, but I am, and in answer to why I’m closing my shop my simplest and most honest response is that I’ve ticked the ‘Boutique Owner’ box. “Been there, done that”.
I have learned so many things over the past two years about the kind of person I am, some good, some that need some fine tuning but most importantly, some I’m pretty proud of.
#1 – The proudest thing I can say is, I DID IT!
If I had a dollar for the amount of times people said, “Oh, I wish I could do that” or “You’re so brave to follow your dreams” I would be writing this blog in the Cayman Islands, not my kitchen table.
Wake up people! I hate be to be so deep, but the clock is ticking and regret has to be one of life’s greatest disappointments – Don’t be disappointed!
If you have a desire to try something, do it. It may be your calling, it may be your downfall, it may be the biggest pain in the butt thing you have ever done, or by some slim chance it may be the one thing that sets your soul on fire, but for the love of God make your mark, answer that nagging voice, and, as per the Nike tagline – Just Do It!
I promise you, you may get kicked in the ass or fall flat on your face but you will never regret trying. For every 1 ‘doer’ there are 1000 ‘wish-I-could-doers’.
#2 – I have Zero Patience
OK, I kind of knew I wasn’t the first in line when God was handing out the gift of patience, but as I’m getting older my ability for patience and the little I had remaining is seriously dwindling.
I think, in part it has something to do with my new-found obsession with time and that life altering moment when I realized how quickly time moves and that time is our most valuable commodity.
The positive part of my lack of patience is my awareness of wasting others time and wanting to get shit done quickly.
The unfortunate part of running a business like a retail shop is we have to rely on others so much to be able to supply that end product, and I seriously lack the ability to tolerate the bullshit excuses for stuff not being done by those people outside my business, but yet, who are an integral part of my day-to-day business operations. Having to rely on others is probably one of the most frustrating parts of any business.
#3 – I Hate Interviewing for Staff!
Retail is synonymous with poor staff retention and I would rather stick pins in my eyes than interview prospective staff members – so not the greatest combination.
I was lucky that I was able to find some great people, but really, the interview process for me was torture. Again, I think it’s the patience thing (or lack thereof) kicking in, but some people really need to get their interviewing shit together.
I could write a whole topic on interview tips and bloopers, but in my recent experience, here are the top 5 things to avoid during an interview – well, an interview with me at least.
– Turn up late – again it’s my time thing, but turning up 20 minutes late with some bullshit excuse and expecting to be interviewed is kind of short-sighted, especially when you’re being interviewed by me.
– Know the name of the business you’re interviewing for. Using the name of a competing business in an interview situation is never the best thing to do.
– Research the business on social media or at the very least press the ‘FOLLOW’ button.
– Don’t put naked butt photos on Insta – you may have the most fabulous, pimple free, firm peachy butt the universe has ever seen but prospective employers also see it and so will their customers.
– Know the bosses name. Just to clarify, I’m not Melissa, Michelle or, my personal favourite, Melody.
#4 – I’m a Really Good Merchandiser – Go Me!
I have received so many compliments on how great my little shop always looked, with one competitor asking if I used a professional merchandiser – No, girlfriend all me!
I loved moving my shop around, being in the zone and creating little fashion stories within my 575 sq. ft. of shop space. My weekly creative outpouring was therapeutic and is actually one of the big things I will miss.
#5 – Love Thy Strangers
Ok, I’m going to let you in on a little business secret…
Are you ready?
The majority of your friends will not support your business!
This happens in all businesses. It’s a really strange one. Even in real estate, I have worked with clients who have relatives or close friends who are real estate agents but chose me to represent them instead.
Now, I don’t think for a minute this is an intentional thing, and maybe in the back of our minds the mixture of business and pleasure is a sub-conscious ‘no-no’. But my biggest supporters and best customers were people I didn’t even know.
When we talk about business and marketing ourselves and/or our products, our ‘sphere of influence’ is usually the route we focus on when developing a client base or promotional plan. This is pretty short-sighted and limiting. So to coin a ‘Yuppy’ phrase, think ‘outside the box’ and don’t just rely on those people closest to you for their custom.
#6 – I get the Coolest, Badass Mom Award! (Although some parents may disagree)
Growing up, I must have heard the phrase “Children should be seen and not heard” at least 5 million times – OK, I wasn’t keeping count, but I heard it A LOT and I’m sure you did too.
I call bullshit on this phrase!
Recently I was driving in the car with my daughter and her friend and I had to answer a call from a supplier about huge screw up they had made on a delivery which they had ignored for the past 5 weeks – you know the deal, not answering emails, ignoring phone calls etc etc. – Again patience and time folks. Patience and time!
I dealt with the incident in my usual assertive, no bullshit kind of way and at the end of my call a little voice, with the purest determination came from the back seat of my car and said;
“Melanie, when I grow up, I want to speak to people just like that”.
I kind of gave a chuckle, because my big girl voice is not always my most popular attribute. (I’m a take no crap, say it how it is, I’m sending in the ‘big guns’ kind of girl).
So, I asked her why she was so impressed, and she said;
“Because those people will never mess with you again, and people aren’t going to mess with me”.
Now, this child is, by her very nature, assertive, highly intelligent, direct and one of the most respectful children I know. That one comment from that young woman reminded me of who I am and that there are people, young and old, who respect me for who I am.
It also reminded me of something that us grown-ups often forget. People need honesty and clear direction, even though as adults, we find it all too uncomfortable.
Ask yourself this… How many times have you dealt with a situation or a person or wanted to question the status quo, or demand something you were too scared to demand?
So many people walk on egg shells in fear of upsetting others when in fact all they are doing is upsetting themselves. Knowing what you want and demanding what’s right for you or those people you are responsible for is not rude or arrogant. It’s what we all need to move forward with clarity and direction.
Now, you may not aspire to earn the respect of a young teen, but I warn you, this will be to your detriment, because our children often teach us more about life than our peers ever will. Kids have the greatest, most honest opinions which have not been twisted, disrupted and shadowed by society – you just have to open your ears and listen.
#7 – Listen to your Instincts, Go with your Gut!
The first couple of weeks in business I received what I would describe as a disgruntled message from a lady I knew who was annoyed I didn’t sell plus size clothes.
Now, in my defence, I wasn’t trying to make anyone feel excluded, my shop is tiny and it was impossible for me to accommodate everyone, it’s just a basic fact.
But instead of listening to my instincts, something I knew wouldn’t work in my store, I brought in a plus size collection that, guess what… people didn’t buy!
So, remember you can’t please all of the people all of the time, never apologize for that and always listen to your instincts, they will lead you in the direction you’re meant to be going.
So, when it’s all said and done, I think the message I’m trying to offer is to follow your heart, be true to yourself, trust your abilities, surround yourself with people who see and value your vision, learn from the innocence of youth, and flick the bird at anyone who says you can’t or says you shouldn’t, because, ultimately they are judging you by their limitations, not yours x
Thank you to those of you who shared in my dream, to Angela and Lisa who have always been more to me than employees.
Thank you to my husband who just lets me do my thing with total support and without judgment.
Thank you to my children who inspire me to be myself so I can teach them by example to live their lives with a strong work ethic, honesty, respect and integrity.
Thank you to my dad who walks beside me everyday and who taught me that win, lose or draw, seize every opportunity that comes your way.
Thank you to the staff, some who stayed the course, some who didn’t, but all that reminded me that everyone has something great to offer.
And a final thank you to our customers, we hope you enjoyed the experience Emily’s Closet offered to the Downtown Charlottetown shopping and retail community.
Our sale continues until 5pm on August 30th 2019. Please ensure any gift cards in your possession are redeemed in full as we are unable to process Emily’s Closet gift cards after that time.
This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice, nor is it intended to solicit buyers or sellers currently in contract with other members of the PEIREA. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2019 Melanie Press Real Estate.