by Kalen Ruiz | Featured Contributor
Three and a half years ago, I resigned from a job I once loved but no longer felt was giving me what I needed. Other than a salary, that is. As with any career, there were good days and bad and I started to wonder what other opportunities might be out there. For me, always in the back of my head was the dream of opening a vintage clothing boutique. My husband suggested I start with an online business so I could keep my day job (read: so we won’t be poor), but that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted a shop, a space to welcome friends new and old, to dress up mannequins, to merchandise, to share my passion with the world. Or at least, with Fort Worth, Texas.
I knew I had the basic skills to run a business, and now that my daughters were in their teens, I could be away from home more and devote the time necessary to the business. I mean, seriously, they needed to learn how to do laundry anyway. The great looming questions were, of course, the money ones. Where would it come from? Will I make any? Will everyone in my house hate me when we cancel cable and I insist that the air-conditioner not be turned on until June 1? Today, those are still the great looming questions. But, the one question that superseded them all, was will I regret it if I don’t give it a shot? The answer, obviously, was yes. So, with the amazing support of my husband and my daughters, I have been able to pursue my dream.
So, what have I learned so far? Lots. But if you considering taking this plunge, here are a few tips to help you find your way:
- Love, Love, Love what you do. This, my friends will become your life. It’s like having a child. If you can’t see yourself spending 24/7/365 with this business, then parenthood might not be for you. Even if you are fortunate enough to be able to hire people so you don’t have to physically be at the business all the time, it will still be your baby. I get people in my shop weekly who are completely clueless about shopping for vintage. They ask questions like, “Do people actually BUY and WEAR this stuff?” (no, not really, I just had a burning desire to rent a space that I could fill with crap no one wants.) It’s akin to asking a new mom, “Are you really going to take pictures of that baby? Who would want to see those?” If you don’t love what you do, you are insulted, or worse, start to doubt yourself. Not everyone will understand or feel the need to support your endeavor. But, assuming you have done the research and are being smart about this business, your passion will be what sustains you and puts that smile on your face to answer all those stupid questions. Which brings us to the next point…
- Be a smart business person. Do your research. Talk to people in the industry, check out the SBA website, join relevant forums and groups on LinkedIn, poll your friends on everything regarding the business; hours, location, etc. Even if they may not be your primary target market, they will know someone who is. But above all, do the math, then do the math again, then add 20% to expenses and do the math again. Business plans are a great way to help your organize your thoughts and the vision and goal for your business. Think with your brain, trust your instincts, and you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way.
- Use people, regularly. I may know everything necessary to buy and sell vintage clothing, but my knowledge of anything technical is limited to the phone number of that cute boy in IT at my previous company. Accounting question? Call accounting. Real estate question? Call real estate. Now, hello? Holy crap, it’s just me! I don’t know how to set up an LLC. What’s a franchise tax? Negotiate a lease? I have no idea. You can’t know everything, but I promise you, within your network of friends and friends of friends there is someone who knows or can do just about anything you need them to do. And 99% of the time, they are more than willing to help out a friend who is starting a new venture, sometimes for free! Just remember to pay it forward, people.
So, how do you feel now? Excited? Scared? Overwhelmed? Sister, this is just the beginning. But it’s YOUR beginning. Dive on in!
For vintage musings, fashion commentary, Texas braggardism and other random streams of thought, follow Kalen on Twitter, @BessandEvies.
Kalen Ruiz is a native Texan who discovered the exciting world of vintage clothing during her days as a Fashion Merchandising Major at Texas Christian University. Flea markets, thrift stores, estate sales, and the antique/junk/vintage shop across the street from campus became part of her regular rotation of destinations on the never-ending hunt for vintage treasures. Her trips back home to El Paso would inevitably consist of digging through closets at her parents’ and grandparents’ homes to see what might be found there. Cowboy boots of every color and skin from her dad’s days at the Tony Lama Boot Factory were sadly not in her size, but the array of western belts were quickly snatched up and taken back to Fort Worth. Her grandma Evie’s closets produced a sea of tulle and taffeta that were her aunt’s prom dresses from the 1960s and a collection of coats that sadly Grandma was not ready to part with yet. Grandma Bess, being Scottish had countless handkerchiefs and wool tartans made in to dresses and skirts to add to the treasury. After a career in buying, merchandising, E-commerce and operations with a national home furnishings retailer, Kalen pursued her dream and opened Bess & Evie’s Vintage, a vintage clothing boutique in Fort Worth, Texas in May 2010. Her favorite part of the job is still the thrill of the hunt, but also loves helping people find their own treasures in her boutique.