Thursday, September 5, 2013

shopkeeping, the first year ~

One year is here!

I'm still pinching myself wondering if I'm going to wake up and learn this past year of firsts has been a dream.  Seriously though, I know it's real and we've put in some major elbow grease and hard work over the last 12 months to bring my lifelong dream into fruition.  And what a year it's been!

{the shop the day we looked at it, sorry for the baaaaad photo}

{scoping out the interior}

So this blog post, I thought I'd write about things I've learned my first year as a brick and mortar shopkeeper.  Musings, thoughts, tips, trials, tribulations...............renderings of my journey so far that might help someone else whose considering following their dream of shop owning.  Obviously, I'm no expert, just a girl muddling through this thing with the help of her family and friends.  But I have definitely learned a thing a two over the past 12 months!

Every day, I'm asked three questions over and over and over by customers.

"Where do you get your stuff?"

So, that's kind of a loaded question for an indie shopkeeper.  First of all, it's no secret that we find our stuff in the same places that everyone else does...........we yard sale, we thrift, we auction, we rescue from the curb, we buy on Craigs List, we shop other stores.  The difference is that this is our life, our business, our passion, our source of income.  This is what we do.  And most of us have our own "secret" and favorite sources for our stuff that we'll likely never reveal.  We also buy and store/hoard for future use.  For example, I might buy something in February that I know will be the perfect start to a display in October.  But when you find it and it speaks to you, you've got to grab it!  With that being said, storage becomes an issue, so a big garage or storage facility becomes a necessity, and an additional expense.

"How is business?" {asked with sad puppy dog eyes and a sympathetic tone}

Again, a loaded question for us because it is literally a day by day scenario.  We never know what each day will bring.  There are so many contributing factors like weather, traffic, roadwork, time of year, day of the week, etc....  I have yet to figure it all out and likely never will.  I also knew going into this that I would not become the next Donald Trump or Les Wexner.  But I'm doing something that I love, I'm my own boss, I have creative control, I can work at midnight if I want to, I can close up shop for a day if I need to, and I'm not chained to a desk in a dark cubicle 8-10 hours a day.  So there's a ton of intangibles in it for me.  So when people ask me this question, "how's business?", I will generally respond with "really good" or "it's going great so far" or "I can't complain" or "so far, so good".  I don't have anything to compare it to yet, but trust me, I wouldn't be doing it if there wasn't some value in it for me.

"It must be so fun to do what you're doing!?!?"

This one always makes me a giggle a little bit, because, yes it is fun to do displays and chat with customers and look for stuff.  But guess what everyone, it's also WORK!  When I go out "picking", I'm not just buying willy-nilly, I'm thinking through every cent that I spend.  And then there's the hauling, cleaning, fixing, restoring, painting, pricing and displaying.  This stuff doesn't just fall in my lap, I have to go after it.  I spend my days off working in my dirty garage in pants and t-shirts covered in paint, with a hot respirator on my head, sweating like you wouldn't believe.  I spend hours and hours inventorying all of my goods so I can keep track of what I have and what my expenses are.  And then there's the business stuff like taxes and insurance and licensing etc etc that have to be maintained.  When I'm at the shop, it's not all just fun and flowers and pretty stuff, every down moment that I have, you'll see me tethered to my laptop doing my every day data entry, paperwork, photo editing and social media.  All in all, it's still a job.  BUT, it's a job that I LOVE!

So here I am at the one year mark feeling so very lucky to have had this opportunity in life.  An opportunity to follow my heart, pursue my passion, and live a simpler lifestyle.

I cannot believe it's been a year already!

My idea of success is likely completely different than the next person's.  I'm quite happy with my small space and the fact that I've managed this venture on an extremely tight budget and by just investing a small amount of money in myself and taking out no loans!

Having rented booths at local antique malls for the last 8 years and having worked at an antique mall, I had learned some basics that were helpful and transferable to owning my own small retail shop and I thought these things might be of interest to anyone toying with the idea of opening their own booth or shop............

  • Keep the space fresh and new!  It's a lot of work, but restyling the shop frequently is so important!
  • Build a brand that {however big or small that may be} that reflects YOU, YOUR style and YOUR values.
  • Be careful with the purse strings.  Every single day, I have numerous requests from various people asking me to buy their things.  I.CAN'T.BUY.EVERYTHING.  And it is imperative to maintain my aesthetic and to ALWAYS BE TRUE TO ME.  I have veered away from this motto from time to time, and I always regret it.  Sometimes you just have to say no.
  • Keep up with the paperwork!  Pay bills on time, keep track of receipts and expenses, be as organized as possible!
  • Reach out to other talented resources who are willing to work within your design aesthetic.  In the beginning, I had thought and hoped that I could do everything myself from painting furniture to making wreaths to resetting the shop.  It is impossible if I wanted to live a life.

I am really looking forward to another happy year ahead of me!  Sometimes I wish I could look into a crystal ball and see where this venture of mine might be heading, but honestly, I'm just enjoying the journey and looking forward to seeing it continue on!

Thank you for following along!

~ vintage love ~


P.S.  I am having a giveaway to celebrate my 1 year anniversary, however, you must be able to come to the shop to fill out an entry form to be entered to win.  You can see the giveaway on my Facebook Page here.   No shipping and no on-line entries.


must love junk said...

Polly, OMGosh, I can SO relate to this post!! I'm sure we could swap some stories-lol! ;)
Congrats on your 1 year anniversary-time goes so fast! I can't wait to visit your sweet shop next week :)

Sandi~A Cottage Muse said...

****Congratulations Polly****
Hoping to be able to visit one day!

Janet- OPEN MARKET STYLE said...

Sweet Polly your shop is sooooo much more than finding WONDERFUL goodies and seeing your FABULOUS displays it brings JOY !!!!!!!!

billie meeks said...

You have such a sweet shop. I wish you all the luck you can handle!!

Debra Oliver said...

what a wonderful post Polly, congrats on a great 1st year!!

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