Sunday, May 3, 2009

No Excuses Edition

Ah, things seem to have suddenly gotten away from me- sickness combined with aggressively promoting a new store event left me with little time to think about this poor neglected blog. No more!

A great video on small business that are thriving in this down economy. The trick? Be different, be flexible, and the customers will find you! I'll take a motivational story any day, thank you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Biz Ladies @ design*sponge

I love the idea of Grace's Biz Ladies posts so very much. I truly look forward to every Tuesday when people just like myself- small business owners- share their tips, tricks, ideas, and amazing talents. If you're not reading, you should be!

Today a few of my favorite retail tips are posted- I'm honored to be included in this project!

(*image via design*sponge)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Retail Tip- Display!

Let’s talk display! What helps you get the most of out of the way you display? Running my shop, I've had some great help and happy accidents, and found these tips have helped me along the way...

- Height. Gotta have it. Make the most of your displays by adding levels of interest. Use boxes, vintage luggage, crates, tall floral, or amazing vertical lighting to keep people’s interest moving around your display.

- Use similar colors. Make groupings of like color for a simple and truly effecting displays. Mix like colors- teal/blue, pinks/reds, or black/white/grey to move people’s attention from group to group. I get the most comments on a display when I saturate the mix with many hues of the same color!

- Collect great vessels of every size. Whenever I’m shopping for vintage for SITE, I always look for great vintage planters, like McCoy Pottery (perfect for little items, like matchbooks or soaps that need keeping), serving trays, suitcases/trunks, and other great vessels that catch my eye. I also heavily rely on my local arts and crafts store (for me, Michaels) and IKEA for coming up with new ways to display things. When in doubt, stick with a theme- I like inexpensive crates from Michaels that I paint with Floral Spray Paint to give them an uneven and somewhat vintage/rustic look. Not your thing? Why not use the ever popular chalkboard paint on just about any simple container and write the price and a fun fact about those items right on the front- people love it when I do this and its affordable and easy to change!

- Move it around! No matter how you do it- perfectly staged rows or the more naturally staged look, make sure you update and change your displays often. I rely heavily on a great steady stream of regulars and if they’re bored, I’m in trouble. Even moving 2-3 products around makes them stop and wonder what’s new.

- Make good use of furniture. If you sell furniture, use the seat of a chair to display that great new tote you just got in, or a stack of vintage magazines. Tables should be staged as you’d like to see them in your own home, but don’t hide too much of the beauty of the furniture for sale- I often get carried away, and before you know it customers are saying, “I had no idea that was for sale” ...Ooops!

- Be creative with jewelry. Jewelry can be hard- do you hide in under glass or keep it out for people to touch, try on, and unfortunately, sometimes abuse? Keeping those little bits and bobbles accessible is a good strategy for those pieces that are not terribly expensive. I love collecting vintage glove molds for necklaces and rings, using tall props and clips for earrings, or my new favorite, a great bulletin board for pinning up an ever changing assortment of earrings, necklaces, and pins. Frame your bulletin board in simple hardware store molding cut with a miter saw (Or! We had our local framer make a decorative edge and assemble ours for a steal!) for a more traditional look or keep the metal or wood edge showing for a more retro look!

ET Says: Here are our top 3 favorite quick, cheap, and fun ways to display:

1. Galvanized Bins like this one- impossible to destroy, easy to move around, and mixes well with so many different styles! We use the really large size for our ever changing pillow selection.

2. Colored Stones like these make a splash on dishware or to cradle delicate jewelry. We also love to nest clear glass vases on these colorful pebbles to make the items really sing!

3. Unfinished Wood items like these make us weak in the knees. Covered in paint or customized with your logo, these are a practical way to store just about anything. Why not create some amazing signage for your displays with these?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Save local business- 3/50

Have a brick and mortar store? There is an interesting movement, 3/50 going around that aims to save the local businesses that built America. Click above, read more, and sign up for their newsletters....and SHOP LOCAL!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Beauty of Economic Crisis

These images of closed stores, while somewhat disturbing, are tender and beautiful and too amazing not to share. Many are stores near where I grew up, I especially love the image of Frank's, a nursery and craft store I spent many, many hours at with my wild and overgrown. With each failure, there is room for newer and better in its place...

See the full slide show here.

(All images by Brian Ulrich c/o Time)

Now Reading...

Lovin' the aptly titled, "On top of everything else, recession is annoying."


A great article filled with lots of DON'TS for all business owners.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Keep In Touch!

How do you stay in contact with your customers? Here are some easy ways to really stand out from the crowd and keep your business in front of those who keep you in business!

1. Keep those contacts comin’! Make sure you make every effort to collect those pesky customer emails. I make sure to at minimum keep a sign up sheet by the register and an easy to use sign up box on our website too. Or! What about offering a drawing, raffle or other incentive to keep those emails rolling in? Have a webshop? Make sure you are capturing emails and putting them into whatever email management system you are using.

{ET says:} While we’re at it. Make sure you send regular, but not too frequent emails to your customers. Don’t be a spammer either, you must collect those emails, don’t go stealing them off blogs or other sites. And don’t be offended when people want to opt out of your list- it’s not personal.

2. Write and say hi! My best friend and Etsy store owner, Em makes amazing postcards of her beautiful vintage wares with Moo, and then hand writes notes to customers thanking them for their purchases and reminding them she has lots of great stock. And her customers LOVE them! Not only are the postcards pretty, but they are so very personal in a digital age. Take the time to do something from the heart and you’ll be thrilled with the results.

{ET says:} We love for cheap, reliable printing of postcards, stickers and other lovely promotional material!

3. Make your emails the best they can possibly be. Use marketing management like Constant Contact or other alternatives to make sharp, professional looking emails. Image really is everything and these low cost services are worth their weight in gold.

Try adding some of these sections to make your emails really sign: Staff favorites, New Product, Events, Featured Artists, What’s Hot (even if that just means sharing what music you’re playing, what new shops you love in your area, etc), or any other Givaways you might be having.

{ET says:} Click here for a fantastic list of alternatives to the ever popular Constant Contact!

4. Don’t forget about the ever popular social media sites. Free networking is never a bad thing. Just make sure your pages on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and the sort are clean and easy to use, properly branded, and add value to your business. Make sure all your pertinent info is there: phone, address, website, and anything else that your customer needs to get in touch with you. After all, that’s the point!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

ET says: Watch This Now!

Design For Mankind - Dialogue Episode 2 from Design For Mankind on Vimeo.

Another fantastic Dialogue series by Erin. Budgets and money are certainly no stranger to the small business owner, and these videos not only give sage advice, but remind all of us that the lifestyle is totally do able!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Recession Babies and What To Do Now!

A small, but motivating, list of companies that were founded during economic times like our own. If they can do it, why can't we?

Also motivating, Startups: The Upside of a Downturn over at Business Week. Go. Read. Now. {ET says: especially helpful for tech companies, start ups, and the like!}

Reasons to keep those businesses growing, open, and thriving in a down economy...

- Bad markets= less competition for your new venture
- Lower startup costs
- It's easier to find (and keep!) great talent
- Less rush- expansion and product launches can be done at a better pace

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Blogs We Love

They say it best, so take it away ladies...

"Welcome to BAKERY’s blog, where you will find tips and educational tidbits on growing your business via this crazy thing we call the Internet."

While you're at it, they also provide a wide variety of consultation and support for businesses in need.

- Learn what RSS feeds are
- How to network your blog
- How, what, and when to blog to be most effective

Take it from these pros, and you'll see great changes in your own busines's social networking!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Top Five Things We All Need To Know

Top Five Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know
{ET says: *ie. Like, one of the best articles I’ve read in sometime for small business people!}


1. Hire thee an intern- Ask them what they want, treat them very well, and you won’t be disappointed in the amazing things they can do for you!
2. Know hiring is difficult, if not back breaking work- Hire intern-to-staff for best results, make your Craigslist ads tough as hell, and know that even the best employee can go sour.
3. Get a bookkeeper, stat. Is there really more to say about this? No. We all hate QuickBooks, and it’s not a dirty secret. Pay someone how knows numbers, and focus on what you do well.
4. Connect with people anyway you know how- phone, Facebook, e-mail, networking groups, etc. Sharing is caring, people.
5. Frenemies- worth getting to know! People who do the exact same thing as you have a lot of knowledge about something you wanna know a lot about. Embrace your competitors and learn!

Picture from kudaker

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Blog Love

The ever fab Modish now has a blog dedicated to business gals and guys. Run, don't walk. Modish Biz Tips Blog.

{ET says: We love, love, love this post with Grace from d*s....I love how she talks us through the ups and downs of being a small biz person. Kudos!}

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Econ This Quotes

A friend always says this, and I think there is never a better time to remember- if you think you've got a great idea- do it! There are lots of great ideas out there, but make yours better and work harder, to stay ahead!

Lessons from The Great Depression

Using Lessons From The Great Depression on


-Reinvest in your business, even when you think you don't need to. Don't let your business suffer by taking large paychecks or spending money foolishly.

-Stay flexible! Wear many hats and if you have employees, let their skills shine. Train your staff in multiple tasks. If ever you need to cutback, your staff will be more flexible and able to pitch in where you need them, thus not wasting valuable capital.

{Picture from Library of Congress here}

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Econ This Quotes!

Just get out there and do it! Don't let the little things hold you up from doing something great for your business.


Sometimes, it’s hard not to believe in fate. Just as I was wondering how to get a little bit more out of my shop during these rather lean times, a customer came in and blew my mind about a PR list that is easy to use and, wait for it, FREE. And face it, public relations are an important part of your business you can't afford to ignore.

Peter Shankman’s HARO- Help A Reporter Out, is a quick and easy way to share news about your business. You simply sign up for the three times a day emails, and write to reporters who are looking to write stories that match your product/service. I’ve already pitched several products from my shop successfully and I look forward to each HARO email. It’s important to constantly stay in front of your customers, and finding easy ways to do that are a small business owner’s dream. HARO’s empire also includes twitter, iTunes videos, Facebook, and much more for those truly hooked into social networking. Try it out!

{pic via newsday}

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Take Action.

In ‘these times’ small business owners, particularly retailers might find themselves with a little extra (ok. A lot) time on their hands. What to do?

1. Create an event.
2. Call, email, or contact your customers the best way you know how.
3. Keep music playing throughout the day- make your space seem exciting!
4. Don't let the staff congregate in the store.
5. Ask (or politely tell) your customers to tell their friends and family about store specials or events.
6. Maximize the traffic you do have, engage customers.
7. Change your store around. {ET says: a friend of mine SWEARS by this. Touch everything in the store she says to bring new life to old product. It works, just try it}
8. Buy off-price- but stay true to what you set out to be. Vision is important.
9. Rework your inventory budget.
10. Move out merchandise that hasn't moved to increase your cash flow. SALE!
11. Buy just in time. {ET says: I try to do this as much as possible, but if you are an online retailer like we are, it’s hard to not have sufficient inventory on hand. Know what works for you and stick to it.}
12. Get the store in tiptop shape for when traffic picks up in the spring. See #7!
13. Call your vendors and see if there are extra good deals being offered to freshen up your merchandise. New sells, period.

{Tips inspired by the great ideas for retailers over at One Coast! Picture from flickr.}

Friday, February 20, 2009


Freakoutonomics in New York Magazine.

This is it, the article that really got me going, made me reassess what I was doing as a small business owner, and ultimately lead me here to starting a blog. I won't deny, I'd been ignoring the news pretty much since the election, just unable to stomach all the bad news and the copious amounts of data being churned out. This article seemed both easy to digest and insightful; I've read over it several times now. Retailers of all types will enjoy the pearls of wisdom embedded in this New York centric piece, but rest assured, the lessons are universal and worth incorporating into your own business.

-Carry lower priced gift items (soaps, jewelry, books*) that have high profit margins while still continuing to pursue higher price point items. Seems weird at first thought...higher prices in a down market? But! How can you ever make your same sales figures selling less? You can't. I know I'm continuing to find high priced, quality items for my customers while seeking out these quick pick up gift items.

- Reinvent yourself or at least be willing to change. Be flexible if somethings not working.

- Have a plan. Have a plan. Have a plan.
got it? More on this later...

- Stay positive! Retail is an experience and no one wants to see a sad shopkeeper. People use shopping as an escape, stay upbeat, happy, and smile. Even when things are rough, customers are looking to you for a positive experience in their day.

*{ET says: Books always scare me. They're often pre-priced, thus limiting the markup and cost a TON to ship. In addition, the store's copies, which are much needed for quality flip-through-before-buying-time always go to shit and need to be written off or sold at a discount, buyer beware}