Starting My Boutique

In an earlier blog, I think it was the one about my birthday week? I talked about the gift that Josh got me and it was Christy Wright's business Boutique Planner for 2020. I think I mentioned how it sounds lame, but really I'm super excited to use it! Well, I wanted to quickly talk about who she is, why I am so excited to use it and how I discovered her etc.

My husband about 3-4 years ago back when we were dating actually told me about Christy Wright. We were listening to the Dave Ramsey Podcast in the car and Dave Ramsey brought her name up. He was talking about her Business Boutique event in Nashville. Josh told me that she just started her own podcast, talking about how to start your own business and how to do it and the steps. Basically she walks you through on how to start and run your own business. It's mostly directed towards women, but really anyone can listen to it, it works for literally anyone. So I downloaded her podcast and started listening to it on my own. Started getting inspired and wanted to start my own thing one day, but didn't know exactly on what to start. I was in school at the time for massage therapy, so literally had no idea on what business is best for me. I just knew someday it would be awesome to start my own thing. I was learning so much from her podcast it was all so interesting! Shortly after Josh bought me her book for either my birthday or Christmas!

I honestly didn't read it right away because I was in school for massage therapy. Side note just to clear the air for everyone that thinks I went a weird route like going to school for massage therapy. I know. I'm well aware of it. I was $10,000 in debt from student loans that my dad had to cosign on. I was wrapping up my year at UW Milwaukee with no degree and in debt, I was going to have to start paying that debt back soon. I had no job and the only job I could get was one that paid minimum wage since I had no degree. I was 20 years old ready to move out of my parents house, but couldn't since I had no money. I was sick of school and didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. So yeah I decided I needed anything, any job that paid more money. I went to Madison College one day and looked at the short degrees ones that were 3 month programs to 2 year programs. Saw that the massage therapy program was only a 1 year program and I could pay for it with cash working part time somewhere. The plan was to take the program get licensed and do massage therapy for the time being until I figured my life out. 

And that's exactly what happened! So fast forward a bit, I started reading Christy Wright's book and making a business plan for when I opened up my own massage therapy business. I wasn't sure at all about this massage therapy business, like if I wanted to do this for life or even if I would like doing this. I was so back and forth on it; one day I really wanted to open my own office up, the next day I wasn't so sure about it. Everyday I was talking to Josh about it just back and forth on if I wanted to do this or not. And I remember every time Josh would tell me, "you never know unless you try it." The only way you're going to know if you like something is if you give it a shot. Josh told me to try it out for a couple of months and if you end up not liking it close it down. Easy as that. Doesn't matter what people think of you. Trial and error is how you'll figure out what your calling is. 

So I got about half way through the book, I stopped at where I was at at the time of my business plan. I followed along chapter by chapter of what she was saying. It's nice cause in her book she has work sheets throughout it that really help you dial in on the EXACT goal for that specific step you're in, in your business plan. So for example; lets say it's the chapter that talks about accounting she goes into detail on how to do the accounting, how to price your service or products, how to account for shipping costs if you have them, what items you NEED to open your business (NOT wants), how much those will cost, how to budget for them, she even has suggestions for software and templates to keep track for the products you have and how to organize your accounting books, and has ideas for packaging items for shipments, etc. She really breaks down each step of the way, so everything is covered in your business plan. 

I opened up the massage therapy office gave it a go for about 3 or 4 months and decided that owning my own massage therapy office isn't for me. I wasn't excited to go in for work, I didn't see myself owning this office for years out, if we moved (which we did end up moving) I would have to start all over building up a clientele. Basically, after trying it for a bit I learned I didn't want to do this for the rest of my life. Or another way to put it, trial and error haha. 

About a month went by after I closed down the massage office and I was doing some thinking, trying to think of something I would be interested in trying next. Josh and I went to the flea market that was right by our church at the time when we were living in NC. It was the first time we ever went there, but we heard good things about it and it's something to do on a weekend if you're bored. Walked through it and we came across this little boutique. It was so cute I loved it! It was just this little space all run by this girl that was my age and literally everything in her shop I loved. I seriously wanted to buy everything. I never felt like that before or came across any store like that, where I wanted to buy everything. Like literally every single piece of clothing I wanted. I even turned to Josh and told him that. AND to top it off it was all reasonably priced. Like it wasn't $80 for a dress everything was in the twenty dollar range. I ended up buying a dress and talked to the owner asking her some questions; how she got into doing this, running this boutique, finding the clothes, how she got into the flea market, questions like that. Here's her facebook page if you want to check it out: Hannah B's Boutique 

After we got back from the flea market I just felt so inspired from this literal maybe 5-10 minute conversation with Hannah (the owner of the boutique at the flea market). I'm talking with Josh how I would love to make my own hours, I would love to go shopping for things I like and sell them, I would love to have my own little shop or website. Everything I was thinking from that conversation was checking the boxes with what I think I would love to do full time! I say "thinking" because at the time discussing this with Josh, I didn't want to just assume I would love doing this. So this went back to what I was talking about before. You won't ever know if you like something until you try it out. Josh and I talked and got a little business plan ready, I was ready to give this boutique thing a shot. I set a date that I wanted to launch and get the ball rolling in November 2018, which was literally the next month I only gave myself a month to start this boutique haha.

I did it though! It was a lot of paper work that I needed Josh's help with figuring out North Carolina rules and regulations. I ended up having to do a lot of research on where to order from manufacturers. I had no clue even where to start with that process. I went to Facebook and saw that Christy Wright has a whole separate Facebook page called "Business Boutique" that's for everyone to join. I joined that group, typed in "manufacturers into the search bar and found hundreds of discussions on manufacturers. Another good option that helped a lot is Youtube. There's so many boutique owners on Youtube that have videos on manufacturers they use.  

One of the biggest problems I had that took a while to figure out for me. After you find the manufacturer they don't let you order off of it. It says you need an EIN or business license to order AND you have to have a bill or statement for proof that you've ordered from manufacturers before. So I'm thinking, "how do you order from a manufacturer for your first time when you need proof that you've ordered from a manufacturer before? Like that doesn't make sense how am I supposed to get started?"

What happened and I'm sure this goes for anyone starting out. Is you create your account, you think you're good to go, find some stuff you want, put it in the cart and.... you can't order it. So to start you have to have a business license or EIN number, depending on what state you're in. I'm over here so frustrated, because you get this far and you're so excited for your first order and it's not letting me order. So I had to go back and learn how to get an EIN number or business license and for all knew I could have had that number already and not even known it. Because each state calls these numbers different things. I thought I had all the paperwork filled out already, which is why I was thinking I had it already? I ended up trying out some other manufacturers on my list to see if they asked for the same thing and they did. But, again each manufacturer was calling these numbers different things. I ended up finding this girl and her mom in North Carolina that just started their own boutique. They started about 3 months before I opened up my boutique. I messaged her on Instagram asking if we could meet up, I had some questions about starting up a boutique. Met up with her at Starbucks and it went super well! I got so many questions answered and so many tips on where to buy packaging stuff for shipping, good apps to use that are handy, she answered all of my paperwork questions, shelving type stuff for if I want to go to a pop up shop, names of other manufacturers, told me how she emailed the manufacturers on how to order product without proof that you've ordered from one before, etc. Just so extremely helpful and it was really only an hour or hour and half conversation. I Got back home got the EIN number I needed. To go around that rule with proof of ordering from a manufacturer before, Josh actually came up with the idea of just ordering from Alibaba. So I ordered a ring to start off with, just to get that statement for prove that I've ordered from a manufacturer and it actually worked! I uploaded the screen shot of the receipt they give you and it worked they approved it! Hint Hint to if you're starting out in your boutique. The girl I met with at Starbucks told me this... Is the people that check that "statement" or "proof of ordering from manufacturers before" whatever you want to call it. Once you upload the statement they are pretty lenient, so try and not stress about it. Like they accepted my Alibaba statement, just don't get stressed or discouraged about it. 

Boutique I met with if you want to checker her store out: Haute Boutique

That was one of the more complicated things I had to figure out. The next one that took a little bit long, not necessarily hard, but time consuming. It was making this Shopify website. I mean I never made a website before or even thought about making one. So when I was reading that it's a good idea to get one, I knew it was going to be time consuming. I think I heard Joe Rogan advertising how he likes Shopify and Square Space, so I decided to give Shopify a go and see how it went. So far I really like it! I haven't had any issues with it when it comes to people ordering stuff and I really like this blog section that they have, it's easy to use. Making a website like this Shopify one is more of, you have to schedule in a specific day to sit and work on this and get it done. You have to be patient and learn how to use it. It's not like it's going to take an hour to do. It probably took me a solid 2 days working on and off to get it done. It's fun though knowing I learned a new skill, a skill I didn't think I would have ever known before! And it was actually kind of fun! To give myself the benefit of the doubt though remember my husband Josh is a software engineer, so if there was something really difficult I couldn't figure out or I was spending hours on and still couldn't get it to work. I would ask Josh if he could take a look at it and show me how to fix it. 

Once the website was up and running, got all the paperwork I needed to run the boutique and had about 5ish products to sell. I was ready to look for my first market or pop up shop to try out. Finding pop up shops/markets to sell at, are till this day, so difficult to find. I applied to SO MANY markets and pop up shops in North Carolina. And no luck at any of them. All of them and I mean literally all of them were either full or the application fee to apply was crazy expensive. Full as in they already had enough vendors selling at that market. And the application fee for  some that I found were hundreds of dollars to apply. I know what what people are thinking too, "just pay the fee and get into the market and stop complaining." Looking at it from my point of view, I'm a brand new boutique that's just starting out. I have a budget for running a boutique. I'm not going to spend more than I make thats stupid and a good way to have a failing business right away. I gave myself a certain amount to spend on this boutique each month. So with that being said I'm not going to spend hundreds of dollars on the application fees to potentially not make that money back in the market. I only had like 5 products at the time to sell there was no way I was going to make that money back that I spent on the application fee. Once I have more products and have been running the business longer, then that would make more sense to pay the application fee and go into the market, but this early on no that wouldn't make sense. Another thing to point out is those application fees were also not a guaranteed spot. So I could fill it out and pay and not be picked for the market still, if that makes sense. 

Something that's still annoying and that I'm still dealing with, are the markets in Seattle. This has happened in NC and WA, is a lot of places put you on the "waiting list". I'll apply to a market and they'll email me back saying something along the lines that their market is full. But, if someone drops out they'll contact me, so for now they'll put me in this "waiting list." Here's the thing though... year after year, week after week, month after month. These markets have the same vendors in them, I don't think they cycle through vendors, they keep the same ones there. Josh and I went to a lot of markets when we were living in North Carolina. There was a few of them that were weekly markets and we went to them just for something to do, but each time it really was the same vendors. We went expecting maybe there will be different vendors so we can get some shopping done, but it was all the same. So after moving here to Seattle now and visiting the markets and applying to them. I'm coming across the same fricken issue. These markets are full and they don't change up the vendors EVER. So how is any new business like mine, how are people supposed to get their businesses up and going and getting their name out there when all these markets don't change up the vendor list? I actually think this is a serious issue. Like how am I supposed to get my foot in the door and try out a market/pop up shop when they just stick to the same vendor list, they never change it up or give new boutiques like a mine a shot. I've never gotten contacted back from this "waiting list" to come to a market. They tell me if someone drops out from a market they'll get a hold of me. Well it's been over a year at this point and guess what... NEVER BEEN CONTACTED. I don't know if this "waiting list" if it's even a thing, at this point. Like do they actually have a list or do they just tell people that. Cause I've even followed markets up months later asking if there's any spots that opened up. And same response, "We'll put you on the waiting list." I don't know it's like I see it from both sides like of course a market is going to stick with reliable vendors that they know, so the market makes money. But from my point of view, people in the same boat as me that are new to all of this, we can't even get a shot at it unless they change up the vendors once in awhile. 

Anyway that was a little rant I had, I think I'm going to make a separate blog about that, going into more detail. So back to what I was saying I've been having trouble finding markets and pop up shops. Until Josh and I came across this Raleigh Flea Market in North Carolina.This is the same market that I found that Hannah B Boutique. I reached out to them and it looked right up my alley, they hit all the boxes I was looking for. They were reasonably priced, the application was straight forward, there was no crazy fees or membership type thing, anyone was allowed to show there. And it not just handmade items, you can sell almost anything there. It was perfect! I called up the flea market, I think it was $40 for the weekend and you're squared away. Because the space I was at was outside (it costs more to have an inside space), I had to get a tent incase it rained. I also needed to get a table to obviously, put the clothes and jewelry on. No big deal went to Walmart and grabbed those things for this flea market. But when that flea market rolled around it was a NIGHTMARE putting that dang tent up. It took forever and it took both Josh and I to get that thing up! It was not all easy peasy like it said on the box lol!

My goal for that flea market was to make 1 sale that's it. I didn't want to set the bar high and then be disappointed when it didn't happen. I didn't want to go in expecting to sell everything when this was truly my first market. I knew it wasn't going to be all perfect on my first market ever, when does that ever happen in any situation ya know?! The other goal I had for this market on a separate note, was to take a mental note on what other people are doing at this market. How are they making sales, how does their booth look, any questions we had we asked them. Josh and I took turns walking around and talking with other vendors. Just learning what we needed to do differently for future markets. Josh and I showed up the whole weekend and we did it! I made 1 sale and I was so happy about it! I've made sales online, so it wasn't like my first sale ever, but it was my first sale at a market. And I was ecstatic about it! That's what happens when you set the bar low, it feels a 1,000 times better when you reach it. 

The market went great we learned a ton and accomplished the 1 sale! The big take away from this market, was I need more product. Everyone had so much stuff in their booths it was drawing people into their tents, it forced people to take a sec and look around. Versus my booth I had 1 table with like 5 things on it, so people were just walking by and glancing at it. So I did just that, we budgeted in each month to get more product! As each month went I had a little bit more product and was putting it up on the website and posting it to other social media avenues. I made some jewelry sales here and there online. While I was posting it on other websites, keep in mind I was still searching for other markets I could be a vendor at. I don't want people to think I just gave up. No no no I was forever applying to markets. 

May 2019 rolled around and that's when Josh got the job at Amazon! We up and moved to Seattle WA right away. After we got all settled into our new apartment that's when we talked and decided that this move is a good way to start fresh. It was actually Josh's idea that this is a good starting point for me to dedicate my time fully into this boutique. And that's when I started writing these blogs! I was thinking about starting a blog a long time ago, but didn't think I had a very interesting life haha. But, after some thought and using this move as a fresh start, that's when I decided who cares. I want to start a blog, I think I'll enjoy it and I can look back on these and read them. At the same time I was also doing more research on manufacturers and whole sale companies. I started trying out different websites and apps to sell stuff and looking into more avenues for marketing. I was even looking into markets to be a vendor at in Seattle. I figured because it's a bigger city there would be more markets. 

Shortly after we moved around the 4th or 5th month of being here, so October or November 2019. That's when I seriously started considering Youtube. I've been told to start a Youtube channel when I was way younger, but was to nervous and didn't have any confidence on camera. I hated hearing my voice and again I didn't have an interesting life or anything. So around this same time is when Josh sent me this Gary Vee powerpoint. Gary Vee sent a powerpoint out on his birthday (which is the same day as mine November 14). This powerpoint was about; the different social media avenues to post content on, what content to put out, how often to post, apps that help create unique content, how to make content, the list went on. It was so encouraging and helpful, it kind of confirmed that I'm going to start a Youtube channel. The powerpoint was really what I needed to pull the trigger and start uploading more content, is the best way to put it. So after Christmas I made an account on a couple different social media avenues. I made a Youtube channel, I made a TikTok account, LinkedIn account, I downloaded some apps that'll help make content. And then made my first Youtube video! So far I'm really enjoying making the content actually! I'm hoping to keep up with Youtube because I've been enjoying it so much. And I think I'm doing a good job at keeping up with posting throughout the day and staying engaged with people. Which, is the whole point of this Gary Vee powerpoint he sent out to people.

In November so around the same time as this whole Gary powerpoint. I found a poster at our church advertising of a market that they need vendors! I'm thinking FINALLY this is exactly what I've been looking for! No application fee, the church provided the table and chairs, no percent of sales you have to give to the market, they do all the advertising. It was all just simply sign up and show up. Well this market went FANTASTIC, I mean seriously this market exceeded my expectations. I don't want to toot my own horn, but I sold so many things. I mean I was surprised at how well it went! We're all allowed to celebrate our wins right!? We're allowed to be proud of ourselves! After this market and looking at how well we did, this was when I really put my foot down and said, "okay I really need to get into the market and pop up shop scene. I need to be a regular vendor somewhere." And that's what lead to my long search into markets. That's also what lead into my potential next business adventure. I'll talk about in a different blog posts because it's a longer conversation. 

But, I'm bringing up Gary Vee because I think a lot of what he says ties into what Christy Wright talks about in her book. So I think they went kind of hand in hand into where I am today. I'm actually in the middle of re reading her book again right now in February. Just a refresher maybe I'll pick up on some things now, from when I read it the first time a year or two ago. 

Where I'm at right now though, I've been posting everyday and creating Youtube videos I have a bunch that are on deck that are ready to get edited. I've been doing my best with keeping up with writing blogs. I've been posting on Instagram stories daily. I've been teaching myself how to edit videos, which is a whole new skill for me. I've been researching on how start a market and run it. I think it's going well and I'm slowly figuring things out on the direction I want to go and what else I want to learn! 

I hope this is helpful and you get something out of it. My biggest advice is to really  just go for it. The thing that held me back was being nervous, not confident, and making excuses. When really I just had to do it, I had to just sit and make that video for Youtube and upload it. I just sat and made a website. I reached out and got into a market. All of this happened because I went for it, I pulled the trigger, I ignored all of the doubts and just did it. I didn't care what people thought of me, just focus on you and what you're doing! Christy Wright and Gary Vee were both the people that really pushed me to just go for it, so I suggest looking into them check them out. I'd be willing to bet they'll help you in some way! Cause I think I'm close to finding my calling. 

Thanks for reading everyone!

Brittany

 

 

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