Tomorrow is one of my favorite "special" days...Small Business Saturday. I love small business owners and would like to encourage all of you to pick out at least one favorite and give them your support on this day!
One of my favorites in San Antonio is GARMENT EXCHANGE, owned by 51 year old, Marilyn Caskey.
Marilyn has been in fashion retail for many years and been in resale since 2008. She has become a friend and a place I love to stop by not just for shopping, but often for a chat. I love even more supporting women our age doing what brings them joy!
Marilyn is an impressive business woman and willing to share some advice:
1. Name your three greatest challenges as a small business owner today.
A. Ahhh, yes advertising! I have made several mistakes on advertising that didn't work and wasted a lot of money. Small businesses can't always keep up financially with the franchises and the way they advertise on radio, tv, etc. But I have learned that the best form of advertising is word of mouth from happy customers. The process takes longer, but you will build a stronger business with solid, strong customers. Ones that understand and respect the work that is involved in a small business. My focus is to find customer that are loyal and love the connections in small shops.
B. My business is always on a budget so I have to take on responsibilities I am not always crazy about like payroll, accounting, marketing and cleaning. At some point I will be able to hire more employees to take some of that off my plate but in the meantime I search online and figure a lot out on my own. Thank goodness for the “Google”. I would love to have a cleaning fairy come in at night and make it sparkling in the morning! Some day.
C. Another challenge for small businesses is signing contracts for different services like merchant account, security & cameras and advertising and not having attorneys on staff to look over the documents. A couple years ago I signed a 1 year contract for online advertising with a large company thinking it was for “1 year” and they used unethical practices to keep billing me and not cancelling my account. After trying to cancel for 6 months and still receiving an $1100 bill, I finally went to the BBB and was credited $700. I learned my lesson and no longer sign contracts even if they look simple. And before doing business with companies I suggest searching the internet for their reviews because it amazes me how many scams there are for small businesses. I guess we are easy targets. I think it would be great for small businesses to be able to work with St Mary’s University Legal students and have them look over simple contracts for small businesses. That is my next project!
2. Name your three top pieces of advice to women who are considering opening a small business.
B. Search out successful business owners and pick their brain. I met with John, owner of Second Looks (local men's resale) and asked for a bit of his time. He’s been in business for 30 years so I knew he had something to teach me. Then I emailed a successful resale store owner from Scottsdale, Arizona and asked if she could give me some guidance. I also meet with some of my good friends that are and have been successful in their careers. I bring the wine and ask for guidance and ideas. Never be afraid to ask for help.
C. Get yourself on a budget and be prepared to not bring in an income for maybe 1-3 years. Yikes! I am not even kidding. Find other ways to make money like ebay but don’t count on your business making oodles and oodles at the beginning.
3. What do you love most about what you do?
I absolutely love connecting with my customers; everyone has a story. One of the reasons I have to stay late at night to get my work done is because I am side tracked all day by people stopping by to chit chat. And I love it. I am so grateful for my loyal customers and the friends I have made.
I also love to see the recycling process at work... Consignors bringing in items they no longer want and then someone buying it to RELOVE the garment... It really is a beautiful thing.
While there, I bought my son three tops and my daughter a brand new faux-fur vest!! Why fight crowds, go small!Give your support and encouragement this holiday season to small businesses. They need it!
Happy Shopping! Stay safe and have fun!
San Antonio, for womens, teens, and mens resale visit Marilyn and Deidra at Garment Exchange.
16662 San Pedro, Park Oaks Shopping Center, 281@ Thousand Oaks