Wednesday, May 30, 2012

day 29: an interview with stella says go

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When I was in Texas this past March, I had the extreme pleasure of working with Stella Says Go as their brand ambassador for the Tecas Style Council Conference.  I absolutely loved working with the store's owners Natalie and Amy.  Not only were they totally down to earth, generous and just all around fun ladies, they are also small business owners.  I just stand in awe when I meet people who take on opening their own retail business and then work to expand it to an online business.  Thank to the internets, the possibilities are endless!

Natalie was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.  If you want to know more, you can find Stella Say Go at their online store, Blog, Twitter and Facebook.  Link up!
(Side note: I just went to their site to retrieve all of their links and got completely distracted by the new arrivals.  Bright colors and shiny objects...)

Tell us a little bit about your business and how long you've been established.
 Stella Says Go opened in 2010. We are a shoe store in Austin, Texas, dedicated to the concept that shoes can be cute, comfortable, and affordable. 

In what phase of your life did you decide to persue your own business venture?
 I am a mother of four-year-old twins, so this has definitely been a busy time to launch a new business. It would have been impossible for me if not for a partnership with Amy. She, meanwhile, has gotten married since we opened, and is now expecting her first baby in the fall, so it's been a time of transition in her life from single to family. Starting and running a business is really time- and brain-consuming. There is no real work/life balance; it's more like flow from personal life to work life, and figuring out how to control that flow. In many ways, having a business is like having another child, in that you want to nurture it and help it to grow. A lot of you goes into the business.

More specifically, what made you decide to open a boutique?
 I moved to Austin in 2008, and my business  partner Amy Filbin moved here the following fall. Coming from California and New York, respectively, we both love independently owned stores and both had our favorites in San Francisco and New York. We found that there were many great clothing boutiques here in Austin, but very few independently owned shoe stores, none of which focused on really cute, unique shoes. Amy and I share a mutual friend, Llyndara Harbor, owner of Stella-Mae in Burlington, VT. Her shoe store added clothing a few years ago, and has been in business for 9 years. We asked her to open a second store here in Austin that we could run, and instead she encouraged us to open our own store, which we ended up doing.

What were your biggest fears when you started your business?
 That no one would come in! But it is really true what they say -- if you build it, they will come, and we started selling shoes from the moment that the doors opened. More importantly (and more seriously), I did worry that we wouldn't be able to effectively do all that needed to be done to manage the business, because there is just so much to do.. 

What did you learn about your strength in over-coming those fears?
Having two people and a plan really helps. First of all, having another person to bounce ideas off of is invaluable. Also, partners are helpful because when one person gets down, the other can be the voice of optimism, or reason, or goofiness, if that is what's required. Writing things down, setting goals, and having priorities helps to push through as well.

What's the best part of owning your own shop?
 The best thing for both of us is being able to create and work for our dream, not the dream of some faceless, huge corporation. We feel like we are in control, which is great. And, we love our customers.

Any words of wisdom for all the budding entreprenuers out there?
 Make a business plan! Find a great partner! Have confidence! Realize that it costs a lot of money to start a boutique, but there are always ways to start small and work up to a store.

Lastly, what would you be doing right now if you hadn't started your own business?
 Before opening the store, I had started working as a wedding and family photographer, so I would probably be pursuing that. Amy would be working in energy conservation.

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