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2 Months Young

(My nephew who came to visit from Holland making himself very comfortable at the shop.)

I've had the shop open for two months now. This makes me qualified to now give out small business advice and write a memoir on shop life.
Or not. I think the wiser thing to do would be to wait a year or two and look back with some of that good stuff called perspective and write from there. And probably when I look back in a year, I will laugh at some things I wrote here but I think it's kinda cool to just write some things down as they are happening. Because it's interesting and because I suspect some others have felt this way before or will feel this way sometime in the future...
Alrighty, here are some lessons and thoughts, edited back because this post was becoming a novel...

1. It costs more than you think it will. Though that could just be a general life lesson. When I first thought about the shop seriously, I threw out a number to Matt and I have easily doubled that figure since. Mind you, that figure was a very quick break down and before we ended up signing anything official, I wrote up a much more accurate and detailed budget. It's just that everything, everything costs money. And I have a small shop so I imagine the financial stress and lack of sleep that accompanies it just goes up by the square foot... Unless you are an excellent budgeter (and Gail Vox-Oxlade salutes you) or the space you have is ready to go just as you rented it, there are always things that you totally forget about. The two weeks before I opened the shop just felt like I was leaving a trail of cash-money with every step I took. And it's the cost of business, of getting a space ready and of stocking merchandise but it is an overwhelming feeling.

2. Two months into running a shop, I find that one of the hardest things is settling into the happy medium between the great days and terrible days. I've had some great days where the sales are stacked up on the counter and where people come in and 'get' what I am trying to do and are just so excited by the shop. On those days I feel like a straight up baller, like I am actually doing it and making good decisions and I should buy everyone a shot at the bar because it's actually happening!!!! Drinks on me.
And then there are days where it is dead as a door nail. And an amazing vintage dress you were so excited to put on the floor had a rip you didn't notice and it's hardly salvageable and the guy who cleans the windows comes by (p.s. he's amazing and works so hard!) and you pay him and you realize being open that day is costing you... Those days you have too much time to think and question and even though you know it's January and it is completely frozen outside, you freak out and think you just took out a loan and lost sleep over the worst idea you have ever had. Your merchandise is all wrong and what are you even doing?
It's funny because so many people warned me of the January blues and you know it will be OK, but on that day, you just want to whine. And so I mope to Matt, he tells me it will be OK, I probably eat something and then indeed, I wake up the next day with excitement and energy again. Sleep and the dawn of a new day are beautiful things.

3. Get business cards. I need to do this still. I thought everyone did everything online and that a quick google search was a necessary step of planning a day out, but I was wrong. Business cards, still very relevant.

4. Classical music is the music you get least sick of. It's not my favourite music, I much prefer to wail along to a pop song but if you are sitting in the shop, classical music is very soothing background music and will not mess with your mind like hearing Lorde for the 439th time... Sometimes though, I need a pick me up and then I do crank SkyScraper and perform a little lyrical dance in the back of the shop and hope no one walks by.

5. Having a blog kinda finally makes sense. I have almost always enjoyed having a blog. Dressing up, writing, interacting; it's a lot of fun. That said, sometimes I would wonder why I was posting pictures of myself on the internet. I realized a long time ago that being a professional blogger would never work for me, so sometimes it felt a little like blogging was a really just a fabulous waste of time. Now I can see the path more clearly, that having the blog gave me chance to explore fashion on a new level and gave me a huge boost when I started the store. If I never had this blog, I would still be working up the courage to go out in a sequin coat... I would also probably have the dishes done;)

6. I need to get online in some capacity with the shop. I know this and I'm working on it... see?


7. I realize, once again, that the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. I felt the same way when I did night school for landscape design. I thought I had a decent handle on plants because I'd been landscaping for years but it turns out every new Latin name I learned was the gateway to a whole other level of information I had never even considered. Dealing with vintage involves dealing with history. I obviously want to be as accurate as I can with my stock, both for my customers's sake and for pricing things in a fair way. That is a lot of work. I've recently started collecting some cool vintage silver pieces for the shop and researching their origin, date and value is like unravelling a mystery.  There are entire books written on silver marks for just one country and I need to try to make sense of some obscure silver stamp and place it within a time period and a country? And then there are the pieces without stamps and clothes without tags. My life is like a Coldcase episode for clothes and jewelry some days...

8. People are so enthusiastic for you and it is the coolest and the most humbling thing ever. For real.
It starts with the people who don't know you and are just so excited to see a new shop open on Ottawa St. Ottawa St. has a a strong history in Hamilton. It used to be 'the street' to go shopping on and then it had a real dip before starting to turn around these last few years. I can't tell you how many people come in and tell me they remember shopping on Ottawa St when they were younger and they are just thrilled to see the area have a resurgence. Then there are the people of Hamilton who are just generally happy to support a new, local business.
And within your own social circles you expect your mom and your best friends to support you when you start something new, in fact, I'm pretty sure it is a clause in our relationship contracts but the support from others is so overwhelming. Family, friends, blog readers... the mom of your husband's second cousin's friend... so many people have dropped by, done some shopping and got all social media supportive on me... It's like people are really just genuinely excited about the shop, my shop.
I'm kind of babbling right now. I guess what I am trying to say is that having so many people care about your little project is the craziest thing. And I am so beyond appreciative of that support. And when I want to let myself wallow in some good old fashioned fear and worry I remember all the support I have already had from people who really don't have to care.
I am really excited to grow this; I have ideas bursting in my brain (and keeping me up at night... evil) and there are just so many steps I can't wait to take, one at a time. I figure if I start each day with a little pinch of thankfulness for all the support I have already had, it will make each step in this journey a little lighter.


Gilkipedia said...

Number 7 speaks to me because I'm kind of a history freak XD

Keira said...

I love this, Yen! It reminds me of the early days when my husband and I took over his family's flower shop. Enjoy every minute of it. Owning a small business has been the craziest/scariest/best thing I've ever done.

Wishing you all the best in your shop! You have passion and work ethic, and those are the most important parts of business ownership. The rest works itself out, I promise.

Good luck!

Miranda said...

That floral skirt? Darling!

Unknown said...

I WILL come visit you someday, Darling!!! So very proud! XOXO

Hannah said...

Your shop looks amazing, you should be so proud! If you ever do have an online aspect, I really hope you offer international shipping. I would love would to buy from you but being in Australia prevents me from just dropping in!

ThoseTricks FrugalFoodie? said...

Kudos, Yen!
Hope to visit one day.

Linda said...

Best thing you've ever written. Ever.

I mean it


ParisGrrl said...

While you're starting out, you can save money on business cards by getting one of the "just pay shipping" offers online. (google "free business cards" and you'll see several companies that offer this, and you can have something to hand out to customers.) Or use a free printing template, and perforated business cardstock to print your own.

Bethany said...

You are amazing. :)

em²ile² said...

Dibs on that skirt.

Sydney said...

Awesome! Love this! When I get a free moment (whenever that magical thing happens) I would love to come down and check it out. One of my best friends I met at midwifery school is from Hamilton and she's taken me there a few times and I'm totally into it. All about Hamilton. A visit to your lovely shop is definitely in my future

Sparrow Lyn said...

Yen you write so well....from the heart. Thanks for sharing these insights - from someone who is also running an online vintage store (and hopes to go brick n mortar someday) they are invaluable. Good luck girl, you can do it. You already are. I promise to visit the store soon.....Lynda
P.S - Try Vistaprint for biz cards.

Mary said...

I've loved your blog for a while -- then I leave and come back and you have your own shop!!
I have to say, having had a shop of my own for two years now (not retail: alterations) reflects a lot of what you've just written!
1 It does cost a lot. And it keeps costing a lot, but after you make some money, it's much more ok.
3 Everyone loves cool business cards. Mine are thick and square and minimally printed. Make yours unusual and they won't be forgotten!
4 I've got an iTunes library of nearly 10,000 songs and it got old SO QUICK. Now we just have NPR on all day and it's awesome. Classical would work just as nicely!
5 I've only got an FB page but it helps to be socially networked in some way! Also a Yelp page -- many referrals have come from that direction.
8 So many compliments and so much encouragement have come my way - and it really doesn't stop coming from the people who mean most! That has been an unexpected boon to me, and is awesome especially because it seems to come when I am my most exhausted.
No joke, you are such a badass right now! It's the least retail-friendly time of the year, so don't be discouraged. Crossing my fingers for lots of pedestrian-friendly weather for us all this spring!

Sweet Laundry said...

It seems like there are so many things to think of when owning your own shop! If you are looking for some background music recommendations you should download some Ali Farka Toure. I listen to it all the time at work. Congrats on the 2 month anniversary of your shop!

bridgetwhoplaysfrenchhorn said...

Mm, so true. Classical really does keep things not quite so repetitive. I will say---it can be fun to have a time-based musical tradition. We always used to have Black Eyed Peas Fridays (I know, so classy) to blast in lab when we were all tired and just ready for it to be the weekend!

Leah said...

Even though we have never met, I am so proud of you for stepping out and following your dream! That is something that many people will never have the courage to do. So, along with those days of no business and feelings of discouragement, the days of sheer excitement and happiness I'm sure will outweigh them. Best of luck to you Jentine. (and I still have some items I want to get over to you!)

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say I've been following your blog for years and find it so inspiring! I am so happy for you and can't wait to see the great things that come to your life through this store. Amazing!


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