This got way too long so I had to split it into 2 parts! (maybe even 3)
Hard to believe it’s been 5 years already! But wow, the boutique has really grown during that time. Three Muses started as a web-based business I ran out of my house in 2005. I knew I wanted the business to grow so the first thing I did was go down the the Small Business Administration and learn about making everything legal. I got my business license, zoning and tax ID so I could buy wholesale and start getting business accounts. With that in place I signed up for a website with an e-commerce platform and started loading products. I was used to HTML but my new site used SSML so I learned a few new things so I could tweak the site the way I wanted.
After a couple years it outgrew my home office and garage and I needed to have a place where customers could come for fittings. I wasn’t quite ready for a store yet so I moved to a little studio behind Meisha’s house in Riverside. I met some of you guys when I had that first space! I was still doing mostly custom work and had a very small inventory.
The turning point came after doing a fashion show at a cute little boutique called Retail Therapy. I think they only lasted a year or two, but I really liked the way their shop was set up and it got me thinking about what my shop might look like. I started getting more people coming to the studio and they were buying things I had there as well as having things made. At that point I realized I needed to move to a commercial area and open a real brick and mortar store.
I had a jump start on most new businesses because I already had inventory, business income and a world-wide customer base. I also had very little overhead and a thriving business so I didn’t need to take out a loan to get started. I tried going to some classes at the SBA, but it seemed like I was way ahead of the game and everyone else was just there with an idea and trying to get a loan. So I applied to be connected with a SCORE mentor. They had nobody with retail experience or anyone remotely in the clothing business to connect me with. I did get paired up with a guy that had experience with opening a business in commercial locations so he was able to help me with some of the terms and look over the lease. I actually took the first and only place I looked at. It was exactly what I was looking for at the right price.
Now some of you may be thinking “You really wanted a hidden spot that nobody can find and on the second floor??”
The answer is yes! Since it was just me running the shop, I didn’t want a spot with a lot of foot traffic. I could close up and nobody would notice. I spent the first year in business when there would be weeks not a single person would come in. But during that whole time I was constantly working on the website and still doing good business. It would drive me crazy when people would say, “You most be really bored just sitting in the store all day.” There was not a minute to sit around and do nothing! I was (and still am) constantly busy working. There is no time to sit around and be bored. I can honestly say I have not been bored at work for the past 5 years!
Next up: Part 2, building the store from this, on a very small budget: