From website to brick and mortar boutique, Part 1

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:

In the beginning

Three Muses in the very beginning

A post-Halloween rant, and then I can move on to other fun things

Halloween is always a whirlwind of activity, and when it’s done and things have quieted down I get to pick up the pieces, put things away and get everything back in order. I’m looking forward to blogging a bit more. I use Facebook a lot, but sometimes the status posts get a bit long and I think it would be better suited to the blog…so that is how this post ended up over here. I also feel like this is a smaller audience (even though it is way more public) but people who actually make it over here to read this came because they wanted to read it, not because Facebook kept shoving it in their face in their newsfeed. (I know I do have it linked to FB, but it at least takes a second click to read it)

And while this started as a store blog, we have a Facebook page just for store-only related stuff, so now this blog is mine. Mine mine mine mine. And I am going to dust off those writing skills I used to love so much (though now they are technically typing skills) and post more on the blog about my experiences as a store owner, costume maker, cosplayer and whatever else I want to chat about along the way.

So right now, I just wanted to share a few things that drive me crazy, because I feel the need to get them off my chest, share them and then move on with it. Because these things aren’t going to stop, and the list could have been a lot longer but I didn’t want to bore you if you’ve managed to keep reading this far, so I narrowed it down to five things.

And these are the Top 5 Things That Bugged the Crap Out of Me This Halloween:

1) Telling me we should let people know we are going to be closed. I am sorry I cannot send a postcard and/or call everyone who has ever come in the store to let them know we will be closed. I really thought posting it on the front page of the website, the blog, Facebook, Twitter, the store answering machine and on the store door 2 months ahead of time might get someone’s attention. Apparently, this is still not enough.

 2) Poking disdainfully at the corsets and inquiring whether they are steel boned, only to tell me you don’t think they are steel boned and then continue to insist they are “fashion corsets.” At this point I usually run away and let Brema deal with them because here’s the story- I’ve taken the boning out and checked and you haven’t. So if you poke my corsets one more time with that attitude, I no longer want you to get a corset. This is also why Brema does a lot of the selling and I do a lot of hiding. I take things too personally. You might as well be poking one of my dogs and telling me they’re mutts and not Australian Shepherds. Of course both mutts and fashion corsets are great, but don’t try to tell me one is the other when I know better.

 3) Calling the store, asking directions, hours, 5 million other questions and then at the very very end, asking if we have something very specific, like a Kermit costume. Oh? You don’t have a Kermit costume? Well that’s all I wanted, thanks anyway. You know you could have saved us both like 10 minutes by just asking that question first. I also hate it when people ask me if they can ask me a question. Because really that’s just redundant, and now you’ve asked me two questions.

 4) Complaining we have nothing in your size. Yes we do, you just don’t like those particular things. And also, we had it but it sold out already. We normally get one of each size in each item. When it sells, it’s gone. This is a boutique, not Wal-Mart. It doesn’t seem to matter, big or small, there is always somebody complaining we have nothing in their size.

 5) Trying on 20 costumes, shoving them back in the bags and then sticking them back on the racks. You are not being as helpful as you might think. There is a sign in the dressing room asking items to be brought to the counter for a reason. We need to make sure all the pieces are there and it is folded neatly so it is not crushed and weird for the next person. And the store is organized so we can find the costumes. If you stick Snow White in the beer wench section, well now we think Snow White is sold out because she should be with the fairy tales. And then we take it off the website, ponder what happened to Snow, only to find her weeks later hanging in the wench section after she has long been removed from the website, therefore costing us a sale.

So that’s it. I probably could have made a top 20 list but I’m starting to get really hungry and have to go update the website with our new hours before people start leaving mean messages on our answering machine. Because yes, they do that. I once got a really long message from a lady yelling at us for not being open on Sundays. For the record, we are still closed on Sundays.

Halloween is coming!

Yes, we know it is still July, but Halloween is just around the corner. We have started prepping and will have a few more of the handmade items back on the website in September. We are taking stock of the inventory and materials and trying to finish up all the advance commissions ahead of schedule.

The boutique will have expanded hours during October. Not sure what that will be yet, but we’ll let you know! 🙂

We are still doing Thursdays 11AM-6PM for walk-ins. Any other time by appointment.

Red Velvet Photography gets all steamy with our corsets

Recently Red Velvet Photography shot several of our Steampunk and Vintage Goth corsets with models Maegan Carroll, Diana Lopez and myself. We’ve just restocked many of these styles and updated the online inventory with new photos from the shoot.

http://www.threemusesclothing.com/servlet/the-Corsets-cln-Steampunk-Corsets/Categories

steampunkRV2 steamcorset3Steampunk CorsetsSteampunk corsets

 

 

 

 

So how’s it going with the Three Muses expansion?

Woke up today with one goal: change doorknob

This is how things went: walk dogs, get ready to go to Lowes, decide I’m also going to remove screws so I need the drill, text husband to find drill, text husband to find drill bits, text to ask if bits I found will indeed fit that drill, search for battery to charge drill, plug in drill and wonder how long it will take to charge.

Decide it is time for a Facebook break. FB and tweet frustrations about doorknob based on past doorknob replacing experiences. Still have no doorknob.

Figure since I am going to be at Lowes I should get touch up paint for hole in wall and paint for office. Also, I want a rug to cover the floor and the paint needs to match, so I also decide to get a rug.

Spend an hour at Lowes picking out rug and agonizing over minute color shade differences between grey blue, blue blue and blue green. Try to remind myself not to be swayed by color name. I’m pretty sure I once bought a shoe just because the style name was Barbarella. Still trying to convince myself I really liked the shoe. Finally settled on just the right shade that was bright but relaxed. Surfer Waves. Yes, I do like the name, but it’s also a lovely color. Also picked up chalkboard paint and magnetic paint= magnetic chalkboard FTW!

I entertained myself while waiting for the paint to be mixed by checking in on foursquare. Lowes does not have anything exciting for checking in. Feel I should earn a home improvement badge or something…

Realize I still do not have doorknob.

So with cart full of paint, various painting accessories and a 10.5 ft. rug tucked under my arm and sticking out of the front of my cart like a jousting lance, I barge through the aisles of Lowes shouting “Excuse me! Don’t want to poke you!” This proves effective and I find the doorknob quickly and manage to get through Lowes with considerable speed.

So I get to the shop and am confronted with a printer that won’t work. That could be an entire chapter but I’ll shorten it to this: had it just past Staples’ return policy date so called HP. Two hours later, after fondling every nook and cranny of the machine while turning it on and off, they admit it is just straight out broken and agree to send me a new one.

After that and 5 million other small things, doorknob is still in my car with all my stuff I got at Lowes. It is now time for me to leave and get home to feed the dogs. So I spend the last 10 minutes running to car and back because I will at least get that doorknob in the office before I leave! It takes three trips before I give up and leave the last bag in the car. But I at least got up the rug, paint, drill and then finally, the doorknob.

So here’s my to-do list tomorrow: change doorknob

Just the beginning of summer and things are already heating up at Three Muses!

The store seems to be growing by leaps and bounds this year, even in the middle of what is usually the quiet season! Some of you may recall last year we were closed on Saturdays during the summer and then I actually closed the store all of July and took off for a little European adventure. That won’t be the case this year. We will be open even more days and hours, hopefully starting in July, August at the latest. The only time we will be closing is the week of DragonCon, as that is the kick off to our busy busy no sleep working 24-7 Halloween season.

We have more corsets than ever, and they seem to be multiplying behind my back. And now we’ve added leather! Nice, heavy real deal leather cinchers and corsets. We’ve phased out most of the higher priced costumes in favor of ones around $30-$40 that can be used as great starter pieces to create your own original look. The masquerade mask selection has exploded so much I haven’t had a chance to get most of them on the website. Who knew there were so many masquerades in Jacksonville? And as always, we have managed to keep the masks at an affordable range of $10-$20 while offering a unique selection straight from New Orleans.

The newest upcoming additons this summer will be pin-up dresses, more eyelashes and Xotic Eyes body and eye art, which we hope to grow into a full make-up counter before Halloween.

I am adding new items to the website nearly every day, but I never seem to be able to get it all on there. So there will always be more in the store than you see online. But you can see and shop about 80% of the store on the Three Muses website. And remember, if you see it on the website, we have it in the store.(with the exception of some of the shoes and custom made outfits)

Stop in and visit us this summer!

– Candy Keane

Owner, Three Muses Inspired Clothing

Celeste, Candy, Brema and Bridget of Three Muses

Celeste, Candy, Brema and Bridget of Three Muses

 

Desperately Seeking Susan Jacket replica Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions

When I started making this jacket I discovered a lot of people loved this movie as much as I did. I was a huge Madonna fan when I was little, and still am. While the movie isn’t exactly Oscar material, it was entertaining and really embodied Madonna’s unique 80s style. The stand-out piece in the costume wardrobe was that jacket, reportedly owned by Jimi Hendrix…or was it Elvis? Either way, we all wanted one. And now you can have your very own Desperately Seeking Susan jacket!

12/2/16 EDIT: The Three Muses website is closing Dec. 16, but I will still be making costumes and jackets. I post when new things are ready on my Facebook page and through an e-mail list that is for jackets only.

The list is only sent out when a new one is ready and it is very easy to unsubscribe at any time. People on the list get the FIRST chance at the jackets before they are posted online for sale. The ones I personally make always turn out a little different each time so I do not take custom orders for them, but rather make and post for sale when ready.

If you would like to join that list, please go to this link and fill out the form:
Susan Jacket List

Or follow my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/CandyKcosplay

Desperately Seeking Susan jacket

Desperately Seeking Susan jacket

FAQ: (updated to reflect new info 12/2/16)

1) Is this an exact replica?

No. These are handmade and I would consider them more like “artistic interpretations.” This is not a manufactured copy. Please don’t ask me to make an exact replica- what you see is what I make.

2) Do you take custom requests?

I am no longer doing custom requests.

3) How often do you make them?

I am trying to make one every couple weeks starting in January. I have just become a stay at home mom, trying to work at home, so still trying to figure out how to make that work.

4) Where can I buy one?

I sometimes post them in my Etsy shop at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CandyKcosplay , but only after it goes out to the mailing list. For first dibs, please join at: Susan Jacket List

5) How much do they cost?

Prices range from $100 – $250 depending on style and materials. Sometimes I even have cheaper ones when I try out new methods or designs.

6) Is the back design embroidered?

Sometimes, but fancier design is a mix of fabric paint, sequins and satin fabric. Everything is done by hand, with no patterns or stencils.

8) What sizes do they come in?

I make them in all sizes, usually according to what people are requesting.

9) What color are they?

I do both olive green and black.

10) How do I clean the jacket?

Due to painting and embellishments, I do not recommend dry-cleaning. Try to spot clean and Febreeze. If you must wash, they are best cleaned by hand washing in cold water. You can soak them in soapy water or Woolite, rinse and then hang to dry.