The End of an Era

After 11 years, I’ve decided to close the Three Muses website. I will continue to make costumes when I can, but under my own name or @CandyKcosplay (Facebook, Etsy, eBay, Twitter, Instagram)

I am so very ready to close the retail biz! It was a great run but I am ready to move on and am really excited to get a break from the 24/7 world of running a busy e-commerce site (and boutique as well).

I am leaving this blog up but probably won’t be adding new posts. I am mostly concentrating on my Geek Mamas project and posting there. You can also find me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/CandyKcosplay

From Website to Brick and Mortar Boutique, part 2

If you missed Part 1, you can read that here: https://threemusesclothing.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/from-website-to-brick-and-mortar-boutique-part-1/

The economy was in a serious downswing when I decided to open a store. Fortunately for me, I had a website that sold to every corner of the globe. During my first few years international sales accounted for nearly a third of my business.

Advancing a business during a recession is an interesting experience, but it’s a great opportunity to seize. Stores are empty so rent is low and space is available everywhere. I found a spot close to my house with a good price on rent and a shorter commitment than usual. Of course I needed to fill the retail space with fixtures and racks. Luckily a lot of big stores were closing and selling everything inside, racks and all! At Linens and Things I found towers and gondola shelving that would normally cost $500-$700 going for $200 including all the shelves and brackets. I got a glass case and register stand at a discount warehouse, a couple fancy chairs off eBay, a big dressing room mirror at Sam’s and all the racks on the wall are actually closet pieces from Lowes.

 

Opening Day at Three Muses

Opening Day at Three Muses

It’s hard to believe how empty the store was when I first opened! Slowly over the years I’ve added more racks, tables and cases. During the first year I was mostly in the store by myself and I didn’t even have a credit card machine for sales. I had a laptop and would ring everyone up through Paypal. My total store sales for my first month in business was a whopping $5, not counting the grand opening party. I was open for two years before I finally got a real credit card machine.

Over the years I’ve had help from interns, my grandmother and a brief period where I had three employees at once. I’ve had weird hours only open a few days, normal Monday through Saturday hours and tried appointment-only hours last year when everything was driving me crazy and I was ready to close up shop.

 

A couple years ago Brema started as an unpaid intern and eventually worked her way up to store manager. Even when it is quiet upfront, there is so much going on in the background of the business that I never stop moving. She’s the one you see upfront smiling and helping customers while I’m zooming around in the background talking to myself. We’ve reached a pretty good symbiotic relationship that keeps things running smoothly.

So five years later, here we are! We’ve busted a hole through the wall and taken over the suite next door. We are relishing all the open space. It’s great to be able to work without tripping over each other and to be able to roll entire bolts of fabric out and cut giant patterns easily. There are times when every inch of the new space is covered with feathers and fabric and glitter, and times when we have it all neat with things boxed away. The store part is creeping over to the new side a little, which you’ve seen if you’ve ever visited the “super sale” rack behind the counter. We may even eventually rearrange things and incorporate that side a little more, but for now, we are just enjoying the luxury of open space.

Come celebrate 5 years of the boutique with us on Jan. 31st from 5-8. We’ll have drinks and snacks and lots and lots of store sales and specials!

https://www.facebook.com/events/198185627041880/

 

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

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