I build businesses, community, and entrepreneurship. My boutique features fair trade clothing, accessories, and local products.
I was inspired to be an entrepreneur by my maternal Grandmother. She was determined that her young family would never live in public housing, so she sold pennants and peanuts at the old Cleveland Brown's stadium from the late '50s until the late '80s. My Grandmother gave most of the youth in the community their first jobs and set examples for her children and grandchildren. As early as 6 years old I can remember going to the games with my Grandmother and counting inventory and passing it out to her employees. Back then my Grandmother paid 25 cents out of the dollar commission. The look on the faces of her employees was amazing because they felt like their earning potential was limitless. How much they made was dependent upon how they perfected their skill. Many truly worked at it and made up jingles to catch the attention of potential buyers. They even had a competition amongst themselves who was going to make the most money. I am a first generation college student in my family. Peanuts and pennants paid my tuition at Central State University in Southern, Ohio. One would have thought that I would major in business, but I became an Elementary Education teacher K-12. I graduated from college in 1990 and knew that I was going to love my career. I worked in education for 12 long years, then decided to return to college and earn my MBA with a concentration in management. I began working for a Fortune 500 drugstore chain and worked my way up the ranks within 2 years. I was the only African American female to run the store operations and pharmacy operations out of 252 stores in the region. I earned big bonuses and empowered my ordinary employees to do an extraordinary job. I then returned to school while still working full time to earn my Doctorate in Education. I came home after our oldest daughter had been at my college alma mater for years. I decided that I could continue in my Grandmothers' footsteps and run my own business. My Husband and I crunched some numbers and knew it would be tough but we could make it happen if we downsized from our four-bedroom home. We rented it out and moved into a two-bedroom apartment. We have three children and a dog with one daughter away at college. I knew it was a non-factor that I had to make this work. Luckily for me, it did. I was great at customer service, management, and selecting inventory. I opened two locations in downtown Cleveland within nine months of one another, and we were rolling.
Our Favorite Things Boutique is unique because we support local causes in our community, we support local entrepreneurs by selling their local handcrafted and locally sourced products in our stores, our clothing contours to all body shapes and sizes. This concept empowers our customers to look, feel, and be absolutely amazing from the inside out!
Having business knowledge was a plus for me but defining who my target market was hard. My go-to-market strategy was not defined until I sought assistance from Jumpstart Inc., part of the Business Growth Collaborative which is an organization committed to helping Entrepreneurs grow. I was selected to participate in cohort number four. Everything I thought I knew about business changed. I was armed with the knowledge that helped me to double my profits. We were able to move into a larger location that included an event center and won a pitch competition that gave us an opportunity to be a part of a newly developed retail establishment on the Kinsman Corridor which was headed by the Burten Bell Carr community association.
Being a business owner I have learned that there are more ways than your way to achieving a goal. Keep your mind open to new ideas and building relationships within your customer base and community is essential, especially during tough times. People never forget how you made them feel when at your business.
My mentor Patrick Kucherson, from Jumpstart Inc, suggested I contact SCORE for an advisory board for my business. My business was scaling up and I needed to begin to work on my business instead of the day-to-day functions. This was a hard task for me because my business has been my baby for so long. I had a team of three members from SCORE as my advisory board. They were knowledgeable, kind, and very helpful. Today I don't participate in the day-to-day functions of running my business. We have also added a transportation service and most recently my husband is planning to open a food truck and catering business with our Son-in-Love. Our daughter serves as our CFO, I promoted our Lead Manager to an Area Manager as we are in the process of opening another location in Columbus. I was recruited by my Score advisory board to mentor other Entrepreneurs, and My daughter and I are working as consultants. This journey has been amazing.
SCORE has helped me by defining the role to take in my business and how to work on my business instead of the day-to-day functions. They even recruited me to be a SCORE volunteer.
My experience with SCORE has been very impactful because the mentors want to help. They want to see you succeed and for your business to grow and/or achieve the goals that you have set. There is plenty of information available to help a business at any level to reach its goals.
I would tell them to continuously learn. Things change quickly. Know what your customers' needs and wants are. Truly know what problem your business is solving in the community in which you serve.