March 19, 2015

I'm glad you asked! Let's talk business...

I am utterly humbled and amazed at the regular texts, calls, and emails I get from gals with a dream in their hearts asking me to meet over coffee for a how-do-I-get-started pep talk or a I-just-want-to-pick-your-brain session.

I'm humbled because Euna Mae's has struck a chord with so many and has a growing audience of steadfast followers and faithful customers. I'm humbled that anyone would watch my world, value my opinion, and want my advice to help them launch their own dream. 

I'm amazed because I would never ever consider myself an expert of business, and I still can't believe that I'm doing what I'm doing! More often than not, I'll be in my store and feel like I'm hovering over someone else's life looking down. I'll be ordering tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise and think, "Who would've dreamed?!" I'll meet sweet new faces who come in my shop and tell me they drove from Tulsa, Kansas City, Dallas, or Memphis just to see Euna Mae's in real life. {Like, I could bust into tears right now.} Amazed.

I'll never write a book on entrepreneurialism. I don't strive to be rich or famous. I'm sure there are a zillion professionals who are entirely more qualified to give advice. But I do have a story, heart, ideas, and some basics that I truly believe have made Euna Mae's a fruitful endeavor and a very special place. 

So inspired by my own Euna Mae's journey, here are the few things I would tell you over coffee. Cream and sugar, please!

note: I'm sharing my experience as a retail boutique owner and brand manager.

Establish the purpose for your business. What is your dream and why? What is the ultimate reason your business exists? When you're planning, dreaming, ordering products for, and growing your business, does it line up with your purpose? If it doesn't, then reconsider. Euna Mae's exists to inspire hospitality in people's hearts, encouraging them to love others deeply, serve others faithfully and welcome others gladly (taken from 1 Peter 4:8-11.) All of our business decisions, purchases, events, etc. must support our "why."

Know who you are, and be that. Know your purpose, and execute it. Don't spend your time looking around at what others are doing/selling and merely be a copy-cat. Customers are attracted to authenticity and creativity. Your brand is an extension of YOU, not a mish-mosh of 57 other brands or instagram feeds that you've just recreated on another street corner or under a different name. I intentionally keep my eyes down and focused on being Euna Mae's. I do not watch or follow very many other boutiques or brands for fear of being influenced to become something I am not. 

Branding is absolutely fundamental to your business. Branding includes every single element that communicates your purpose to the world. Your logos, packaging, business cards, website, and social media. The way your store smells, looks, feels, and sounds. The language you and your sales people use in the store, on the phone, in your email communication, and written notes. Branding is the voice that shouts who you are; it makes you believable and trustworthy. Branding sets you apart and makes you recognizable and memorable. Dedicate a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to brand your business well. My shop girls can tell you how important branding is to me while they're tying and re-tying our signature ribbon to be just right or practicing their Euna Mae's lingo. {They're the best!} Branding is comprehensive and detailed - and it matters!

Whether your products are handmade or purchased at market, they should be something you absolutely believe in. If you offer items that you love and believe in, then you not only sell them more convincingly, but your customers will sense it and buy in. Two of the biggest questions I receive are "How do you choose your products?" and "Where do you find your products?" This is where purpose, branding, authenticity, and instincts come together. Euna Mae's is filled with merchandise that I believe in and support my purpose. Products that speak to me. Products that are marketable in my area. I search high and low, long and hard, all day every day, in conventional and unconventional places to locate products to offer in my store. {That was a terrible sentence, but you get what I'm saying!}

Become educated about the area where you plan to sell your products. Study the market, the needs, the habits, and the competition you're up against. Is your market already saturated with the merchandise/service you are hoping to offer? Are there gobs of other photographers or monogram shops in your area? If so, then you better be aMAZing at what you do in order to stand out among the many. You may also wish to spend time brainstorming something special that will make your brand rise to the top and shine. Just be smart about whether there's a market to support what you're cooking up!  

I confess that I get scared a lot. A lot. I'm afraid to try things that are new. I shrink back on ideas that I first thought were life-altering. I wimp out. But I am learning to dip my toe in the water of the Unknown and try new things. New marketing ideas, new store events, new sales, new collaborations, and new products. Some are overwhelmingly successful; and some are not. But you have to try things to know what works. Have an honest conversation with the people who are your "sounding boards" and review what works, what doesn't, and what could be done better or more efficiently. But be brave. Be creative. And think outside of the box!

Set up, manage, and maintain social media accounts for your store or brand. Social media does wonders for small business because it's a platform for you to tell your story, show your authenticity, feature products and services, communicate information, and build an audience. Use social media well and wisely to your benefit.

Be prepared to work hard. Being the owner of a small business and maintaining a healthy brand means that your mind and body are running all the time. In addition to the really fun, really dreamy stuff, you will be nose-deep in paperwork and invoices, researching products into the night, writing and rewriting material, unpacking freight in the rain, crunching numbers, mopping floors, salting icy sidewalks and whatever else needs to be done. It's enormously satisfying to have something of your own that you've dreamed and built. But it's not for the faint of heart. So be ready to work hard. OH, and wear comfortable shoes!

| PRAY |
Yep, I said pray. {Remember this is inspired by my own journey...} Several years ago, I started asking the Lord to provide a larger platform for me to love people and use my unique gifting for His glory. After having been a stay-at-home mom who worked from my house behind a computer for 13 years, I was stirred to do something else. I remember going into my husband's office and choking back tears because I knew God had put it in my heart to use my creativity and love for home and family to do something bigger....but I didn't know what it was. So we kept praying. Over the course of a year, He used conversations, texts with friends, a car ride home from Kansas City, devotional time, unusual provisions, and other means to inspire me to open Euna Mae's. And my husband and I continue to commit Euna Mae's to the Lord in prayer. We ask for wisdom and direction. We ask for creativity and inspiration. We ask for God's favor and blessing. We pray that Euna Mae's is a happy place where we model biblical hospitality. We know that God went before us, stirred us, inspired us, and enables us. 

So pray, work hard, be authentic, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!