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What Does It Take to Open a Boutique? Interview with POSH by Tori Owner
Q: "WHAT MAKES A GOOD ENTREPRENUER?"
A: "You have to be able to hustle. You must have the ability to work quickly, with accuracy and make really big decisions in a very short amount of time. You need to be able to lead people, be an exceptionally strong negotiator and most of all, people need to respect you. Note that I didn’t say people need to “like” you. Theres a big difference."
- Tori Thompson
Why I Chose to Interview Local Celebrity, Tori Thompson
Tori Thompson, owner of POSH by Tori BOUTIQUE is a true entrepreneur who, at the age
of 27 had already launched several businesses. By the age of 30 her businesses expanded and included start-up company product lines. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I decided to do my college paper on small businesses, struggles and success, and who better to interview than my own boss.
* The photos in this article have been, WITH PERMISSION, taken from Tori Thompsons Facebook or Twitter account and are not for reproduction.
CAN SOCIAL MEDIA COME BACK TO HAUNT YOU?
Chris's Question: Tori, you said I can "Ask Anything",so I want to start this interview out with some curve-ball , juicy-gossip questions then we will delve right into business, marketing and more. So,We’ve all read your obnoxious Facebook and Twitter posts! From jokes about strippers to some pretty racy pics of yourself, has your over-the-top ways ever come back to haunt you?
TORI: To be honest, I’ve really toned it down since 2011. Pre 2011 I was pretty wild; flashing money, posting lots of bikini-type-pics and being naturally raunchy, but I was young. Now that I’ve grown up, my priorities have changed and, as a person, I have settled down.
Nothing has really ever “haunted” me, but I have had my images stolen a lot. That is a source of pure frustration. I have found photos of myself being sold, being solicited as computer backgrounds and even bogus online ads that use my image as an endorsement or even to dupe people. I have a lawyer on standby to address each finding as it occurs.
DO YOU WANT TO OPEN A BUSINESS?
Do You Dream Of Being an Entreprenuer?
TELL ME ABOUT POSH BY TORI BOUTIQUE
CHRIS: Ok, Ok, let’s get into business then, Tell me a little bit more about your boutique. What items do you sell and how long have you been around?
TORI:: At POSH by Tori BOUTIQUE we specialize in womens clothing, shoes and accessories; we love to carry those incredible limited quantity, exclusive items. We have been in business since early 2011 and going strong.
CHRIS: Based on your LinkedIn profile, you seem to be a one man…. Er… one woman show? You do it all from your own graphics to marketing to product design and development? How long did you go to school to learn all this? And do you have college debt?
TORI: That’s a lot of questions! I have zero college debt. I never took out a student loan. I paid for my college at community college on my own and worked three jobs to do so while attending.
I self taught myself the majority of my skills. I was born with the ability to draw fairly well so the art related stuff came pretty natural to me.
As far as web graphics, html, fabrication and so on; it was all trial and error. All of my product design and fabrication products are a learn-as-you-go type thing. Fortunately I’m pretty good at “making things work” so I’m never afraid to jump into a project full speed, even if its my first time.
HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE A "TOURIST DESTINATION" TITLE?
CHRIS: Your store, POSH by Tori BOUTIQUE has been labeled a Tourist Destination in Oakland County due to the totally cool, quirky décor and the amazing products of course. What is your favorite thing you fabricated in the store?
TORI: Good grief, that’s tough! Um….. Its such a hard call because every single project has been my baby. I love the outcome of painting the Ocean Room carpet and making it sparkle but I’d probably say the two things I love the most about the store is the Upside Down Poker Table on the ceiling and the giant tree I imported from my back yard with the 4 foot leopard on it. The leopards name is Brenda, by the way.
CHRIS: So how did POSH by Tori BOUTIQUE become so "famous"?
TORI: When you work hard you get lots of "lucky breaks" so to speak. It just so happened, in late 2012, the store was chosen as a landmark for an Oakland County publication.
BUSINESS STRUCTURE QUESTIONS
CHRIS: When you opened, what kind of Point of Sale system do you use?
TORI: I use Quickbooks. Quickbooks delivers you Point of Sale as well as connecting directly to Quickbooks financial software. It is a seamless interaction of systems that makes daily tasks substantially easier.
CHRIS: What is the cost of this system?
TORI: Cost will vary. You can typically buy Used off eBay or Craigslist but I opted for new. I paid around $3,000 and this included the register, scanner, label printer, receipt printer and all other necessities required to really launch.
CHRIS: There is a lot of “rumors” per say in terms of what kind of money is required to open a business. I can imagine that buying apparel and accessories to stock the store can be expensive. Can you provide any insight?
TORI: Yeah, a common mistake is running out of money before merchandise is really purchased. Unfortuantly I see this exact scenario happen quite a bit with fellow businesses. Without merchandise your store is sure to fail.
As far as cost, everything depends on how large your store is. Clearly a 400 sq ft space is going to take far less than a 4,000 sq ft space to stock.
The most important thing is to offer a full enough selection that customers can get what they want. Another common mistake that almost everyone makes when they first get into business is “trying to be everything to everyone”; this simply doesn’t work. For example, we do not carry bras, panties or jeans for that matter. These three categories cost tens of thousands to provide an ample selection; just carrying two styles of jeans doesn’t cut it. People want boot cut, skinny, flare leg, low rise, stretch, long, short…then you also have to carry light denim, mid-color denim, dark blue denim, stone wash, black, charcoal…once you multiply all of the styles by all of the color options, you end up with a wealth of required inventory; and you’re equally stuck with a bunch of Size 0’s and size 4-Longs, hoping that size 0 comes in and wants the exact pair you have. And if this sounds rough, bras are a bigger nightmare.
CHRIS: Wow. That is something most people don’t tell you! How do you determine what to buy and how much to spend?
TORI: This is another key feature of Quickbooks. Theres a ton of different reports you can run that show you everything from your best sellers to margins.
How can someone become active in the community and convert this into business?
"Do as much as possible. If you look at my LinkedIn, you’ll see I have worked with over 500 charities / companies / organizations in just a couple years; I’m actually closer to 700 now and will hit 1,000 by the end of 2014. I donate a ton of gift cards and logo merchandise. I attend big community functions and always drop tons of coupons and biz cards. I also really, truly take time to create the best of the best donation items for major events. Last summer we scored big by building a replica Stanley Cup for the Joe Kocur Foundation for Children Celebrity Softball Game. Our Stanley Cup was quite a hit, and one of the few near-exact replicas to date."
- Tori Thompson
NAME ONE THING THAT HELPED YOUR BUSINESS GROW
"Being active in the community is far superior to any form of paid marketing; and yes, I have tried both. Being a multiple-online business owner as well, I can say that when you have an online store you need marketing oozing out of every pore. However when you have a store in a plaza or mall, your main customer base is going to be people who live within a 10 mile radius. You could market to the world online until you have carpel tunnel, but if the people who live 5 miles away don’t know you exist you’re S.O.L."
- Tori Thompson
HOW ON EARTH DOES A SINGLE MOTHER, YOUNG MULTI-BUSINESS OWNER MAKE TIME???
CHRIS: When do you FINALLY get a break?! And what do you do for enjoyment?
TORI: I do not have a nanny or maid. I work about 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even if I’m relaxing and watching a show about business, I am still responding to emails or going through my To-Do list. I guess I have a unique ability to be able to multi-task in mass bulk. Even when I’m on the computer performing a task, I usually have three screens open with different projects going on in each screen and can switch back and forth while waiting for screens to load or downloads or whatever.
The difference between someone who is born to be an entrepreneur and someone who thinks it sounds good because they don’t have a boss is mindset.
A successful business person finds enjoyment in working; work isn’t misery, but instead it is enjoyment. If you hate work its because you hate what you are doing; find something that you love and you’ll want to do it every day. Even when I go on vacation I find a way to work.
NEW PROJECTS? HOW DOES AN ENTREPRENUER THINK?
CHRIS: So before we conclude this interview, what can we expect next from you in terms of a new endeavor?
TORI: I just launched a program for schools to use POSH by Tori BOUTIQUE as the newest Fundraising program. This is all still in BETA per say, but everything is going incredible thus far! I plan to have this program in full swing by Christmas.
CHRIS: How do you have the drive or the energy left to come up with this stuff? Or do you pay people to think for you?
TORI: I keep the most minimal staff possible. I try and keep ten or less people on payroll (including contractors). As crazy as it sounds, I come up with my best ideas when I am sleeping! Like, this one day I woke up and thought "I gotta make a YouTube Commercial...TODAY. Sure enough, two days later it was on the net..."
CHRIS: So you cranked a 5 minute commercial video out in 48 hours?!
TORI: Yep; start to finish, on my own.... but thankfully YouTube offers a slew of awesome editing tools.
CHRIS: Well thanks so much Tori for letting me interview you. Before we end this interview, any last words for those looking to open a retail store?
TORI: Plan, plan, plan. Until you’re dreaming about it at night, you haven’t put enough thought into it! Itemize all costs and be sure to overbudget them. Barter, barter, barter. Refine your idea over and over until it is a perfectly polished stone.
Never give up; plan for the worst but make the best happen…with hard work and dedication.
POSH BY TORI BOUTIQUE
Best Boutique in Michigan! Voted 2013 BEST BUSINESS of the year! Posh by Tori Boutique sells womens clothing, shoes and accessories.
This interview was conducted by Chris C. An employee of POSH BY TORI BOUTIQUE for a college project focusing on small businesses in Michigan.
The photos used in this article are property of Tori Thompson, owner of POSH by Tori Boutique and are not available for reproduction without permission from owner.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT POSH BY TORI
- POSH by TORI BOUTIQUE
POSH by TORI Boutique in Commerce, MI