Fashion Group International of Houston recently held a panel discussion regarding “small business.” The event was co-hosted by Tout Suite, a bakery and cafe that is new to Downtown and will be opening soon. The panel was moderated by Sarah Gabbart of Houstonia Magazine and featured five key small business owners: Brandi Garcia of Do or Dye TX, Cheryl Schulke of Stash Co., Davina Tweedy- director of marketing for Langford Market, Jackie Adams of Melodrama and Jenny Morgan of Settlement Goods.
After a few opening remarks by the lovely Sydney Dao, the panel discussion began. Here is a synopsis of the topics and advice that were discussed throughout the evening…
*Branding and Building Buzz Before Opening the Store
– Free Fridays (usually during first year).
– Discounts on back of business cards for first year.
– Martini Mondays (usually during first year).
– Networking, handing out flyers door-to-door, trunk shows.
– Pop-up shops, professional womens networking groups, selling via Facebook and Instagram.
– Instagram is such an amazing and free resource.
*How to Stay Current and Keep-Up with Changing Market
– Sometimes you have to change as the economy changes.
– As your long-term clients grow in life, you need to change and grow to fit their needs as well.
*How Do You Maintain Store Presence?
– Do charity and beauty events.
– Trunk shows.
– Emails (like constant contact) and social media.
– Be consistent on social media.
– Keeping up with the customer (such as sending birthday cards).
“It’s not always about ‘sell, sell, sell;’ but also enriching your customer.”
*Long Term Goals and Advice to Future Business Owners
Jackie of Meladrama and Cheryl of Stash Co. had some very enlightening advice on this topic.
– Write down your ideas. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, it’s probably already been done. Put your own spin to it.
– Do something that you are passionate about.
– Always try to give back to the community.
– Do the research.
– Start out small, while building your clientele.
– Create your own experience when you own a business.
– “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
– Check out books (and their websites) by Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin.
– “Do the best you can, until you know better and then do better.” – Maya Angelou
– “Don’t push the river.” If it doesn’t feel right or if you are pushing/working too hard, it’s probably best to rethink your business.
– Don’t go into business with the wrong person. Always trust your gut.
– Budget out operating expenses a year in advance.
The event concluded with some closing remarks from the owners (and gracious hosts) of Tout Suite and Shop Talk Chair- Trang Nguyen. Followed by a continuation of networking and mingling.
HUGE thanks to the folks at FGI Houston, Tout Suite, Sarah, Brandi, Cheryl, Davina, Jackie and Jenny!