Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Shop Your A$$ Off!

We signed our lease on August 1st, and immediately committed ourselves to opening our doors for the first time during Carver's annual Steamboat Days Festival. That gave us five weeks. FIVE WEEKS. to collect our inventory. As I mentioned here, this was a total "impulse purchase," so we had no inventory built up to supply the initial store opening.

Our friends asked how we knew what to buy, from where, and how to price it. Truth? We didn't. We shopped a lot. We went to nearly every occasional junk shop in Minnesota, price shopping, checking out what seemed to be selling well, and just taking notes. Along the way, we bought some stuff. We started to build a network of people, learned where to shop, how to negotiate, and where to keep coming back to week after week (you didn't think we were going to share our secret spots, did you??). We contacted our network of local MN-based artists and crafters for the handmade items we sell. We made a very simple business plan, tried to outline the vision we had for our products, and how we'd differentiate ourselves from the other Occasional Shops of Carver and Chaska.

We woke up at 5am every weekend. We stayed up late. We made things, we cleaned things, we painted things. We piled and stacked it all in the storefront, and made sad faces when the other shops opened for their monthly sale in August. We made a sign promising a Grand Opening in just 2 more weeks. We created a Facebook page, we ordered business cards, which would double as our price tags. Before we even opened, we were selling items to people we'd never met, that found us through Facebook. Word of mouth and good friends are an amazing combination!

After all of that, we shopped some more. In fact, we never stop shopping. Five free minutes over lunch? We're checking Craigslist for old furniture we can rehab. Driving to work today? Checking for garage sales along the route home. This "one-weekend-a-month" business is a full-time job.

Brandy spend nearly 5 hours prior to opening, just rearranging and staging the store (which, now that we've done this for a few months, feels like no time at all). Here's a look at what that first month's sale looked like:

And it was a success! We opened for Steamboat Days, and were the only shop in town that did - we met tons of people, celebrated with our friends and new customers, and sold stuff. We made a profit. And then, we finally breathed a big, giant, long-held sigh of relief. This crazy dream is actually going to work!

Plus, now we have the best excuse ever to shop on a regular basis, without cluttering up our own house :)

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