Saturday, February 28, 2015

The many hats of an Entrepreneur.

A small business owner is responsible for, well, everything! She is the marketing department, accounting department, payroll, customer service, sale, human resources, IT, product prep, ordering, shipping/receiving, merchandising, housekeeping . . . The buck officially stops here. It is long hours for little or no pay as you build your business into your dream. Every business has its unique challenges and solutions and if you can’t learn to roll then self-employment likely isn’t for you.
One of the big ‘owner challenges’ I face twice a year is Market. Where we go to order everything we’ll be selling later in the year. For my daywear stuff it’s like a giant trade show. Suppliers call you a few months in advance and book appointments, and you schedule time for browsing as well to find that perfect something you might be missing. Bridal and grad are a little different.  Most of my bridal vendors take conference rooms at hotels at a particular city (Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary etc) for a set group of days. We drive in a spend a few days visiting each suppliers sales representative, viewing the upcoming line and making our choices for which gowns we’ll bring in for the next season.

What many people may not know is that in order to sell a bridal or grad line, we have a contract with each of our suppliers. That contract states that we will order a certain number of samples each season. That we won’t sell our gowns online (I can let you know I have the gowns, even colour and size, but I can’t have a ‘web store’ saying you can order any size or colour of any style), and that we’ll price our gowns according to a set pricing window. Every contract is unique but the types of terms are very similar. When we keep our side of the agreements, our suppliers agree to tell people we sell their lines, and allow us to order any of the gowns from those lines, even if we don’t have a sample of that particular gown in store. (This is very different from day wear where you pre-order a size group of an outfit, and if you don’t have it in store, you cannot sell it.)

So, usually twice a year, we meet with our sales reps and chose our samples for our ‘placing order’. This week we are headed to Edmonton to order for fall delivery.

In order to make the best possible choices for my store, and have the best possible selection for my brides, I make lists. Lots and lots of lists. As soon as my spring samples arrive and all the gowns from the bridal show are unpacked, I start. By the time I head to Market, I will have spreadsheets that tell me the size, colour, fabric, body style and designer of every gown in the store. I will know which designers have sold and which ones haven’t. How many were ‘special order’ sales and how many were discount clearance sales. And how does all this information compare to what I had in the store 6 months earlier.

To an outsider, it seems like a lot of unnecessary work. But I strongly believe this preparation is what makes me able to create a store that is different from other bridal salons. Because by doing this, I know, that baring gowns being sold off the rack, when a bride comes in she will be able to try pretty much every fabric, in every body style. I may not have a size 20, lace top princess gown with a strap in pink. But I will have each of those elements for her to see and try between size 16 – 24 (for example). A bride or grad in our store will get a very good idea of what her dream gown will look like on. Even if we don’t have her exact dream gown in the store. Making sure every bride, not matter what her size and budget, has a great selection of gowns to try is why we order sizes 6 – 30. And why we work with 5 different bridal lines. 

Have a great week! 

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Photographer's tips for Grads. (guest post)

I asked award winning Swift Current, SK photographer Bobbi-Jo Knakoske (you can check out her web site here: ) for some tips I could share with you for Grad photo sessions. She had some great advice! 

Please note, the photos in this post are the property of Artistic Expressions Photography and cannot be reproduced without the express written permission of the owner. ALSO, all these grads got their gowns at Unforgettable! How cool is that?

Graduation is a fun and exciting time! You have the perfect dress and stunning pair of shoes, your hair is booked, maybe nails and make up too. Make sure to book a professional photographer that will capture the memory of this important occasion.

I book a consultation with the grad before the session for a few reasons:
- I like to know the colour of their dress. This will help in choosing the studio backdrops.We also decide on an outdoor location based on the the Grad’s preference whether it be a tree’d area with the creek or more urban then we’d shoot downtown.
- It's good get a glimpse of their personality and what hobbies they may have. This way the session will be personal and unique to the Grad.  I've had Grads include their cars, band instruments, sports equipment and even their pets!

I try to book in the photo session on any day other than grad day. This works out  best because I can spend more time with the Grad going to a few locations.  It gives us a bit more time and we're not rushed with back to back sessions.

It’s best to book your Grad session ahead of time and to coordinate it with your trial hair run. Make sure to tell your hairdresser that you’re getting your grad pictures taken that day because they will pin everything a bit tighter and make it look more polished if they know you are getting pictures. Try to stay away from hair sparkles because when it's photographed it looks like little white spots rather than sparkles. Also, stay away from getting the 2 little pieces of hair on the side of your face because it gets blown in the wind or it can cause funny shadows on your face.

The most important thing to remember about having your grad portrait taken is to have fun and enjoy the moment!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Counting dresses one by one, e i e i oh . . . .

Ah the new year's eve. That time when people get together with friends, celebrate the end of one year and the start of the next, count their inventory.. .

What? You don't spend New Year's Eve and New Year's Day counting inventory???

One of the more "fun" [if your definition of fun includes complicated computer programs, mile long spreadsheets and hours of squinting at tiny little 'style codes' for hours on end] challenges of retail is keeping track of your inventory. I don't know about other stores, but in my store I have about 3000 SKU's (items unique enough they have their own item code) that we keep track of. Many of those are one of's. i.e. wedding gowns, bridesmaid and grad gown samples, that sort of thing. It takes me two days to prep the counting lists, 6 people a day and a half to count it all and another 2 or 3 days for me to go through everything that doesn't jive and figure out why. It is not my first choice of how I would spend my New Year's, that's for sure.

But weirdly, once it's all done, I love it! I love all the information I have at my disposal once the end of each year counts and accounting are done. What sold? What didn't? Did anything major change since last year? Then the fun one, why? For me, looking over the numbers and finding the patterns and figuring out the why's are one of the best things about being an entrepreneur. ('cause trust me on this, the pay cheque and hours sure aren't! :-) )

Being able to look at my numbers, to understand them and what they mean and why they are, it gives me a great sense of control. Not necessarily peace, because being a small business means those numbers are not always happy numbers. But when it comes to your business financials, what you don't know CAN hurt you. Having this information makes it much easier to make major, and minor, financial decisions.

My 'entrepreneurial tip of the day': Know your numbers. You don't need to be a 'bean counter', but if you are a small business owner, whomever counts your beans needs to be your best friend. Because they know stuff.

Important stuff.

Like if you might actually get to take a vacation this year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Bridal trends, straps and backs.

Bridal trends . . .

Although fashion trends tend to be ‘here today gone tomorrow’ the bridal world moves a little slower. One trend in bridal that I have noticed growing over the past few years are gowns with amazing strap and back detailing. A few examples for you:

New for 2015 from Maggie Sottero is ‘Jade’. Sleek and sexy with beautiful details and a 1920’s feel, “Jade” also has an amazingly cool back.

This spring Stella York will be joining my gown line up and their 6018 in chiffon features a keyhole back, bling belt and shoulder coverage.

Not new to their line up, but long a stunningly unique gown, Davinci’s 50233 has combined a satin mermaid gown, with an empire lined bodice and ballgown train.

And from Bonny, 516 is sure to be a hit this spring with its gold detailing, full tulle skirt and deep back.

These days, a bride who wants the comfort and security of a strap, does NOT need to compromise on sexy. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Onward to 2015!

Four years. Actually four years and two months as of last Wednesday. It’s hard to believe Unforgettable You has been helping women feel beautiful for that long already. It’s been an adventure that I am excited to continue in 2015!

Since it’s been a while since my last blog post, let me re-introduce myself. My name is Jessica, I have been blessed with four children and an amazing husband who generously supported my opportunity to own Unforgettable You.

Unforgettable is a boutique for women to find their ‘unforgettable’ style. We have bridal gowns, bridesmaid dresses, grad gowns, party dresses, cocktail dresses and great pants, tops and sweaters to wear to work. We also have the jewellery, shoes and accessories to complete you look. You can check out our web site at I wear a lot of hats as a business owner, but helping women find their ‘unforgettable’ is my favorite part of the job.

Nothing makes my day more then having a girl or woman on my stage in happy tears because she feels beautiful. I feel very strongly that every woman is beautiful. I don’t care what shape, colour or age you are. So I make sure to have dresses in my store for every shape, colour and age. It means we have a LOT of dresses in the store! lol and pants, and tops and sweaters and bling (the very best part) so very very much bling. :-D

We opened our doors in downtown Swift Current in October of 2010, and business has been growing steadily as more and more people become aware of our amazing service and selection. We host the Unforgettable Grad Fashion Gala each October, present a beautiful show of the latest in bridal fashion at the Lasting Impressions Bridal show every February and are honoured to be a part of the very first Swift Current Royal Ball, to be held March of 2015.  

Now in our 5th year of business we are excited to see what 2015 will bring. Read along to join us in our journey. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Numbers numbers everywhere!

One of the fun, terrifying, interesting things about owning a business is the crystal ball we all need and just don’t have. January is not only the beginning of our busy season for bridal and grad it is the time I need to finish up my accounting for the year before and do all my assessments of last year and forecasts for next year. There are sales goals to figure out, budgets to work on and the marketing plan to get written and rolling.

In other words I spend lots of time looking at rows of numbers. I’m lucky I guess, because I like looking at rows of numbers. What am I looking for? Patterns mostly. How is this number different from that number? Why? What got better? Why? What got worse? Why?

I'm guessing you noticed, the most important question here is ‘why?’. All the numbers in the world can’t tell you anything if you don’t take the time to figure out WHY they are what they are. WHY did they change? Why didn’t they? Why did they change the way they did? What else was going on when those changes did (or didn’t ) happen. Is it possible to recreate or eliminate that changing factor?  

This is where your business plan comes in. Accountants are great for this because they are trained and have years of experience looking for patterns. Your business mentor’s may be able to see something you aren’t. Your peers in the industry may be able to help you figure out the whys. I love looking for the whys. Why? Because it gives me the illusion of control.

Yes, I know it’s an illusion but it’s something right?

So one pattern I noticed last year is we get a lot of grad sales in the later part of the week day. Why? Because the grad shopping traffic tends to come in between 2 and 5. Why? Well, in grad gowns it's the customer's last class of the day. Maybe easier to cut? Maybe a lot of final period spares out there? Maybe it’s the best time for Mom to duck out of work and meet daughter for an hour before the rest of the day gets in the way? There are a lot of potential contributors, but I do know that that is when they come in, and when they come in, sales go up. Why is this important? Because I am a one man show and customer service is the key to my business.

I have also noticed that Grads travel in packs. Which leaves little ol’ me alone with potentially multiple groups of shoppers.

I can see by my review of my numbers that my store is growing. We are seeing more grads and brides and that thrills me to death. But it also scares me.  If I want to be able to offer amazing customer service to each and every client, the clients are coming in ‘all at once’ and in groups, and sales are increasing there is only one solution. I’m going to need help.

So this year I have decided to hire someone. I have some casual people who help me out, but most of them have commitments during the day already. This person will start casual but if we click, she could eventually become my right hand here at the store. The ‘click’ is huge. Every business owner has strengths and weakness’. This person will need to be strong in area’s I am weak, our personalities will need to mesh (I’m not joking when I say I don’t play well with others. I KNOW I am hard to work with. I try, but I am a perfectionist in how I want my business run. That’s fair right?), she’ll need to be able to connect with the customers and she’ll need to love the job.

Here’s the ad:
Help Wanted, part-time casual position could lead to permanent full time for the right person. A positive attitude, patience, a love of people, exceptional customer service skills and the ability to think on your feet and work without supervision are a must. Being comfortable on a computer, as well as a love of fashion and coffee are assets. Candidate must be willing to learn and able to multi task. The candidate must be available to work from 2 – 5pm weekdays with occasional evening and weekend work as needed. If you are interested please apply in person with a résumé and references to Jessica at Unforgettable You. NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE.

So now I guess we see what happens. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

No, the zombies didn't get me. Yet.

Just in case anyone was worried.

January marks the start of a new bridal season and a new year. Time to dust off the ol’ blog and see if I can be more consistent with my posts.

2012 saw a few changes at the store and a lot of growth. My personal emotional roller coaster combined with the general challenge of running a retail store made for some interesting days but things are looking up and the store is on more solid ground then ever.

Our biggest challenge was creating awareness of the fact we sell day/business wear. There aren’t a ton of options for women looking for something to wear to the office here in town. That leg of our business plan was intended to fill that need and help balance the seasonal nature of formal wear. I am thrilled to say we are getting there! Slowly but surely people are realizing we have Jones New York suits, Jana tops and sweaters, Conrad C separates. Slowly, but it is happening.

A great article in Fine Lifestyles Magazine really helped that along this past September.
If you are wondering, the redhead is me :D

What’s coming up for 2013?

Well, bridal and grad season has started!! I LOVE this time of year. So busy, so many happy girls and women that I get to help make feel beautiful! Our spring bridal gowns are almost all here and they are be-u-t-full !!!  Seriously.  I decided to bump my gown retail ‘ceiling’ a bit and bring in a really stunning piece from Eddy K.  
Eddky K MD115
This gown features a sweet heart neckline and drop waist bodice all but dripping with bead work and a full organza skirt of pull ups with floral detailing. One of the nifty things DH and I got to do last July was attend the Eddy K launch show in Montreal, QC and this gown was on a model there. I fell in love.

We are thrilled to be able to do the fashion show for the 4th Annual Lasting Impressions Wedding Show here in Swift Current , February 3   
And we have been invited to do the fashion show for the Medicine Hat Welcome Wagon Bridal show March 3!  Doing an out of town show will be a challenge and we are excited about taking it on.

Wedding shows like this are a great way for brides to talk to vendors and see what is new in bridal fashion. And doing a show is just one step short of insanity. I promise to post a couple of nice long blogs with photos for you on that!

As far as the new bridal fashions go? Well, anything goes! Lace is in, bling is in, straps and sleeves are coming back (thank you Princess Kate!) and you can wear anything from a sleek evening gown to a ‘cake top’ princess gown in any colour your little heart desires. I have bridal gowns in deep red, oyster, pale pink, an iridescent pink with a nifty green tint to it, bisque and black & white. But statement making brides in the past here at the store have also purchased gowns in deep purple and a striking platinum. (Hint, if you don’t see what you are looking for in bridal, check out the grad gowns!) Your wedding should be a reflection of who you and your groom are. Your gown should make you feel totally beautiful in a way that is totally you!

Don’t forget ladies – a wedding gown takes approximately six months to bring in. We do sell off the rack, but if you need or want to order a different size or colour, make sure you give yourself time.

The grad gowns are also pouring in, but that is for the next post.
Talk to you soon!