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!