LaunchHER PRO :: New Biz Top 10 List

LaunchHER PRO :: New Biz Top 10 List

PRO :: Molly Hillenbrand Vernon of Luxaby Baby and Child

LaunchHER says ::  Molly’s initial PRO piece was such a huge success, and we’re thrilled today for her to share her Top 10 list of consideration when starting a new venture!  Whether you are just starting our or looking to {re}launch this year – what incredible advice to read and follow, from a seasoned pro!  Huge thanks to Molly, and many congratulations on the continued success of Luxaby Baby and Child!

In HER PRO words ::

In January 2009 I formed Luxaby Baby LLC with the idea of combining my favorite designers of classic children’s clothing and gifts into one cohesive Collection. I had a hope that over the next 5-6 years it would grow into an online website, trunk show business and possibly even a retail store one day. Well, less than a year later I had done all three. In a time where most people were closing shop I took a huge risk and opened a high-end retail children’s store in one of the worst economies we have seen in decades. By some miracle (and a lot of luck) it worked but not without making many mistakes along the way and having a very steep learning curve on what it takes to run a successful business.
Here are the 10 things to keep in mind when starting your own venture:

1.Analyze Need. Is the market over-saturated with your product or is there a need for it somewhere. There was not one classic children’s clothing store in the area where I lived so I knew I had something different to offer that would appeal to my target customer.

2.Take advantage of economic opportunity: The top-end designers would not have given me ( a first-time retail business who didn’t even have a launched website yet) a chance to carry their line had they not just experienced a tremendous downturn in other stores buying their clothing due to the current state of the economy. This was the perfect time to come into their lives – a fresh new store who was looking to buy their clothes. They needed to take some risks and fortunately I was the risk they were willing to take. 

3. Try it out with your friends first. If you can’t trust your friends opinion than who can you trust?! I decided to have a mini ‘trunk show’ to see if my friends (who represented my target customers) would love the clothes as much as I do and be willing to pay a little more for quality clothing for their children. After a few months of trunk shows and lots of private appointments it became apparent that there was a strong need for this style of clothing in the area.

4.Create an online presence. I decided to create www.luxabybaby.com to promote the items I had and make them accessible to friends who were not living nearby. What better way for everyone to see these amazing clothing lines than a great website which showcases the clothing and gifts?! Through word of mouth – and friends forwarding the link to friends – the online portion of my business started to pick up and spread all over the country!

5. Social Media – HUGE marketing tool that is so underused. Now that I had a website and a pretty good customer base with my trunk shows the next step was to market it all. Facebook and Twitter are free social media tools that give you the ability to create and market yourself the way you want. A facebook page and twitter account for your business adds a personal connection which creates a loyal customer fan base where they feel like they know you already when they walk into the store or purchse from your online store. I love seeing other moms out there promoting themselves and definitely feel a strong urge to support them the way they support me!

6. Be Passionate about your vision. I always heard “Do something you love and then find a way to get paid for it.” Or was it my husband who finally said to me one day “you need to find a better way to justify buying all these clothes for the kids”. Either way, I was passionate about kids clothing and finding a way to make it into a business.  I believe so strongly that children should dress like children.I can go into a long lecture on the fact that kids are growing up way too fast and kids need to be kids etc..But honestly, classic children’s clothing NEVER goes out of style and can be passed down through generations. There are going to be many times you will be challenged on your vision or criticized. Believe and stand by what you are doing and selling because if you don’t these remarks could derail you – don’t let it. No one can please everyone and provide exactly what everyone wants or needs – be respectful of their remarks but stick to your guns. You are selling your passion and not theirs.

7. Negotiate – Don’t ever be afraid to ask for something. The worst they can say is no. Let’s face it there is nothing that is not negotiable nowadays: rent, website charges, shipping charges – you name it! In the beginning, every dollar counts!

8. Make nice with those doing exactly what you are doing.This is something I feel very strongly about. I have never, nor will I ever, bad-mouth another store in order to make mine seem more appealing. We are all in this together folks. If you truly believe in your store and believe in what you are selling there is no reason to bad mouth the ‘competition’. People shop at your store because they love your store. Period. The customer will decide where they want to shop – you don’t decide for them. I think it is bad practice and just plain bad manners to put down others in your community who are working just as hard as you are. Go and introduce yourself – see what they have that you don’t offer and send people there when they are looking for something you don’t have. Believe me, they will do the same back to you and everyone wins then. Learn from each other, support one another – it will only help you in the long run.

9. Advertise Everywhere. In the first year of your new business it is so important you budget enough to advertise in every single media outlet. Newspapers, Magazines, Social Media, School Auctions, Radio etc…After 1 year of this you will get a feel of what really brought people to your store. Many people will say how they heard of you and be sure to take note of that. At the 1 year mark cut back on everything but the ones that really made the difference. Focus on those in a big way. Buy the full-page ad in the one magazine that worked the best instead of all those 1/4 page ones you were putting in everywhere. I started out with close to 25 different advertising venues and am down to 5 which work the best for my particular store.

10. Give back. If you find yourself having even moderate success with your venture it is your duty to give back. Let me tell you greed has never gotten anyone anywhere.. I don’t know anyone who can’t spare even a little bit to help those in need. I have been lucky enough to be able to combine my two passions – my store and Operation Smile into one. We donate 10% of our sales to Operation Smile providing life-changing surgeries for children all over the world. Our customers feel good knowing that with every purchase they are helping fund this wonderful organization.. 

Okay, so I couldn’t get down to 10, so we’re including 11! :)

11. NEVER EVER give up! Don’t take no for an answer when you believe in something so strongly. After months and months negotiating with a very weary leasing agency who had just seen another children’s clothing store close in the area I received a call that the final decision was a ‘no’. That was not a possibility to me. I drove to their offices that afternoon with print-outs that I handed to every person in that room with reasons #1 thru 10 why they were making a huge mistake and why I believed in my vision.  You can’t argue when something is right there spelled out on paper in black and white. I read through that list 1 thru 10 emphatically stating in each point why what I was doing was different than anything that had been done before and would not fail. I knew I would not leave that room without a lease on that space and they knew it too. Perhaps they gave in to me because they were sick of having me come to their offices over and over again, or perhaps the old-school handouts did the trick, either way 24 hours later that storefront was mine…and the rest is Luxaby Baby & Child history.

Be sure to follow Molly and Luxaby Baby and Child on Facebook and Twitter!

Comments

  1. Carol Hillenbrand says:

    Excellent outline for a business plan!

  2. Carol Hillenbrand says:

    Excellent business plan. well done!

  3. Great article!
    And such beautiful clothes :)

  4. Kate Bogumil says:

    Fabulous advice! Thank you, Molly.

  5. Bravo – congratulations on a successfully launched business, and a wonderful Top Ten (Eleven!) list. I especially like the part about giving back. In this day and age where shopping locally/small-business support is pushed so hard so that the community dollars are kept local, it’s also important for those local small businesses to give back to the community or other charitable causes. A real pay-it-forward scenario. Congratulations again!

  6. Love it – great insights. Especially the one about playing nice. :) Congrats on your success!

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