Thursday, May 22, 2008

Retail Therapy: Conspiracy Showroom

>> Thinking about opening a shop? Read on and find out what really goes on behind the register...

Heart Handmade Reader Special:
15% off any online purchase at Conspiracy Showroom
promocode: HEARTHANDMADE (1 time use only, valid until 6/15)

>> continue reading interview

1. Name one thing that completely took you by surprise when you first started Conspiracy Showroom - something that neither biz how-to books or any 'SCORE' workshop prepared you for.

We opened Conspiracy as a co-op boutique, a concept that was not widely discussed in business books or anywhere, really, so the whole thing was a surprise. We sort of made it up as we went along, using our limited business knowledge, foolish optimism, and stubborn determination. Throughout the opening process, Suzie and Rachel kept a running list of the 'the next time we open a business' tips. It's been a great experience though - you learn by doing, not by daydreaming.

Throughout the opening process, Suzie and Rachel kept a running list of the 'the next time we open a business' tips. It's been a great experience though - you learn by doing, not by daydreaming.

2. What's the biggest misconception that people have about owning a shop?

I think the idea that you will make money that you can actually keep, especially at first. Almost all of the money that comes into the shop goes right back out, either as designer pay-outs or operating costs. It takes a while to get over that hump.

3. Owning a shop means constantly wearing different hats. Here's how Rachel, Typhaney and Suzie spend their time:

20% Marketing & Promo
20% Production & Operations (photos for site, hang-tags, display)
10% Customer Service
10% Fulfillment/Shipping
20% Accounting, Billing & Finances
20% Other: making stuff!

>> A rock solid partnership

4. Some say that the best business partners complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. How do the three of you balance each other out?

When we started brainstorming about Conspiracy we determined what each of our strengths were, and decided that we'd each stick to what we were best at. It has worked out perfectly for us since we each add a little part to the puzzle that makes the whole thing work.

Suzie handles the books and is also our idea gal - she's largely responsible for the physical appearance of the store.

Typhaney is our go-to PR and networking guru.

Rachel handles all graphics and writing for our website, online shop, and store.

>> Do you think your goods are perfect for Conspiracy Showroom?...

5. Do most of the other designers you carry come to you or do you actively seek out new designers? If so, where?

When we first opened the store we spent a lot of time and energy searching for designers to carry in the shop. We found many of them on; that site as some amazingly talented people. After we got some press behind us and got our name out there, we reached the point where designers were seeking us out. It helped us relax a bit and focus on our own creativity - it is very easy to get so caught up in the business-end of things that you forget why you opened a store in the first place - to sell your own stuff!

Since there are three of us, we generally like to have a vote on the items we carry. We each tend to have completely different tastes, so having two of us agree usually means it will be a good fit for the store. As for standing out as a designer...

1. First and foremost, we appreciate when someone has taken the time to get to know what we're about and has read our site, including the submission policy info. We can't stress enough that walk-ins and cold calls are not the best way to go about submitting work.

2. Second, be sure the items are well-made. We love designers who are just starting up, but the quality of work is so important. It doesn't matter if you make it out of your bedroom so long as you make it to last!

3. And finally, our focus at Conspiracy is on handmade, non mass-produced items. We like to know that your work is not the product of sweatshop labor from the other side of the globe.

6. I know that all three of you are also designers and all met at the Antiquarian Market. Any Do's and Don'ts' you can share when it comes to selling at fairs?

We have one tip - open your own store so you don't have to haul your work around anymore!

7. I once heard someone say 'A business that doesn't grow eventually dies...' how has Conspiracy Showroom evolved since you first opened your doors back in 2006?

Well, our original concept was the co-op boutique. We had a high-minded idea to help our fellow designers get their work out to the public and to make everyone (but us) money. We realized that in order to keep the whole thing afloat we needed to tap into our capitalist side and focus on ourselves to generate income for the store. We also used to have monthly art openings that were really a drain on our time and resources; we've since scaled back to a few select events per year and the results have been great. Quality not quantity!

8. If Oprah decided to give you $10,000 tax free for your business, but you had to spend it in one week, what would you do with it?

We would increase our curb appeal and then have a party to celebrate!

Don't forget... get 15% off any online purchase by using promo code HEARTHANDMADE during checkout! (one time use only, expires June 15)

1. Black & Floral Tank Dress, Rachel Breeden - Edit Apparel $78
2. 2" drop Amber Colored Crystal Hoops, Typhaney B. $40.00
3. Blue and Green Dress, Rachel Breeden - Edit Apparel $78.00

4. Large Tear Drop Tassle Earrings, Typhaney B., $46.00
5. Striped Dress, Rachel Breeden - Edit Apparel
6. White Coral Earrings, Typhaney B., $46.00


Thanks Rachel, Typhaney and Suzie!!


Helen Cuthbert said...

Hi, This is such great Info...I really want a shop in th UK!! But not a great time to open one at the moment because of the economy!! hey ho! Thanks for dropping by my blog glad you liked it come again soon xxx

Melissa de la Fuente said...

Oh, what a lovely shop! I am coveting those gorgeous earrings and those beautiful clutches they have on their site!~Yum!