Thursday, June 26, 2008

Retail Therapy: Stem

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

Quick Facts:
# of employees: 2 (Joel + Maxine)
Did you write a business plan? no
Opened since September 9th, 2005
Owners: Maxine Siu + Joel Bleskacek
# of locations: 1 location, but we own two other small businesses: Ruby Wine + Bell & Trunk

1. You guys met while working at the same restaurant. What compelled you to get into retail?

The thought of buying a business I knew nothing about was extremely scary.

Owning my own flower shop/gift shop was a distant dream of mine. Joel and I were both working at 42 degrees Restaurant at the time and he had told me that a flower shop that we both frequented was for sale. The thought of buying a business I knew nothing about was extremely scary. Joel encouraged me to find out more about it. One meeting led to another which led to me buying the business 9 1/2 years ago. After 7 years, not intentionally looking to open another shop, we found a location that we couldn't pass on. Stem has now been open almost 3 years.

>> click here to continue reading the interview

2. Some say that the best business partners complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. Can you illustrate this balance using 3 points?

The way we make it work is that we each have our own shop. When we did work together with our first business it was difficult. We both have a type A personality and liked being in charge. Needless to say there were a lot of arguments.

3. Your first shop Bell and Trunk Flowers was a "previously owned" shop. Can you give our readers some advice on what 5 things to look out for/to look for when considering taking over an existing retail business.

Location, gross sales, future developments in that location, other competition, reason the business is for sale.

4. I was reading an older interview and I love what you said:

"We've made the choice to incorporate work and family into all aspects of our life. Work is an extension of ourselves, and so are entertaining, dining, and our children. We've created the lifestyle for ourselves that we want."

We often try so hard to draw a clear and thick line between work life and family life and it's absolutely refreshing to see how you guys have managed to prove that practice wrong!

Can you elaborate on that and offer some insights into how you guys make that work?
I know that there are lots of people out there with dreams on hold because they're currently raising children, can you offer them some advice and help convince them that it is in fact possible to have it all!

My advice to those who don't think they can do it is to have faith in yourself and believe that you can.

We truly believe in incorporating work + family. That is absolutely the best thing about owning our own business; we make decisions that work for us as a family. We wanted to be the ones to raise our own children. That's not a judgment on families that have nannies.

At the end of the day, Joel + I wanted to be there as our children grew. Of course, it was difficult at times and caused a lot of stress, but looking back we wouldn't do it any differently. Time flies. Ruby + Simon are now 7 and 6, and I bet if they had to, they could run that shop like we do (aside from counting). My advice to those who don't think they can do it is to have faith in yourself and believe that you can.

5. Owning a shop means constantly wearing different hats. Here's how Maxine ends up spending her time:

Buying 25%
Marketing & Promo 3%
Production & Operations (photos for site, hang-tags, display) 3%
Customer Service 66%
Fulfillment/Shipping 3%

6. We all have days when we throw up our hands and say "I can't do this anymore!" - what 3 things do you say to yourself or do in order to snap out of it and persevere?

7. 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?

Pay bills

>> So you think your goods are perfect for Stem?

8. What is your process in choosing merchandise and what 3 things can artists do to stand out when submitting for your consideration?

It's important to me that our merchandise is fairly unique so that usually is the first thing I look for.

Secondly, the artist should send me something I can look at either online or by mail...

and thirdly, be flexible with the minimums.

>> VISIT Stem
3690 eighteenth Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 861-stem


Thanks Maxine!!


Melissa de la Fuente said...

What a beautiful looking store! I sure wish I could visit! Lovely, thank you Marichelle and Maxine!

Marichelle said...

I love gift shops that also offer a special selection of flowers... it must smell so good in there!

Valerie said...

Oh, I love having stumbled unto this blog. It's fantastic!

Marichelle said...

hi Valerie! Me too!!! Welcome and I hope I keep you interested!