Thursday, July 10, 2008

Retail Therapy: Tilde

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15% off your entire online or in-store purchase
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# of employees: 1
Did you write a business plan (y/n)? Yes
Day your doors opened: Sept. 6th 2006
Owner: Debbe Hamada

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

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

The pace of the average day in a small shop was a bit unexpected and took some getting use to. As my business is located on a neighborhood street (not in a mall) the ebb and flow of customers can be extreme. In that first year I could have only 10 customers in the shop on a weekday – then 4 of them made very large purchases and carried the day. But there were hours between each customer when I was totally alone in the shop for a REALLY long time. Which was sort of weird. Now it’s busier, but there are still times in each day with big breaks between customers. Of course, I now realize that I totally need those breaks to place orders, do my graphics, write my newsletter, pay artist, pay bills, etc.

2. I read that you started out in jewelry design (and still designing jewelry) can you tell us what compelled you to get into retail full-time?

I actually got my BA from FIT quite awhile ago. After college I worked at Saks in their buyer training program. I had been living in NYC throughout college and hit the burnout wall. I’m originally from Oregon, so I moved back home and then couldn’t find a job in my field (surprise!). I fell into a variety of unexpected jobs. At the same time I started designing & selling jewelry, that business grew slowly. When my close friend from college moved to Portland we started brainstorming on opening a shop that would both feature some of our favorite things and offer an environment that we found the most inviting. After much planning, I took the jump, left my ‘day job’ and opened Tilde. A major life change, but totally worth it.

>> click here to continue reading about Tilde & Debbe

3. You describe your shop as "... a modern women's lifestyle accessories shop... We've created a shop that displays our love of color and mid-century modern design." Can you talk about how you came up with this concept and was it your original concept prior to opening the shop or was it something that the shop organically transformed into because of the location/neighborhood/target market?

Yes! A modern lifestyle shop was our original plan based on the knowledge (through lots of research and competitive shopping in other cities) that “accessories” were one of the strongest growth areas in retail. Within our lifestyle shop we wanted to work with emerging designers/artists to feature their colorful products in an environment that was more “home” than “retail store”. My original partner had background buying wholesale which worked with our desire to include more established handbag and home decorative lines to assist in grounding our product mix. We created our ‘home’ environment by using original mid-century modern furniture to display our colorful products – we loved this design period for its clean lines and the furniture greatly enhances our products.

4. You once had a business partner, can you please share some words of wisdom on "to partner" or "not to partner"? What factors should one consider when deciding whether or not to go into business with a partner?

Sadly, my business partner (and friend) left the business after only 6 months. Her ‘day job’ went through lay-offs and she ended up getting a job in . . . Florida! So, off she went.

To partner or not? I think if you found the right biz partner, and both people understood the undertaking, a partner truly could be a great thing. To have someone split all the millions of tasks entailed in running a retail & online shop, and especially to help with the day to day work in the shop, would be so invaluable (sigh). The big challenge would be finding someone who understood with the amount of work required daily and also shared the same esthetic/view of the business. Personally, I’d love to find that elusive person I could partner with – but I don’t see that in my immediate future.

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

10% Buying
10% Marketing/Promo
5% Production & Operations
55% Customer Service
1% Fulfillment/Shipping
10% Accounting/Billing/Finances
9% Community Relations- I run the special events for our business association & worked hard to get the biz association up and running again, I also headed our neighborhood art walk until recently).

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

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

In the first year I was actively seeking out new vendors and designers. Now it’s pretty equal with between me ‘seeking’ newness and designers applying directly to us.

When I’m doing the looking I find new designers through shows (NYIGF, Accessories Circuit, D&A show, Renegade, local craft fairs) and through websites (etsy, design sponge, and millions of others) and sometimes through referrals of other designers.

1. Do their research ahead of time. Their product needs to fit the aesthetic and price points of our shop. Check out our website, come into the shop or talk to other vendors/designers currently showing with us BEFORE contact us.

2. Contact us by email or snail mail and include a line sheet or a link to a website that has good, current pictures and prices of their product. Something I can refer to at a later date when placing the order. Then, if you haven’t heard anything in a few weeks, follow up with a phone call or another email.

3. For smaller shops (like mine) make sure your product isn’t already being sold at another shop close by. Be prepared to tell the buyer/shop owner where else you are selling.

**DON’T drop into the shop with your product in a bag and expect someone to stop everything to check out the product and have a meeting with you on the spot. This is really unprofessional and a bad start to a possible business relationship. Frequently the person who would look at your work isn’t even in the shop and you may be talking to a part-time staff person who can give you incorrect info.

7. 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?
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?

Pay off my Line of Credit so I can dip into it all over again for Christmas buying.

1. 1480° degree small square glass necklace
2. Leah Nobilette oval 'spiky' vases
3. Mad Imports Seychelles Raffia Beach Bag
4. Orla Kiely Strawberry Multi Flower Maxi Sling Bag

5. Shoshona Snow porcelain vases
6. Emmeline Jewelry "Jessie" earrings
7. Kim White Reversible Fabric Handbag
8. Modica Design 'Reclaimed' Plywood Series Necklace

>> VISIT Tilde
7919 se 13th Avenue, Portland, OR 97202 (503) 234-9600

Thanks Debbie!!


Melissa de la Fuente said...

Oh, what a lovely shop and a great interview! I am off to check out the shop! Thank you!

Katie Runnels said...

love the design of their shop! wish I could visit! thank you for more helpful biz info!! xo

sulu-design said...

I'm a big fan of the shop and the owner - she gave a great talk to young women who are interested in starting their own businesses here in Portland. What a gal!

Marichelle said...

hi Susan - ohhh I wish I could've been there!!