Thursday, July 17, 2008

Retail Therapy: Vain

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

Quick Facts
# of employees: 48
Did you write a business plan (y/n)? Not initially
Day your doors opened: December 2, 1996
Owner: Victoria Thomas Gentry

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

It was all a big surprise! I was a hairdresser, not a business owner.

2. You have one of the most, if not the most, original concept I've encountered since starting this series - A hair salon, an art gallery, a boutique and a community space. Can you walk us through how you came up with this killer and well-received concept?

I’m an activist first and in my heart of hearts wanted to open a community center. The concept allowed me to use what I knew (hair) as a platform for the rest of the model.

>> continue reading Retail Therapy: Vain

3. Vain has received a good amount of press coverage since you opened. Do you have any marketing and promotion tips for aspiring and shop owners?

Be an active community member. It’s good for the community and it’s good for your business to be involved. Also, be focused in your advertising- don’t just go for the big, mainstream publications.

4. Do you have a magical "buying" formula (when it comes to the boutique)? Do you have any tips you can share with first-time buyers getting ready to make their first batch of wholesale orders?

One toe in at a time. Be ready to be flexible and let your customers tell you what they want to buy from you!

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

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

Both. Our styledrivers regularly hit local craft fairs and indie designer sites. We also have a great network with our hair salon- clients will tell us about some great new line, whether it’s theirs or a friend/family member’s, and we’ll take it from there. It seems like everyone knows someone who makes cool earrings these days.

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

Our process varies. One thing artists/designers can do is make sure they have a good grasp on wholesale pricing- stores mark up items to factor in their own costs, and designers should make sure to expect that and price their items accordingly. Other than that, the work will make them stand out.

7. Vain has been constantly evolving since you first opened your doors back in 1996. You just recently opened Ballard, your second location - do you have any other big plans or changes in the works?

As far as opening another VAIN location, it took us 10 years to open a second one so it’s not something we’re rushing into. We want to be great before we’re huge, and we won’t sacrifice quality for growth. VAIN is not on that capitalist train. We do have something big in the works for 2009, though. It’s the return of a VAIN legend.

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?

Throw a big art party and pay the rent! We’d love to be able to bring in more live performance elements into our salon and community events, so 10k could help with that.

9. How has owning a business changed your life?

What life?

10. Name 3 things that you miss about the Big Apple and 3 things about Seattle that makes up for it.

I miss: Cheap eats from all over the world, the people, the pace.
How Seattle makes up for it: Seattle is less classist and competitive, it’s clean and beautiful and green here, and the pace.

Downtown: 2018 1st Avenue
Ballard: 5401 Ballard Avenue NW


Thanks Victoria!!