I cannot fully share my experience, as Flea Style's first participant in their small business mentorship program, without giving a little back story. My initial impression of Flea Style (then called The Dallas Flea), was the Spring 2015 show. I was a new mom, and it was one of the first outings that we would attend as a family. We waited in a line that wrapped halfway around the building, with what seemed like some of the hippest people in Dallas. There was so much fashion inspiration before we even entered. Once in, I was like a kid in a candy store! My husband and I bought several cool T's from Dowdy Studio, turquoise jewelry, and even gun shaped decanters. I also met Marie Matter, of Wool & Weave, who would soon create my daughter's first piece of commissioned wall art. The experience was definitely unforgettable!
I continued following Flea Style, and attended the next Spring Show, then summit in July of 2016. Krisen Home, our vintage furniture business was founded earlier that year (more on our beginnings in a bit) , so I could not wait to join in on an event educating small business owners! Flea Style Summit was full of knowledgeable panelists discussing how they became entrepreneurs, and dishing out all kinds of insider tips! One of the most memorable candid discussions was with Jennifer Harrison, of Flea Market Fab. She explained how being told "no", became fuel for future business growth. This led to her continued success selling poofs, made out of vintage rugs, directly on Instagram. I left feeling so inspired, and wanted to immediately apply everything I had learned to Krisen Home.
When Brittany announced that Flea Style planned on taking a small business under their wing, in six month mentorship program, I knew I had to apply. The mentorship program would include meetings with advisors covering the following: legal, photography, branding, public relations and e-commerce. It would also include a blog post about your small business and $250 in gift cards, I honestly did not expect to be chosen, but knew I would regret not at least sending in an application. A few weeks later, I was completely ecstatic upon receiving an email from Brittany saying that I was selected for this awesome opportunity! What the what?! I was on cloud nine, and celebratory brunch commenced immediately!
To kick off the mentorship, Brittany invited me to the office to film an introductory Q & A video, for Flea Style's blog. Beforehand, Alyssa (Flea Style's Director of Operations) led me outside to snap a few casual portraits, for the post on Krisen Home. A little nerve racking, but so much fun!
Next, was the first advisor session, with Amanda Montgomery, regarding all things legal. Amanda is an attorney with a big heart for small business and entrepreneurs. Man, does it show! She lead me step by step in how to attain an LLC, which is the ideal formation for protecting all personal assets. We covered contracts, and a few terms that should raise a red flag, when listed (like "hand over your first born"). So kidding on the first born clause; but never be afraid to take some time to look over a contract, or consult a professional! If it is a meaningful potential opportunity, the participating party will be willing to give you a day or two. Amanda also mentioned purchasing a Limited Liabilty Corporate Kit, for nice organized keeping of your LLC documentation. I welcomed this tip, as my "file cabinet" is currently a box on a shelf above the washing machine. That is not a joke.
The second meeting was with Brittany and her publicist, at a Starbucks near the office. Girl bosses and coffee = the ultimate combo! There, we discussed the best way to introduce Krisen Home to local publications. Here are a few of my favorite tips from this session:
Have an organized Dropbox document of your latest products, and pricing that can easily be sent to local editors of publications relevant to your location and size of your brand. Remember that the lead time for publishing content is approximately two months in advance, so plan accordingly.
Don't be afraid to reach out to a favorite blogger, whose style aligns with your business and clients. It should go without saying, but be authentic with your message! Send one of your products their way, and who knows what this could lead to. Whether its an influencing Instagram post, or a new friend- it is a great way to grow your tribe. Ballsy, but great. I'm not going to lie, I have yet to complete this step. Maybe a 2018 goal?
Collaborate! Collaborate! Collaborate with a brand, or local business that you love, by hosting an Instagram giveaway together. This is also a helpful way to increase brand awareness.
As we finished this meeting, Brittany invited me to participate in an upcoming Garden party with a Flea Style pop up, at Anthropologie in Northpark Center. I was happy to provide a few pieces of furniture, for what ended up being such a fun Saturday! Flea Style brought loads of vintage goodness, their fabulous Gypset wraps! Models donned the latest Summer Anthro fashion, and Flea Style's gorgeous tassel earrings. There was even a succulent planting station, by Treehouse and Anthropologie. Kate Mcleod Studio's breathtaking florals topped it all off. Let's not forget Callie Collection wines, and the lovely macaroons from The Theodore. What a day!
The following meeting, I talked E-commerce with with Grace Dillie (Flea Style's talented Graphic Designer/ Visual Online Coordinator). We discussed optimizing Krisen Home's website hosting, for an improved shopping experience. At the time I was using a host that was great for building our initial site, but I needed a bit more creative flexibility. Shopify was the answer! Shopify allows you to load products, and simultaneously post to multiple platforms, which is so efficient. Afterwards, I sat in on a photo session with the Flea Style team. They sure do know how to get their products phtotgraphed, and edited in a couple of hours! Here are a few tips regarding photography:
Pick one day each week to shoot all of your latest products. Choose an area and time of day with best natural lighting. Lay it all out, shoot, and have fun. If you use digital camera- go ahead and connect to laptop right away and edit in Adobe Photoshop, using a consistent formula each time. Including an option with a human element, such as wearing or holding product is important. A flat lay of a product along side another object is also great for scale's sake. Don't forget a close up, and a group image with compatible products, that pair well! Once I employed the photography guidelines, Brittany walked me through uploading our new images to Shopify.
In August, I met with Josh and Justin Tarin, the founders of Visionary Playground. These guys are branding experts! They were so kind to take a look at everything related to the Krisen Home brand, and give valuble feedback. Here's a few things I learned:
Select your logo and stick with it, changes can be confusing for your potential clients. Create a set of brand guidelines, including fonts, colors and styles. Adhere to the guidelines on your website, ads, and social media posts. Make it personal, by sharing your own story on your website. Repeat customers are more likely to invest in a brand with authenticity! With each package, include a handwritten thank you or coupon. When it comes to social media, boost engagement by asking questions. Suggest that your followers tag a friend the post reminds them of. These are both great ways to build your tribe!
Last, but of course not least, lets talk about the force that is Brittany Cobb! Brittany always looks effortlessly killer in funky stylish trends of flea and fashion. She is every bit as cool as you would imagine, and has a kind, positive, down to earth vibe. Also, she doesn't stop! It clearly shows that if you put in serious daily effort, your business baby will GROW! In closing, Brittany answered a few more questions on business and fun. Here's what she said!
What continually inspires & motivates you?
This isn’t really fun or sexy, but I am motivated to just always grow and improve my personal or professional life. I’m also extremely inspired to support the small business community and our vendors. They constantly motivate me to find ways to make them flourish and succeed.
The Best advice you've ever received for starting a business?
For starting a business I would say that you have to be open to your business changing as you get your footing and figure things out. I think keeping an open mind is just as important as hard work in the early days so you can ebb and flow with the business as it takes shape and you as an operator finds ways to be successful and scale.
Markets, summit, shop, blog, podcast- you're already doing it all! What's next for Flea Style?