Containing Community & Commerce

I love watching the changing face of retail...
over my 45 years of involvement with the industry, 
I've seen many 're-inventions' and new concepts rolled out.
Some fail, some succeed.
But I am always wondering 'What's NEXT?' for retail.

I recently had the chance to see a concept that has every reason
to become a successful way to create shopping experiences all over the globe...
is probably one of the most unique retail spaces I've seen.
Located on Fremont Street, just a few blocks away from a neon-lit tourist mecca of casinos,
 it's an open-air shopping center and entertainment venue  
that was built in 2013 from 43 re-purposed shipping containers
and 41 locally manufactured Xtreme cubes to create individual retail spaces. 

Situated on three levels,
the center offers wide open spaces along with retail and food service space:

The shops range from boutiques offering a variety of apparel, jewelry and accessories 
to art galleries, home d├ęcor and fixtures, 
and a barbershop housed in a retired boxcar and caboose. 

The park also includes restaurants and bars with indoor and outdoor seating, 
a park and raised stage for entertainment, and spots for a quick treat - 
including cupcakes, an old-fashioned candy shop, a gourmet popcorn store, and more.
In all, there are 39 retailers located within the complex.
At first glance, it's a cool industrial vibe.
On second thought, it's a brilliant way to re-purpose shipping containers - 
which too often simply rust away to nothing in salvage yards.

I wonder how many of these centers of commerce and community
could be created in areas around the globe, in virtually any economic setting,
to offer cost-effective venues for merchants, artisans, growers and makers? 
Include service providers - hair, nails, tanning, massage, urgent care, pet grooming - 
and you've another group of small businesses to serve.

We're in the midst of National Small Business Week
and I can imagine that this creative and economical kind of structure
could have a far-reaching effect on small businesses in communities everywhere.
What are your thoughts?
Would YOU embrace this in your community? Would YOU rent space like this?

information for this post was gathered from this source

Magnolia Silos Retail, Part Deux

Okay, Y'all.... I promised you MORE photos from my recent visit
to the Magnolia Silos in Waco, Texas...... Here they are!
The 2-acre site was formerly an abandoned agricultural property,
then Joanna & Chip Gaines reclaimed, rehabbed, remodeled, revived, and re-branded it
into a retail village, right in the heart of downtown Waco, Texas.
They've made use of the existing structures and architecture in an appealing way...

The first thing you notice when you walk into the development is that it's BIG.
Not just the land... but everything ON it! BIG BIG BIG!

 As a matter of fact, it's so BIG that you need directions to find everything. 
There's a MAP for that!

Very smart, if you ask me.... you don't want to miss anything while here,
and the map (located in front of the main retail store from my last Magnolia post) makes sure that you don't.

Along with that main store, there are two other retail buildings on site
(with a third in progress - inside one of the silos!)
The Silos Bakery:

The patio area outside of the bakery is a very nice touch - and it was FULL!
I was unable to visit the inside of the bakery, 
because the line outside was two blocks long
and I wasn't going to ask my family members to wait two hours for me
to get a cupcake and snap some photos.
(but those musta' been some REALLY amazing cupcakes!)

Another building is the Garden Store:
 Signature decor touches and merchandising style reflect the aesthetic of the main store.
This area is much less busy than the main store, but has a nice selection of 
branded apparel and garden tools & accessories.
If you want to take home a Magnolia souvenir but hate waiting in long lines,
I recommend shopping in this location

Near the Garden Store, across the beds of flowers and vegetables, 
is the Garden Shed (not accessible to guests)
The garden area is decidedly less busy than the large (faux) lawn and picnic table areas,
so it's possible to sit in a willow tree chair and find a bit of silence amidst the crowds...
The facility functions as a community space, 
with room for lawn games, picnics, and stopping to smell the roses
along with - or instead of - shopping for retail treasures.
The only issue is limited parking.... on Friday & Saturday, it's gonna' be a hike.

There is ample space on the grounds for a weekly gathering of gourmet food trucks,
and the twice-yearly 'Silo-bration' event,
where the Gainses invite purveyors of handmade & vintage goods to sell to their customers.
Personally, I think that's smart - it's a way for the loyal Magnolia fans to
get their hands on authentic vintage goods along with the Silos experience - 
because the store's main offerings are 
brand new, mass-produced, home decor accessories, which are available on their website,
with a few handmade items sprinkled in.
All in all, I was very impressed with what the Gainses have created,
how it is true to their brand and style,
and how they have brought their tv show to life so that people can experience it in a new way.
They are 'Telling Their Own Story', so to speak... 
which is something I've been advocating in seminars, articles, and blog posts 
for over two decades now.
That's just smart business.

For more about Magnolia Marketplace, the Silos, and Fixer*Upper,
visit the Magnolia website.

5 Business Tips for Creatives

Let's Talk Shop@, shall we?

I usually give you advice about the visual aspects 
of your store, show booth, showroom, studio, and displays.
But National Small Business Week is coming up, 
and I'd like to look at the 'business side' of retailing for a moment
as I share a few tips that I've learned along this crazy 'self employed' road.
These won't be the typical ones that you read in magazines, 
because I'm not a typical business person.

I'm a creative person - and that's how my business has grown: Creatively. Organically. 
And while my growth has always been focused on the central aspect of 
educating & inspiring people to think creatively when it comes to their stores, 
it hasn't all gone 'according to plan'.  Mine or anyone else's.

I spent my teen years and early adulthood as a retail visual merchandising employee,
where most of my employers saw my potential and gave me carte blanche with displays.
(One clothing chain even hired me to dress windows in three mall stores - when I was 17.)
With a lot of initiative and energy, I pitched more and more projects,
and eventually ended up handling the visuals and holiday decor for some major Seattle retailers,
along with holiday decor for executive residences.
Independent retailers contacted me to style their store displays,
and help plan their move into new locales or expansions of their existing spaces.
I blogged here, sharing my tips, tricks, and ideas with retailers looking for ideas.
And I was perfectly happy doing that. Until....
Out of the blue, I stumbled across the opportunity to speak at a wholesale gift show, 
then that grew into speaking at other shows across the country.
Which turned into requests for written content for publications in the retail industry
and invitations to speak at other kinds of shows and conventions,
and a contract to produce a video series.
Eventually, opportunity led me to become an employee again, for a time - 
for the ONE giant retailer that I built my own visual philosophy around
and had used as a benchmark of successful retail practices throughout my career.

I didn't see most of that coming, to be honest, but I am thrilled that it all happened!

Which leads me to my first point: 
You can't plan for everything that will happen. And that's GOOD!

Say Yes
- whenever you can, try something new.

Unexpected opportunities may appear that are something you didn't plan for - SAY YES to them.
I was perfectly content to provide hands-on display styling services to my local clients,
when an opportunity to design a new floor plan for a client's shop came along. I said yes.
Then the speaking engagements appeared, and I said yes.
Then the requests for magazine and online content came in, and I said yes.
Then a company approached me about creating a video series, and I said yes.
I made time, I made an effort, I rearranged some other things, 
and I followed the path of adventure and risk.
And it paid off  - 
by making me a better designer, a stronger business owner, and a less risk-averse person.
Dare I say it makes me a more creative-thinking person, as well? ;)

... and in regard to that 'becoming an employee again' situation:

Don't Be Afraid to Circle Back - because you can't step in the same river twice.

(Yes, there's a pun in there. If you've read my blog for any length of time, 
you know that I am an unabashed Disney fan. That line is from Pocahontas.)

My point is that even if you shift into reverse and go back to doing something that you did before,
downsize your biz to focus on the basics, or even stop for a while and become an employee again
(as I did when I became a Retail Visual Specialist employee/ Cast Member at Disneyland),
you're going to learn something new. 
Even if you're in an old place. Because everything changes:
YOU. Business. Technology. The world.
And what you learn looking back might just be the thing that propels you forward.

One of the hardest things about business is adding new clients & customers.
Help yourself in that area by showing them how to become one:

Tell Prospective Clients HOW to Hire You - explain your process and give them a formula to follow.

Communication is hard. It shouldn't be, but it is.
It takes guts for a potential client to contact you, so make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
Tell them where to contact you, and give them an outline of the information you need at the get-go, 
somewhere very visible & accessible on your website, blog, and social media.
I created a page on my design blog and website in the form of an email 'example', 
showing prospective clients exactly how they could jump-start my work on their project
by giving me pertinent information about their biz, their challenges, 
along with how & when they need me to help them... in their very first email to me.
I call it 'How to Hire Me #101'. See it here.

I've received  40% more inquiries and requests for work since adding that information,
telling me that spelling it out really does add up.

Next up... realize that you're gonna' need help.
Not one single person who's ever opened a business knew EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING
at the start. You don't even know what you don't know yet. 
Never Stop Learning - because you don't know what you don't know yet.

Many artisans create beautiful wares, but have no idea how to best display them to sell.
Many retailers open stores to sell merchandise - but have no idea how to market themselves.
Get online and find information about marketing and merchandising and store planning
(or whatever it is that you don't know much about) and learn what you can.
As a matter of fact, assign yourself homework -
pick up / download books on business - all kinds of business, not just yours -
and keep reading. Keep learning. Keep stretching yourself.

You can also hire a consultant for an hour, to answer your most nagging questions. 
I do this all the time - you don't have to hire me to completely design your space. 
Hire me for an hour and then ask me questions like "Where do I put the register?".
I'll not only show you where, I'll tell you WHY. ;)

... and along that same thought, don't do everything the hard way!

Know Your Strengths - and get tools to help you overcome your weaknesses.
No one is good at everything... and there are solutions for that.
Sometimes, the solution is to LET IT GO and let someone else handle it for you.
(that's not a Disney reference, it just sounds like one)

Is your weakness negotiating a lease? Call a realtor and ask a few questions to clarify,
or pay a paralegal for an hour to review the lease before you sign.
Do you feel out of touch when it comes to social marketing? Ask your employees - 
especially the Gen X and Y crowd, because they GET IT - and hand over the task.
Is your challenge presenting your merchandise in stunning displays THAT SELL?
Well, you know who to ask - and now you know HOW to hire me!

I'm a creative-brain person, and numbers put me in a tailspin. I accept this.
You can't run a business without accounting,
and there's no better resource for that than Quickbooks from Intuit.
It's the software equivalent to being a Mensa society member,
and it's saved my sanity - and TONS of time - for many years.

Disclosure: I've partnered with Intuit to share this information
in return for inclusion of one of my tips in their site's NSBW post.

Update: May 5
I just received the link and graphic from them. Their post published today.
It's the last day of NSBW AND they got my name wrong.
Not thrilled.

Owning your own business is a continual learning experience.

As a matter of fact, self-owned businesses are often referred to as a 'baby', 
and it is indeed a LOT like parenthood: a learn-on-the-job undertaking.
And just like parenthood, it requires that you get advice, 
read all you can and sift through what 'fits', 
understand that it requires sacrifice and sustained effort with little sleep,
taking chances & risks, trusting your gut, and focusing on growth - YOURS included!

Visit the SBA website for helpful tools + information about National Small Business Week

Calling All Vintage Chicks!

Have you ever been to The Farm Chicks show?
Do you WANT to go?!

Click over to The Farm Chicks facebook page and enter to WIN two tickets 
to the show this June 3 & 4!
The show takes place at the Spokane Fairgrounds in Washington state, 
and it's truly jaw-dropping... 

From 2007 to 2011, I was a vendor at this vintage, antique & handmade show.
Farm Chicks is one of the BEST shows of this type in the country, 
featuring hundreds of talented artists, makers, dealers, and 'junkers' 
all gathered in one place, indoors, once a year - with booths like these: 
(the last 3 photos are of my own RETREAT booths at the show)

My very first year as a vendor, I was pretty ambitious
because before the show opened on the first day, I ran around for two hours shooting 
six episodes of a video series for the now-defunct Gift & Home Channel!

In my videos, you'll learn about arranging small spaces for maximum accessibility,
be inspired by creative display tips & tricks, realize how your visual style impacts your brand,
and find out how these shows can be a terrific source for new & unique products for your store.

In my own high-energy, fast-talking, fast-moving style,
I packed a LOT of info into each 5 to 7-minute video, and some amazing women joined me
to share their tips, tricks, secrets, and lessons on camera... you'll learn a lot from them, too!
You can find all six of those videos on my YouTube channel.

I'm heading back to the show as a shopper this June, 
and can't wait to enjoy the atmosphere and experience of being there again.
If you get a chance, GO!!! And if you see me there, say hello!

(and don't forget to enter the ticket giveaway over on The Farm Chicks facebook page! )