Steph Clymer describes the pivotal points that changed her retail business.
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4 min read
In this ongoing series, we share advice, tips, and insights from real entrepreneurs who run business battles on a daily basis. (The answers have been edited and compressed for the sake of clarity.)
Who are you and what is that to you?
I'm Steph Clymer, a 40 year old mom of three and a retail entrepreneur. My top business tip is to be ready to change. That's the only value you'll find in repetition in my life. I opened my first retail store in SoCal in 2006 and while my location remains the same, my concept has evolved. Originally called Xpecting, a maternity boutique, we renamed ourselves after 10 years and Shop Common Thread was born. Trust me, there have been a lot of doubters! Every day I was told that it would not be wise to take over a well-known company and change its name.
Why did you make the change?
We stopped selling maternity clothes and I couldn't bear to hear another woman ask, "Isn't this a pregnant woman store?" Once we renamed our brand, our business boomed and we could feel ourselves growing out of our current space. In 2019 we signed the lease for the neighboring room and reopened it in January 2020 after extensive renovations. We literally doubled in size in 2020.
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What did you learn from this experience?
Always be ready for a pivot. We closed for two months in March 2020 and ran the business like a warehouse offering shipping, roadside collection and what you call deliveries. We answered almost everything that our customers asked us with a resounding yes! It was during this time that we realized the need for an online gift shop. So I teamed up with my long-time branch manager Cindy and quickly rented a storage room in which we launched Heart + Twine. We offer bespoke gifts for everyone from the mom next door who just needs a special package to brokers who need 25 gifts to think about for co-entrepreneurs who need 50+ employee or client gifts.
Aha moments are a dozen, we have to identify the ideas that make the difference and then we have to be ready to take a great opportunity.
What was your biggest challenge during the pandemic and how did you overcome it?
You'll laugh, but the analytical side of me would say space. With the changes to Shop Common Thread and the launch of Heart + Twine, we suddenly had twice as much staff and twice as much inventory. We burst until we rented our warehouse.
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The emotional side of me would say insecurity. Will we be able to get fresh goods, how will the supply chain be affected, will my employees get sick, will they feel safe, will people leave their homes and shop? You name it, I worry! But my job is to lead my great team that trust me and depend on me for a paycheck. To do this, I have to create the vision for the future and then find ways to achieve it.
Any funding advice?
I took out an SBA loan more than 15 years ago, but all growth has been self-funded since then. My best advice is to keep your business cash intensive. You never know what's going to happen, but when you have cash you can expand as opportunities arise and survive tough times. I believe in preparation – expect the best, prepare for challenges and never take care of yourself.
What does the word entrepreneur mean?
I love Brene Brown and her book Daring Greatly. This is how I define an entrepreneur, someone who is very daring. We see opportunities and take action, take risks, fail badly, but we learn and try again. Entrepreneurs are vulnerable leaders, visionaries, dreamers, and fools!
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What is a quote that inspires you?
"The secret to getting ahead is getting started." – Mark Twain