A question I typically get from people in the course of doing business for Ellie & June is if I have always been in retail. Actually, come to think about it, a lot of people ask me that even when we’re not transacting business with one another. It’s clearly an appropriate question, and I would especially welcome it if I could answer with a positive confirmation; but I can’t do that. The answer is a simple “no”. Womp womp. The reaction is typically non-verbal communication that reflects genuine concern, and that’s okay with me. I understand it. There was obviously a set of tools I had in the bank that gave me enough confidence to move forward with what I’m doing, and I thought I’d discuss those.
I’ve spent the last several years in the public equity investment space. I studied companies. The firm I spent most of my years at had both proprietary mathematical models and MBA/CFA folks to conduct research on companies. If we had the conviction to be optimistic about a company, we would buy the stock. If we had conviction to be ominous about a company, we would short the stock. I’m not eager to bore people with details (unless you push… then I’m in!), but this gave me several years of studying successful and unsuccessful companies. Most of the stores I frequent on a regular basis, I’ve looked at to some degree. I’m familiar with their recent earnings, their forecasts, and I understand their competitive strategy moving forward. This is where I have the most confidence: the business side of things. When it comes to cash management, financial statements (both historical and pro forma), market analysis, margins, etc., I’m very comfortable. I’ve worked in small start-up investment firms where roles are not as defined as they are in larger organizations. Everyone runs the business. I started Ellie & June with a toolkit that spanned from marketing to human resources (my undergrad was in HR) to Quickbooks to WordPress to MailChimp to Zoho to extensive client engagement. Building the administrative and financial infrastructure to start Ellie & June has been the easier task for me.
My posture with Ellie & June so far is that it is most important to build a strong foundation that can be easily scaled. I want to get to a point where I can focus the majority of my time on product selection. I need to offer great products, of course, but there is no point in having shiny objects for sale when there is no foundation for execution. Period. I’m just not in a camp where I believe the product sells itself in the long-run; at least not in the space I’m headed (where there are likely many product and retailer substitutes). An area where I fell short was sound logistics planning. Luckily for me, my high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband just so happened to evolve into the Superman of Operations. More specifically, start-up operations, which requires a special level of project planning and implementation in everything from sourcing to customer support. I lucked out here. Also, he’s heavily invested in the success of Ellie & June so that he can spend the majority of his time teaching our son (and other kids) to wrestle 😉 Aligned interests!
So there you have it, my confidence toolkit that encourages me to move forward. Bottom line: I have no direct fashion or retail experience. I’m aware of this, and I’m okay with it. I started Ellie & June with a set of competencies and secret passions that I sincerely hope bode well for everyone. And if they don’t, that’s life. We’ll figure it out. Chris had me listen to a video once, and there was a quote that said that the most wealth could be found in cemeteries; where great ideas perish along with the people that didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t implement them. Go for it if you can 🙂
PS- for those that are wondering (specifically my husband), the obvious project that required the above tools was a new screen window that needed to be bolted down with a variety of similarly functioning tools. It also needed to be re-fit using shims, and both a ball-peen and claw hammer. The succulent was there for moral support.