So, why should you listen to me? Why do I think I can teach you anything? What if I am just some crazy person hijacking your time online? Well, I am absolutely a crazy person, but you will just have to deal with that…(My boyfriend does, it’s only right other people do too). But, if we are talking about experience, I have a lot of that!
On this little intro email, I would like to give you some of my credentials. I no longer believe job titles are important. I no longer wish to climb the corporate ladder or add fancy titles to my resume, but I did at some point. And along with that came some invaluable experience.
What I want you to take from this is 1. Ok, so she might actually know what she is talking about. And 2. The moral of all my stories is this: I didn’t feel like I was learning much while I did these jobs. I guess I took a lot of what I did for granted. It was just part of everyday life.
I would not realize how much I learned and benefited from having to straighten racks every 15 minutes, fold with a board, handwrite customer Thank You letters, remerchandise sales floors and windows every month, deal with difficult customers (yup, Karen’s have been around since the beginning of time. We just didn’t have a name for them yet), cater to specific shopping habits, crazy demanding bosses, and impossible deadlines…. Until I became my own boss.
I write this in hopes that you will learn from my experiences, without the stress. Keep going, even when you feel like you don't get it. I promise you that if you keep at it, and keep an open mind for learning, one day it will all click. The way it did for me. One day you realize you just know all this useful information. It's like you are given little pieces of a puzzle. They seem random in the beginning but eventually you realize where they fit and why you were given those specific pieces.
LESSONS FROM THE LUXURY RETAILERS
My days at Nordstrom and Bloomingdales: I will lump these together because I learned very similar lessons at these fine establishments. I worked as a sales associate at both, they both had a commission structure (although the one at Nordstroms was WAY more aggressive). I got to spend my days around all sorts of beautiful things that I could not afford.
I will spare you my autobiography, as most of the days were incredibly repetitive. Days of crazy amazing commissions where I thought I would become a millionaire, and days where I came in and started my day at -$2000 (yes, returns count against associates “insert eyeroll emoji”).
The most important lesson I learned at these department stores was the importance of customer service. We were on commission, so you wanted to make sure that once a customer bought from you, she would come back to you for ANYTHING she might need for the rest of her life.
We went above and beyond for customers. We hand wrote thank you notes. We would send them letters or emails any time anything came in that they might like. We had a KILLER employee book where you had to write in ANYTHING you could remember about your customer.
Did she mention her anniversary was in 2 weeks? I would write it in my book and send her a Happy Anniversary card! Did she mention she wanted something but it was too expensive? I would contact her during presale and tell her I had already held her sizes for her.
We basically did the work Instagram and facebook do now to stalk customers, but manually. I cannot tell you how far good customer service goes. Not for internet trolls that just want to waste your time asking questions or sending $2 offers. I mean your real customers!
These are tough times. If someone spends money with you, it is an honor. Make sure that you treat those customers the way they deserve to be treated… or someone else will.
JUICY COUTURE ON RODEO DRIVE
I am going to totally skip over my days as assistant store manager of the Juicy Couture store on Rodeo because I have actually talked about in another post. If you want to hear about that, click here.
I will say that Juicy Couture taught me the importance of creating an experience for the customer. The Rodeo store was beautiful, no expense was spared on visuals. The second customers stepped it, it was like they were stepping into a magical world. THIS is what I strive for.
MY DAYS AS A BUYER FOR KITSON LOS ANGELES
Now, onto one of THE most challenging jobs, and yet probably my favorite one...
I landed a job as a Retail Buyer for Kitson Los Angeles. I was basically in charge of buying product (anything in the beauty and gifting categories) for 9 stores.
If you have never heard about Kitson, google it now. You will see a neverending parade of celebrities. Kitson was EVERYTHING back in the day. Paris Hilton and the Kardashians were there weekly! I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.
I will write a separate post for this at some point because it is definitely a story that needs to be told. It is very interesting, scary, hilarious… it has a lot of magic. It was basically The Devil Wears Prada but on the west coast, and no Chanel. I have nothing but great memories now because it was probably the job and the boss that taught me the most about business and my own capabilities.
The Biggest Lessons Learned: Branding is the essential. Once you establish a name for yourself, you become an authority, you control the market. The blue Kitson bag became an aspiration, a symbol to girls all around the world. Kitson Los Angeles became a destination. They would come to get the "celebrity" experience.
The owner was a marketing genius. He made HIS brand the aspiration. It no longer mattered what was in the bag, it was the fact that people were carrying it around and taking pictures with it. Eventually, he was able to sell his branded items for crazy amounts because the demand was there. He controlled the market...(slow clap).
I learned that anything can be done. I was given near impossible tasks and I realized that with the right motivation, anything can be accomplished. There is ALWAYS a way to get something done, it just takes a LOT of creativity sometimes. So, next time you are stuck with a problem and your head is telling you "this cant be done", rephrase that to "how could this be done?". You will see that sometimes just rephrasing the questions gets your wheels turning.
Most importantly, I learned the art of negotiation. This deserves a full post on its own. But my boss gave me the gift or learning how to negotiate ANYTHING in life. Nothing is a final price. There is always wiggle room. No matter how final something seems, a contract, an offer, any deal, there is always room to negotiate.
If any of you feel like this topic is not for you, that you just can't bring yourself to counter and play hard ball, I recommend a book called Never Split the Difference. The techniques taught will blow your mind! Negotiating is an essential part of business, it is a required skill.
BRAND MANAGER FOR PBR
I skipped over a great job at Allsaints, but I confess it was one of the easiest jobs I ever had. I got amazing free clothes and all I did was help celebrities do press pulls, so, that will be for another time.
Moving on to by big corporate job that I left to start The Global Collective, Pabst Blue Ribbon. I worked for the Pabst Brewing Company for 6 years. I did sales for most of them. I was offered many promotions but I was dead set on the marketing team for the main brand. It was either that or nothing (this is me). So, after a lot of hard work, proving myself, and being the squeaky wheel....I finally got my dream job! I was part of the dream team that managed the biggest brand in our portfolio.
I was in charge of retail (point of sale) marketing. Basically, I got to choose anything and everything that would be used to help sell our brand, from a keychain and tshirt to brand collaborations and neons. As a team, we would come up with the marketing plans for the year and then I would break the year down into quarters and build programs around those ideas.
Biggest lesson learned: I realized that EVERYTHING in life today is marketing. This isn’t specifically about this brand, just in general, marketing and presence have become more important than quality in our society. I would not say that the liquid itself was anything special, but the PBR brand became a lifestyle. We used to get thousands of submissions of people that got the brand tattooed on their bodies! What was inside the can didn't even matter anymore, it was about what the can represented to them. People want to be a part of something. What can your brand/store offer that no one else can? What makes your brand unique?
I use it to my advantage. I focus greatly on presence and aesthetics. I already know the brands I sell have a story. They represent something, a certain lifestyle. I am pretty sure customers buy my items because of what they see and the story behind the brands, but when the quality surpasses their expectation, I create raving fans.
This is something I talk about often... PERCEPTION IS VALUE. Your item is only worth what your customer is willing to pay. People don't just buy items, they buy into a story, a lifestyle, an image. A Supreme t-shirt costs about maybe $5 to make. That does not keep people from lining up for hours at a time to buy them, and it does not keep people from reselling them online for over $300.
Supreme is not selling a product. It is selling a lifestyle. It is selling a special, limited world of cool kids. Only a few of them will get "in". You create your market. I have often read in business books that you don't create a product and try to find a market, you find a market and find a way to make your product appealing to them.
So, if you have made it this far, wow! You have some determination lol. But also, I share this in the hopes that I gain your full trust. I am not just talking from thin air, I have been through a lot and gathered a lot of treasures along the way. I want to save you time and energy. I am taking all my experiences, extracting all the valuable lessons, and spoon feeding it to you. Why? Because I wish someone had done it for me.
Again, thank you for being here. And I hope you are able to apply the lessons to come to your business and thrive. Also, leave a comment. Let me know your thoughts or any questions you might have. I am happy to share and answer what I can.
Lastly, I promise to share all my knowledge and help you learn what I know, all I ask is that you are open to the learning process. That you participate, ask questions, complete any "assignments", and trust the process even when it doesn't make sense right away.
Thank you for reading my thoughts. Now you are probably thinking...
Ok, cool story, Isa, but how did you actually build The Global Collective Co.? How did it all start? Well, there is a lot to that story. For example, I built most of my website in McDonalds in Budapest. Not just any McDonalds, the most beautiful McDonalds I have ever seen with killer wifi.
Want to know more? click here to read How I Built a Successful Online Luxury Resale Store.
Slow it down, sister! One more thing...
Hold on a second there! One more thing...
Hold on a second there! One more thing...
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