I cannot believe I am a small business owner. It was never on my list of long-term or even short-term goals but here I am a small business owner and the opportunity just fell into my lap. I have a good friend who is a small business lender and he knew Couches to Curios was for sale. He thought it would be a good opportunity for me and sent me over the to the store to check it out. I was so mad when I walked into the store…. how could I not know about this shopping experience? This was my kind of store and I had missed out for 6 years!
I told two friends about the opportunity and they were intrigued so the three of us sat around a table with the current owners and began asking questions. At this point I never dreamed that I would go forward with the purchase of a business, especially by myself. Over the next couple of weeks my two friends dropped out of the picture, but I continued to discuss it with my husband and continued my pursuit.
In order to purchase a business with a loan I had to prove to the lender that I had the skills to run the type of business I was purchasing. I had to look back at all my work experience over the years and prove to myself I had the skills as much as the lender.
My love of design had developed over many years, but I think it begins with my Dad who loved big bold pattern fabric, wallpaper and bright colors. I also grew up going to my grandma’s big country farmhouse which was filled with Ethan Allen real wood furniture that is in my house today.
Design is certainly important to make the store appealing but the most important thing in this line of work is excellent customer service which is what I have been doing all my working life. I was in the restaurant/hotel business out of college but my longest career before I was a mother was a claims adjuster. While I was a stay at home mom I dabbled in home and retail sales while raising my 3 boys. I knew that in order to succeed in buying this business, customer service had to be my strongest trait and I definitely knew what that looked like.
One thing my dad told me during this process is that he missed out on a huge opportunity due to fear. He worked for Amoco Oil Company and had the chance to own his own station. He turned it down due to fear of risk and he regretted that decision as the station was very successful. I was so afraid to continue for so many reasons, but I did not want fear to be a reason to quit.
Did anyone ever tell you that buying a business is difficult? Well I can tell you, not only is it difficult, at times it seemed downright impossible. I feel as if I have earned an entrepreneurial business degree during the year long process it took to finally buy Couches to Curios. I was under no illusion that business ownership was easy—it is as hard as I thought it would be.
Our vision is to feature well-made furniture and decor in good to excellent condition. With this in mind, I had two goals my first year: #1 SURVIVAL! #2 Update the computer software. Mission accomplished! I am still alive, and we installed ConsignPro in February 2019 and it has changed the way our store functions.
The most important thing I learned in my first year of ownership: you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Much of the staff came with the store and have stayed with me. My store manager, Karen, loves the store and she continually shares ideas to increase the business and overall look of the store. Her dedication allows me to take time off. Zip has a lifetime of furniture and sales experience and teaches me something new about sales and how furniture is made every day. Gary and I worked together in the past and he continually transformed the store to make it easy for customers to envision what they can do with a piece of furniture or décor in their home. Gary passed away suddenly in September 2019 and we are trying to recover from the loss of our friend and co-worker. Tami is our expert on vintage and glass items and is great at researching unique items to determine value. Terri keeps us organized at the front desk and is always letting me know what supplies we need to keep doing what we do. Since I bought the store, we have added Sharon who shares a love of people, and most recently Denise. I’m so grateful for this team and their dedication to our customers.
October is National Women in Small Business Month. Women-owned businesses make up 39% of the 28 million small businesses operating in the United States. I hope my story encourages someone who is thinking about starting a business, or following a dream, you can do it! And, please stop in and check out our wonderful inventory of consignment furniture and decor.