I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Rosa Mann, owner of The Ivy Trellis. JUST in case you missed my Trendspotting: Monograms post,The Ivy Trellis is an online boutique featuring an amazing collection of monogrammed gifts and accessories.
Rosa shared her experiences with me regarding opening her own business, staying ahead of the trends and advice for other entrepreneurs. Read on to find out more!
What prompted you to open your own business/what is your background?
I visited my godmother’s boutique in West Palm Beach as a young child and absolutely fell in love with the shop! I dreamed of having my own shop every day since!
My background was definitely not in retail. I have a teaching degree, taught elementary school and also worked in a social services/ juvenile delinquency prevention specialist role for years.
Is the majority of your business done online or in the store? Which do you prefer and why? Now the majority is done online…OH so much easier! Plus I have always been a morning person. I can work at 4 or 5 a.m. from home; you can’t have those hours in a retail shop.
Where do you get inspiration for your gifts & accessories? How do you stay so on-trend? I try to do at least one gift market a year. Atlanta is awesome. I also subscribe
to several trade magazines and constantly look at details : accessories and such even when watching a tv program. I remember a while back watching an episode of
Army Wives and seeing one of the cast holding a chevron pattern coffee mug….I can’t even tell you what exactly the show was about…I was so excited about the darn
mug that I started sourcing the next day!
What is your best selling gift/accessory? Anything monogrammed. Lilly Pulitzer items definitely do great.
What is the biggest difficulty you have experienced while owning your own business? Realizing that sometimes you need to take negative experiences or problems and simply figure a way to turn them around. For the first decade of owning my shop I built my business around one major company. When I found out that company was going under it MADE me refocus and make some major changes. What at first I thought would be a serious downfall in business turned out to make me take an even better path.
How is your work/life balance affected by owning your own business? Better or worse? Very difficult now that I’m more online/home based. When I had 8 employees in the shop, balance was better because I wasn’t in charge of so many details of the business. The hours now are actually longer. I have to be more aware of how I spend any spare business time.
What is one piece of advice you would give another “mompreneur”? You can not be all things to all people so find your niche and grow slowly keeping in mind that trends change in an instant. You need to be constantly on top of trends and expanding your niche. Business is business…so if a product isn’t selling, you need to not be emotionally attached to it. Realize your inventory is money not simply items. Non-selling inventory needs to be let go…move on…every shop owner makes inventory mistakes.
Rosa’s business mainly comes from word of mouth and repeat customers and I can see why! During our discussion, she let me know that her business has grown every year which is an amazing feat for any small business. Flexibility is key: if she comes up with a new concept on a Monday, it would be available for sale by Friday.
She also shared that packaging was a top priority; her mom told her that if she didn’t gift wrap, she wouldn’t shop in her store! When I received the tote I ordered for my mom’s birthday, it was beautifully packaged and ready to gift. It made such an impression on me that I immediately referred her products to everyone I spoke with!
We chatted about work/life balance. If you know me, you know that this is a major issue. I laughed out loud at how her daughter replied to people when asked what her mom did for a living. She informed them that her mom was like a fireman on a stripper pole: putting out fires while putting on a song and dance. I am sure all moms feel that way MANY times in life! We all struggle with the balance but humor definitely helps keep us sane. I will remember that anecdote for a VERY long time!
Check out her site for some amazing gift options (or a nice gift for yourself!).