My last installment in this series features the most successful business woman owner I know: my sister Valerie.
Unlike the other women I've spotlighted who sell handmade goods, Val owns Thematic Attic, a teacher school supply and children's book store in Covina, Ca. Through lots of work and talent, she has created the Disneyland of bookstores for teachers and children in Southern California.
Val has separated her store into thematic sections, organized the way a teacher teaches. Here is the art room (click to supersize):
You can see that along with books, she has teaching aides, stamps, figurines, and many other items relating to art, all housed in a room painted like Van Gogh's Starry Night.
Here's the rainforest area, where you'll find puppets and rain sticks alongside the books, stickers and manipulatives, all nestled under exotic trees with sounds of the rainforest playing overhead.
Val puts a lot of effort into creating a vibrant, interesting, fun experience for her customers.
Here she tells a little about how she got where she is (her thoughts are in blue):
I have been in business since June 1993. I started as a mobile book service to school's in Southern California. I love children's books and get very excited when I see a really great book I can share with our customers!
Val is a talented artist herself and has always loved beautiful picture books. She offers art workshops for kids with projects relating to seasons, themes or artists such as Frida Kahlo. There is nothing else like the workshops and parties her store has, they are amazingly fun!
I asked her what was frustrating about running a business:
It's hard having people come in and ask for something we don't carry, because you want to be able to have it all. I do refer them to where they should go to find items we don't have.
I use to work like crazy! I just can't do it anymore. In the past, I'd get up to be at work by 9 am (which is when the store opens) and many nights wouldn't get home until after midnight. Just futzing around the store with displays or stocking.
Val's family is supportive of her busy days. She is married to Lorenzo who is a partner in the business and works alongside her and her "children" are two adorable dogs, Phoebe and Max, who are very happy to be store dogs.
One thing I do try to do is show my customers how much I appreciate them. I always greet them, let them know I'm here if they need me. When I can't help them, I always refer them to where they should go. I think it's better to help them, and hopefully they will think of me the next time...When customers come up to the register either I or the staff always makes sure to ask if they found everything they needed, if not we make sure they do. We always thank them too!
I think one of the most important things about retail is to appreciate your customer.
I have to say that Val's customer service can't be beat and she has trained her staff to be just as courteous and helpful. She has developed many close relationships with her customers who are very loyal to her.
I love my sister and I'm very proud she's created one of the largest and most successful stores of her kind in Southern California (teachers come by the busload from other cities just to visit her store!). If you are ever in the area, definitely check out Thematic Attic, it's an experience not to miss!
I've enjoyed sharing the stories of my female business owner friends with you. I'm continually amazed at the ingenuity, determination and talent so many of the women I know have - I find it very inspiring and hope you do too!