Small business owners know there is a lot of hard work and energy that goes into operating a successful business. No matter the industry in which your business operates, many things about being a business owner remain the same, such as compliance issues, funding, vendor relations, and more.
However, there are many challenges unique to owning a retail store. Just ask Angela Crane, former owner of Best Friends, a scrapbook store which was located in Loveland, Colorado.
Crane first decided to open her business in 1998, at the age of 34, because she could see a trend starting to gain speed and wanted to be part of a quickly-growing industry. She started her business from the ground up by leasing
While it might have been possible to take over an established business from someone else, Crane knew she had to build it from the ground up in order to create the exact vision she had in mind. This helped her build a business she was proud of owning, and one in which she felt even more invested.
Having worked in retail before, Crane knew she had her work cut out for her. She was now in charge of finances, staffing, vendor relations, inventory, marketing, and more. However, she knew she was up to the challenge. “I thrived on that,” she recalls. “I loved the challenge of trying to figure things out, what people want, where the trends were moving, getting our name out there… I loved that part of it as much as I loved interacting with customers.”
Another challenge Crane encountered as a business owner was that of competition. She identifies her main competition as big box stores like Wal-Mart and certain hobby stores that also sold scrapbooking supplies.
“While we didn’t have their advertising budget,” she remembers, “what they couldn’t compete with was the customer service we offered. Going above and beyond became our niche, whereas the box stores were just punching a time clock.”
Early in her career as a retail store owner, Crane learned the hard way about the financial challenges small businesses must face.
“The hardest part was never knowing from month to month if all the bills were going to get paid. Some months we had tons of money left over; some months we could barely pay our rent,” she says.
“And it took me a long time to figure out the patterns of shoppers in our specific market. August was a terrible time for my specialized
While Crane did eventually learn how to deal with these ins and outs, it took time, patience, and trial-and-error.
As the cliche goes, hindsight is always 20/20. So, what would Crane have done differently? When she first started her business, she leveraged her home to take out a loan. In hindsight, she believes that was a mistake.
“I would not have risked my personal assets in order to start a business,” she says. “I didn’t want to go through the channels to get a small business loan. It took too long. I was impulsive.”
While this ended up working out for her, she doesn’t recommend this same path to others who are hoping to start or buy a business. “We paid on that for years after the business closed,” she says of her loan.
As far as advice she would offer to prospective business owners, Crane has this to say:
“Do your homework and know your market. Don’t be cocky. Always be willing to listen to other business owners who might know more than you. Don’t think you can reinvent the wheel. Find a wheel that works and fine-tune it.”
Crane believes the most important qualities a potential retail store owner must possess are tenacity and perseverance. She also believes loving what you do is vital to your success as a business owner.
‘A True Connection with People’
While Best Friends is no longer in operation, Crane wouldn’t change owning the business she built and ran for nearly a decade. “I don’t regret it,” she says. “I learned so much and met so many amazing people. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade it. I made a true connection with people.”