After being downsized from her office job in graphic design and relocating to Cleveland with her husband, Gloria Franklin decided that she needed to follow the dream she’d always had of owning her own business. And home decor seemed to be an ideal fit.
“I’ve always had a passion for interior design,” Franklin says. “I love the way a little rearrangement of things you already own or a change in wall color or a switch of a rug or pillow can make a big impact on your home.”
She opened her online boutique in 2011 when she was 27 years old. Franklin’s online home decor boutique Colom & Brit features unique, chic products like a beautiful mini chandelier in purple ($159), a wingback headboard in velvet ($479) and other elegant treasures to decorate the home in style. Today, Franklin works from her home office, negotiates with vendors, works with customers and has expanded her business to include another online store, The Mantilla Company, for brides who want to wear authentic Spanish mantillas (veils) on their wedding day.
We caught up with Franklin for a lesson in starting your own business in swanky style.
Feather Magazine: What challenges did you face in the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey?
Gloria Franklin: When I started Colom and Brit, a lot of vendors I reached out to wanted to see my website (which was still in its production phase) and wanted to know what other lines I carried. I eventually came across a handful of companies that only required an application and credit check. I used product photos from those companies to put on my website and eventually started working with the brands that I really wanted to carry.
FM: Did you have any help when you first started? Who inspired you, supported you in the beginning?
GF: In the beginning, I think it’s natural to bootstrap and try to do everything yourself. But I was eager to get started, so I had someone build a website for me. While I worked on legal paperwork and sourcing vendors, my husband priced out all the inventory and shipping costs. I tried not to tell too many people about my business because I was afraid of letting their opinions cloud my focus, but I did tell my family and they were completely supportive!
FM: What steps did you take to go from idea to “in business”?
GF: I first got a vendor’s license, then a business bank account, purchased a domain name and web hosting, found a website designer on Etsy, then sourced my vendors. Once my products were listed on the site, I was essentially in business. However, the Internet is a really big place so marketing played (and still plays) a big role in getting my business name out there.
FM: Did you ever want to give up…and how did you overcome that feeling?
GF: There are many challenges to owning a business. You have to wear a lot of hats and when you make a mistake, there is no one above you to offer guidance or advice. Trusting your own judgement can be really hard but the rewards that come with owning a business far outweigh the bad and that keeps me going.
FM: What are the benefits of running your business online?
GF: The biggest benefit is that the cost of running an online business is significantly lower than running a traditional brick and mortar business. It is a low risk investment because you can work from home and often times, you can wait to purchase inventory from your wholesaler until your customer buys the product from you. Your potential customer reach is not limited to the city you live in, so you can reach your ideal customer regardless of which part of the world they are in. If you don’t mind working while on vacation, you can work from anywhere. Lastly, since your time and location is flexible, you can build a business around the lifestyle you want to live.
FM: What advice do you have for Feather Girls who want to start their own online home decor boutiques?
GF: If you decide to open a traditional brick and mortar business, you still need a website to attract customers that live across town that may have never driven past your storefront. If you decide to open an online store, use Google’s keyword tool. Type in products or services that you want to sell. If you come across anything that gets over 100,000 searches per month with little competition, you might be on to something! Before you invest time and money into an idea, test products to see if they will sell first, by listing them on Ebay or Etsy. Lastly, just get started. You can only research and plan so much. You’ll never feel like you’re 100 percent ready but the sooner you start, the sooner you can see what works or doesn’t work for your customers, and you can make adjustments accordingly.
“So You Want To Be…” is a feature that highlights women with awesome jobs. If you know someone we can interview, email hello [at] feather-mag [dot] com.
(image source: Gloria Franklin/Colom & Brit)