Patti Blake isn’t fearless. She has a hefty email list, a strong social media presence, and a profitable mission-driven business, but she isn’t fearless. She’s courageous. “Courage and fear are not mutually exclusive,” said New York Times bestselling author Brené Brown, “Most of us feel brave and afraid at the exact same time.”
Back in 2012, Patti found herself as an empty nester with the desire to create something new – specifically, a boutique. She was inspired by a beautiful store she visited, which not only had gorgeous merchandise, but also gave away 10% of their revenue to international charities. The store was not open to franchising at the time so Patti decided to open her own shop-with-a-purpose store: Blue Moon Boutique, a clothing, accessories, gift and children’s store that gives away 10% of its revenue to local charities. She jumped head first into a new career (with no prior retail experience), and all the new things that go along with it: lifestyle, buying, promoting, and social media. What makes Patti successful is her resoluteness in acting despite any reservations or fears she had.
Blue Moon opened in what some might say was a tough economy (go girl!) and there were a lot of naysayers about, which tends to happen when someone steps out of their comfort zone. But with a healthy dose of realism and a belief in her vision, Patti forged ahead, anyway.
“I did have fear, but I knew I had to try it,” she said. “I was definitely going to fail if I didn’t try it.”
And that, my friends, is the only kind of failure there is. Patti listened to her gut in deciding on her new career… but not before getting a big lecture from her financial planner and being completely scared by it! She was given an invaluable piece of practical advice: she was told to think of a monetary number that reflected what she’d be willing to lose if it didn’t work out. Although the store obviously worked out, following this advice helped her keep her expenses down at the beginning and even today. So perhaps it helps to think of fear as something healthy because it can prompt you to get organized and plan ahead.
Not all our business decisions are as big as Patti’s, but big or small, new or established, sometimes you just need to make up your mind, trust your gut, and go for it. Maybe it’s an initiative to widen your demographic. Maybe it’s redecorating your store. Maybe it’s diving into social media.
“I’m a very private person. I don’t like my stuff out there and so I wasn’t on Facebook… I didn’t know the first thing about it.”
She also didn’t know how to build a website, but she moved forward anyway because she knew how important these modern marketing tools are in this economy. At that time, Patti often thought “Oh no, how am I going to handle all this,” but the next thing she knew, somebody would show up who knew what to do. Some people might say that Patti was just lucky in crossing paths with people who could help her, but there’s something to be said about having faith in your decisions that lead you to things you need in order to follow through. She was also vocal about her vision and needs. If people don’t know what you need or what you’re trying to achieve, they can’t step up to help you.
Today, Patti has a marketing assistant that updates her website, creates graphics, writes the philanthropy posts for Facebook, and creates and send emails to a list that’s 2,000 strong. She’s been very careful about emailing them only when she has actual news, (e.g. a sale or event) and as such, enjoys a very high open rate.
Welcome those serendipitous moments and take advantage of help that is readily available to you whether it be a social media helper, your staff’s input on trends, promotional ideas, local news and events or, as in Patti’s case, a web developer. Also have faith in yourself, as Patti did when she learned how to use social media for business. After some trial and error, she now has a very active community on Instagram.
“Every day, customers tell us that they saw our posts on instagram or FB. We can sell out of an item in one day from a post. Customers will comment to put items on hold until they can come in later or will show us a picture from a previous post asking if it’s still in stock.”
It’s been profitable to spend time creating gorgeous photos that her customer can’t resist. “It’s one of the main drivers of our business.” Blue Moon is located in a very small shopping center in the middle of three neighborhoods. You have to know about it to find it. Patti is clear about the power of her social media as a business tool. “I get nervous if I haven’t posted in a couple of days.” Check her out here!
But here’s something to note: even though she found higher engagement on Instagram, people typically say that they saw her products on Facebook too, so she continues on with it. This is important because you don’t know who’s watching your social media posts or for how long they followed them before they came in to buy, so it’s important to be consistent and patient with social media. Patti tells me it took a while to build the organic following she enjoys today. Diving into virtual marketing and building a strong following doesn’t happen overnight. Nor does it mean that you have to forgo all other types of traditional marketing. In fact, Patti gives interviews for her local press and she speaks at organizations aligning with her mission, such as the National Charity League and various churches. Getting out into her community has helped her to build community.
Patti’s commitment to community is reflected in her social media handle “BlueMoonCares” (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest). It may have been born out of necessity because “BlueMoonBoutique” was taken, but the experience that led her to create a mission-driven business, was more integral.
“Because I’d been volunteering in our community in the 10 years before I opened, I saw some needs in our community,” she said, “…they go unnoticed a lot because we’re a fairly affluent community… upper to middle class… so you just assume that everyone has what they need, but they don’t. I saw that and so my mission was to donate locally to local causes.”
As far as Patti knew, there were no businesses in her area had a charity arm, and in creating one, she filled a hole with something she was passionate about and it paid off in more than just “the feels”. Patti delivers her donations personally and often times, the charity has no idea what’s coming. The altruism has been so surprising to some that they can’t help but talk about it, which leads to more foot traffic in her store and even further collaborations such as “sip and shop” events with some of these organizations. In addition, Blue Moon carries products that also have a mission, so shoppers get the opportunity to contribute to two places at once. The amount she gives away seems to come right back with shoppers who are loyal and as we all know, retention is a big deal in business. Other companies even outside our industry would love to have the type of retention that Patti has. In fact, her customers are so loyal to her that they often go to her before they hit the mall. And I can tell you from personal experience, it’s hard to leave her store empty handed!
I have to note that promoting yourself as a purpose-driven company is one thing, but being transparent about your activity puts your retention on a completely different level. It’s how you build trust. Patti keeps a sign in her store indicating how much she has donated to charity to date. It’s a simple act, but when nearly 7 in 10 Millennials (along with 40% of younger Boomers and 33% of older Boomers) actively consider company values when making a purchase [Forbes.com 5/23/2018], you can bet that transparency is important.
Of course, you can only know about your retention rate if you keep track of it. Another reason for Patti’s stellar customer retention is something technology based. She implemented Fivestars loyalty rewards program and it’s helped her track loyalty and unobtrusively keep in touch with her customers, build stronger relationships, and increase foot traffic.
“Between Instagram and 5 Stars, we’re up for the year (2018).”
Wherever you are in your business timeline, you have the same tools available to you for your success as Patti does. Patti’s advice – particularly to newbies:
“Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do this. Be realistic about what it’s gonna take, but don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. Remember, it’s easy to criticize.”
Feel inspired by Patti’s story? Learn something new? Tell us about it in the comments below and help us build a community by sharing this with a friend or on social media . Happy new year!