Last week, I began Chronicles of My Retail Life, a weekly series of blogs about what’s happening with me at Calabar Imports. It’s a short synopsis of the life of a retailer in Brooklyn and Harlem from day to day events, insights on what happens in the store and what ideas are implemented and dropped. This is week two. And I am inspired by what feedback I got so far, some of the designers and store owners who have read this have reached out to say good idea or thank you for giving a new insight. One even asked if they could borrow the idea – I said yes as it is not a new idea nor does it belong to me. It is the intention to give ideas away, partly but really, it’s my journal of making note so I clean return to re-examine it.
I spent the week with a lagging cold and sniffles and I started the ginger tea regiment I know works. My typical schedule of getting items to all stores was not an option, instead on Thursday and Friday I hibernated and rested. Nothing like sleeping in the middle of the day to make you realize what a cold can do, it knocks the wind out of you. As an entrepreneur, you must know your body and read its signs to take time to deal with it before it breaks down. It needs rest and it does need to stop sometimes. So, instead of running around and getting product to all the Calabar Imports stores, this was the week of planning and figuring out some extra things to do for the six months.
Planning on Thursday through Ginger Tea
This week, planning projects for Calabar Imports fell into three categories: events, designers and social media. On Thursday, I developed a road map for events in November to September and identified who would make a good partner and who needed an opportunity to establish and grow themselves. The goal was simple, designers, artisans and makers need a time and place to sell, market and meet new customers. And rather than just popups, I would return to the old traditional trunk shows with designers who were ready to make things happen for themselves. For me at Calabar Imports, these shows get me to see new product to bring into the store from that designer, build a relationship with a designer and get them to understand what is possible.
The trunk show events for some designers are a home run if they have been busy marketing and showing their work in some many ways: online, markets, shopping events, social media, emails, and in other stores. The combination makes the end result a good start, but the other key is having the products in sizes needed for clothing in particular.
Ginger has begun to work:
Friday was spent looking at designers whose work would fit as part of the Calabar Imports brand. Social media was a place to start as I have already identified them last month but needed to sit and look at the work closeup. I was able to narrow my list to about 20, some are in New York, others outside. After about two hours, I went on to nap again. That Ginger tea was definitely working. To be sick in the winter with a cold is a pain, so I do my best to get rid of it quickly.
Saturday – back in the groove:
Taking two days off this week and being under the weather has made me lose time on getting merchandise – so as I got to Bed Stuy to spend the day, I reconstructed my options for the week; I would need to get merchandise into the stores on Tuesday and spend Wednesday on Franklin Avenue redesigning it again – some changes were needed and also time to look at what I needed to do with the lights.
Saturday in the store was a mix of searching for lights and getting to see what products needed to be brought into the store – this week – jackets, sweaters, scarfs and gloves became a priority. I had delayed ordering scarfs and gloves because October is tricky as the weather keeps swinging from from 30 degrees to 70 degrees. It’s always like this – so this year, I decided that gloves and scarfs would start arriving in November. The jewelry for the holiday season had begun to arrive – I would sort them out too on Tuesday.
This week, I made a commitment to Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival, I would host the Nollywood movie showing. So, I left the store earlier and heading to Long Island University to watch the film, Jimmy Goes to Nollywood and close it out with a panel discussion. A late dinner after kept me out until midnight – I had a meeting with a candidate in an incubator – to discuss next steps. Some days, you make exceptions so that the next generation begins a business in good stride.
Sunday was Harlem – and I left early after buying candy for Halloween – yes, that kind of day. But is become obvious very early that the day would not be about doing anything on my agenda. It was a day for others – new product from Ghana came in, a series of meetings about a cafe and several phone calls about an event in September. By 6pm, the day had disappeared, so the best I could do was set up the new product, change the space and do bills for the store – only two major bills were left – suppliers and rent. Monday would be a good day to do those.
Monday – my last day of the week
A good neighbor in Harlem brought me chicken soup, and it helped me on Monday – my body needed that soothing. I finalized bills and began to layout a calendar up for the confirmed events and also to see when products would be in – my last product delivery for the year December 20, just in time for Christmas. I noted that several Kwanzaa candle packs were already sold, I would order more on Thursday and Sage too – all the stores were out of it. It is the season. The train to Brooklyn from Harlem was an interesting one, I had forgotten that after 9 pm, the subway traffic gets more interesting and bizarre.
As I end the day on Monday, I am finally in better spirits – that cold is gone and that ginger tea worked. I will be buying some more ginger this week. It will again be in everything I eat and drink this winter season. Funny, I am reminded of garlic too. Until next week, please come back and read the third part Chronicles of My Retail Life: A Weekly Series on Calabar Imports.
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