Q: What inspired you to open Miller Lane Mercantile? What was your career path leading up to becoming an independent business owner?
A: My passion for brick and mortar business goes back to my very first work experience – when I turned 14 and was finally old enough to hold a job, I started working at a independent surf shop in my hometown of East Hampton, NY. I came to really love the community that’s built around a shop, from the customers, to the employees, and the other shop workers in the neighborhood. The store was also located in a beautiful old wooden house with a sunny backyard and we played UB40 all day – what’s better than that? Fast forward through high school and college, and I had continued to work in boutiques part-time throughout all of my schooling.
In 2012 I graduated from The College of Charleston with a BA in media studies and started working in marketing, which is the industry I’ve been in until I opened Miller Lane Mercantile. I always worked for startups, first in New York City and then in Denver, and became what you could call a real small business enthusiast. I loved being able to work directly with founders and learn about business from the ground up. Throughout those 6+ years, I wore a ton of hats and held roles that covered aspects of marketing including events and tradeshows, social media writing, photo curation, copywriting, product marketing, content writing, and even a little bit of sales. I used to get frustrated that my skill set was so wide-ranging rather than refined in a particular expertise, but it all makes sense now. Being a business owner requires the most wide-ranging skill set of all!
Q: What is the most important lesson you've learned during the process of opening your store? How did you ultimately decide to take that leap and make the commitment?
A: You’ll always find a reason not to do it, so just start somewhere, keep moving, and try not to doubt yourself too much. If you have an idea for a business, those thoughts didn’t pop into your head by accident. I think the world has its way of opening up to people, and it’s ultimately up to each of us to listen to that call and trust in the process. I had decided I was going to open a shop about 2 ½ years before I actually opened the doors. I started a savings account specifically for my future store, and little by little I started planning. I’ve built this massive spreadsheet and each time I come across an interesting brand or product, I add it to the list. By the time I signed my lease on the space I’m now in, I had hundreds of brands and makers and just started reaching out to people about their wholesale programs. If you’re someone who’s thinking of opening a shop, I think those two steps are great starting points. Creating a savings account specifically for your business makes saving so much more meaningful, and you’ll know that your cuts on spending are going directly towards your dream. Had I not had that spreadsheet of products at my fingertips when I finally found my space, I think it would have been overwhelming to start the buying process from scratch.
Another important lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay to admit what you don’t know. Throughout my career I always wanted to be taken seriously, but there will always be unknowns and it’s so much more efficient to ask the right questions rather than to pretend to know what you don’t. Whether it’s a business concept or something as mundane as understanding how the electrical works in my shop, I’ve started asking more questions and as it comes from a place of genuinely wanting to learn and grow, there’s absolutely no shame in that.