Steph Clymer details the pivots that transformed her retail business.
4 min read
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what is your business?
I am Steph Clymer, a 40-year-old mom of three and retail entrepreneur. My number one business tip is to be willing to change, that is the one value you will find on repeat in my life. I opened my first retail store in SoCal in 2006, and while my location remains the same my concept has evolved. Originally called Xpecting, a maternity boutique, we re-branded after 10 years and Shop Common Thread was born. Trust me, there were many doubters! People told me day after day that it wasn’t smart to take a well-known business and change the name.
Why did you make the change?
We no longer sold maternity clothing and I could not stand to hear one more woman ask, “Isn’t that store for pregnant women?” As soon as we rebranded our business boomed and we could feel ourselves outgrowing our current space. In 2019 we signed the lease on the space next door and in January 2020 we reopened after an extensive remodel. We literally doubled in size in 2020.
What did you learn from this experience?
Always be ready for a pivot. We closed for two months in March 2020 and ran the store like a warehouse where we offered shipping, curbside pickups, deliveries, you name it. Just about anything our clients asked us to do, we answered with a resounding yes! During this time we discovered a need for an online gift-giving business. So I partnered with my longtime store manager, Cindy, and we quickly rented a warehouse space where we launched Heart + Twine. We provide custom gifts for everyone from the mom next door who needs just one special package to Realtors who need 25 ‘thinking of you’ gifts to fellow entrepreneurs who need 50+ employee or customer gifts.
Aha moments are a dime a dozen, we have to recognize the ideas that are difference makers and then we have to be willing to take a great chance.
What has been your biggest challenge during the pandemic and how did you overcome it?
You are going to laugh but the analytical side of me would say space. With the changes to Shop Common Thread and the launch of Heart + Twine, we suddenly had double the staff and double the inventory. We were bursting until we rented our warehouse.
The emotional side of me would say uncertainty. Will we be able to get fresh goods, how will the supply chain be affected, will my staff get sick, will they feel safe, will people leave their homes and shop? You name it, I’ve worried about it! But my job is to lead my amazing team who trust me and depend on me for a paycheck. To do that I must create the vision for the future and then find ways to make it happen.
Any funding advice?
I took out an SBA loan 15+ years ago, but since then all growth has been self-funded. My best advice is to keep your business cash-heavy. You never know what will happen, but if you have cash on hand you will be able to expand when opportunity arises and survive when hard times hit. I believe in preparation – expect the best, prepare for challenges and never ever take care of yourself first.
What does the word entrepreneur mean?
I love Brene Brown and her book called Daring Greatly. That is how I define an entrepreneur, somebody who dares greatly. We see opportunity and then we take action, we take risks, we fail big time, but we learn and then we try again. Entrepreneurs are vulnerable leaders, visionaries, dreamers and hustlers!
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What’s a quote that inspires you?
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” — Mark Twain