Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Space Tours

Yesterday afternoon, my broker called and said I could come over to look at the space on West Street.  I went at once!  The space is for lease although the landlord is letting an antique dealer use the space until someone signs a formal lease.  The space is approximately 1,200 square feet covering two levels and was once a house in Old Town.  There are two brick fireplaces on the first and second levels.  The stairs going up to the second level are fairly steep - I'd probably consider making a change there to make access easier if I chose to go that way.

I had lots of questions for my broker which he hopes to have answered for me by tomorrow.  We also have an appointment to see the space on King Street tomorrow afternoon at 3 pm.  I'm not sure how I feel about having two levels - I can see the pluses and minuses for it on many fronts (I've started to list them to try to help me through my thinking process).  The space on King is one level and is about 1,000 square feet.

There is still a chance that the space could become available on N. Henry.  The broker assures me that we'll confirm the status prior to making an agreement on any other space.

But, no complaints.  At least there is activity on this front!  And on many others as well.  As soon as we have finalized the illustration of Zoe Girl, I'm going to order my shopping bags and other items (the lead time is fairly long for custom printed bags - if I end up opening prior to receiving them, I'll go with a plain bag with a sticker on it until I get the custom bags in stock.)

Today, I am going to start researching the type of web design I'd like to have for Zoe.  This is so I can speak as intelligently as possible at my lunch meeting on Thursday.  I will say, most boutique web design leaves something to be desired.  Ecommerce sites are better but that will not be my focus in year one.  I need to find the right combination of information and marketing to live on the site.

It all still remains so much fun.  There is nothing like creating something that is yours.  I'm so thankful for this opportunity.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Keeping the Eye on the Prize

On those days where you take two steps forward and one step back, you just have to keep reminding yourself what you are working toward in the first place!

On Sunday afternoon, I stopped by the potential sublease space on King Street and another space on S. West Street that had been recommended to me but I hadn't looked at because we thought things were going to move forward with the original space on N. Henry Street.  I thought both warranted a look inside so I contacted my broker this morning to let him know.  Right now, we are working on scheduling a visit to both sometime this week.  As my editorial comment for the day, yes, brokers, you do need a CRM system, especially if you can't remember what I've told you and what you've told me.

On Thursday, I'm having lunch with a friend/co-worker of Cori's who will help to guide me in my web design planning.  I'm very excited to move forward with this next stage.

I just keep reminding myself - patience, patience...in the end, it's not in my control!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Where is it going to be?

Jim was out washing our cars this evening and was asked by multiple neighbors about the status of the boutique.  Their major question "Where is it going to be?"  Unfortunately, he had to share with them the news that we still don't know yet!

In some back and forth discussion with my broker today, we did talk about a potential sublet space on King Street.  I like the size and location but am iffy about doing the sublet.  We are going to talk some more on Monday about it and other space that may be available.  The one thing that is bugging me a little about this space is that I had noticed (during my original tours of space) that this location had a tenant moving out.  I asked him about the status of it and he didn't know.  Now all of a sudden it is available for sublet.

On to happier notes, my friend Tim had asked about the font for the large Z in the Zoe logo.  Verbatim from Cori, here is information on the large Z font - the initial ‘Z’ is set in Zapfino, which was designed by and based on the calligraphy of Hermann Zapf, a very prolific German typeface designer. He is responsible for a number of familiar fonts (Optima, Palatino, Zapf Dingbats, just to name a few others).  Tim, Cori and I are so glad there are other font geeks out there like us!

Also while washing the cars this evening, Jim also grabbed neighbor Mike, who is VP of a printing company in Springfield.   Jim asked him if he'd like to help me with printing up some of the required items for Zoe and he said they would be delighted to do so.  I'll be talking with him more next week.  

As always, there remains plenty for me to do!  I am looking forward now to having the space question behind me.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ups and Downs

Ah, the roller coaster ride of starting your own business...good thing I like roller coasters!  However, there can be lots of screaming involved!!

Earlier in the week, Cori had spoken with our potential web designer.  Unfortunately, she is now too booked to take on designing the Zoe website so we will look at other options.  But that's ok - I'm hoping to have the site ready to go about a month prior to opening the store.

On Wednesday, I had a huge triumph when I finally convinced myself that I was happy with my business plan for Zoe.  Although it was a very angst-ridden exercise (due to my desire to make it perfect), it was also very satisfying to see it all on paper in great detail.  It is not a document that I'll just put on the shelf but will instead continue to refer to, revise, and update as it guides me over the next 5 years in the business.

After delivering it to my broker to provide to the landlord, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  And then I got more good news!  Cori had discussions earlier this week with the illustrator of Zoe Girl, Lisa Henderling.  She received the agreement to give me exclusive rights to the slightly redesigned Zoe Girl and I signed off and sent my agreement back today.  Lisa had indicated to Cori that since the changes were fairly minor, she could probably have something for us to look at in a couple of weeks!  A new unveiling to come!

Then, back down the roller coaster again.  My broker contacted me to say that, because it has just been determined that Virginia state regulations will require that the daycare center (going in across the breezeway from the planned Zoe space) have more space for offices and food prep then they are currently negotiating to rent at their location.  Because the expansion space will have to be as close as possible to their current space they must include the Zoe space.  That, my friends, is a bummer.  (I know, not a very businesslike term but the best way to describe it).

My broker asked if I'd be interested in another space in the same area.  It is really larger than I want and, if I were the landlord, I wouldn't want to subdivide it.  I've asked him to give me an idea of when we'll be sure that the day care center lease will be signed (so I'll know for sure that the space is gone) and that I'd like to keep looking for space.  Although I'd like to get started, I'm not going to just take space to take space.  It has to be right as it is such a key element of the success of the business.  

But, the business plan is polished and complete.  Zoe has a gorgeous logo and Zoe Girl will arrive soon. I've lined up many of my vendors already.  Many things to be happy about!  Hang on for the ride!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Today (Logo Unveiling)

Today, I....

  • Got to wish my Mom a Happy Birthday in person over breakfast in Athens, GA
  • Had special memories of my Dad, whose birthday is also today
  • Drove 602 miles from Athens to Alexandria, VA (home!)
  • Ran 3.25 miles (I guess I figured I hadn't gone far enough with the 602)
  • Get to unveil Zoe's logo!
Let me say how indebted I am (and continue to be) to Cori Canady's abilities to understand me and the pure essence of Zoe as well as her incredible design capabilities and many connections in the artistic world.  I am fortunate to have her as a friend and as the graphic designer for Zoe.

Here is the stacked version of the logo.

And here is the horizontal version!

I will use the dramatic Z for certain uses and will also use Zoe Girl in different communications and collateral as well!  Based on our meeting last Wednesday, Cori will follow up with the illustrator to discuss the changes to Zoe Girl!  I can't wait to share her with you, too!

Friday, August 20, 2010


On Wednesday afternoon, Cori and I (along with my mom) met at Buzz to finalize the logo and better define what I needed for Zoe Girl.  We had a wonderful session, which resulted in confirming the logo, where we would use it and how.  Cori has since sent me electronic versions of the logo that will be shared on the blog (!!) and on the Zoe Boutique Facebook page VERY soon.  (I have been so tired from all of my traveling that I want to be of sound mind when I do the reveal)!

Based on the finalization of the logo, Cori is also contacting the web designer, Christine Moctezuma, based in Atlanta.  I may need to visit for some creative consultations, you know!  And we also made some decisions on Zoe Girl.  Cori will be speaking to the illustrator, Lisa, on Monday to share our ideas, including having Zoe Girl with flowers in her bag, changing the color of her clothing slightly to match our color palette, giving her facial features, and adjusting her bag to match appropriately.  I will be purchasing the rights to her so that I may use her in any type of marketing or advertising.

I will plan to do the reveal on Monday evening on the blog!  Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

California Inspiration

I've mentioned that I had many inspirations for Zoe.  And I got to visit one of my favorites on Monday in La Jolla.  Robina has been in business in the same location for 16 years on Prospect and is one of the most charming, customer-service oriented stores I've ever visited.  The store across the landing has just become vacant and they are thinking about expanding into that space with additional lines and offerings.

Jim is what I'd call a resigned shopper.  He is resigned to sitting outside on a bench and watching cars and people while I shop.  But this time I also had a partner in crime with me - my mother!  The scene unfolded like this:

Susan: If you'd like, go ahead and grab this bench, we're going to walk down the street.  We'll come back and get you.

Jim:  OK

1 hour later, Mom and I reapproach the bench

Jim:  How many stores did you visit?

Susan: One

Jim:  WHAT????????????

Mom:  Oh, Jim, she looked adorable in everything she tried on (my mom is biased).

Robina and her staff are so delightful.  Not only did we have fun with wardrobing with their just in shipment of California fall clothing, but they also offered to ship my purchases to me so that I did not go over the weight limit on the already challenged luggage.  We talked about the size of my potential space, which would be just a little larger than their current space.  She encouraged me to carry some of their same lines, including Red Engine Jeans, which have an amazing fit.  As always, I left there encouraged, enthused, and better dressed!  My hope is that people will experience the same delight when shopping at Zoe.

Tomorrow....Logo news!!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Too Many Vacancies

Jim sometimes refers to our annual trips to San Diego as my own form of pilgrimage.  I get to soak up the friendly/laid-back Southern California culture, eat lots of good seafood, luxuriate in the sun, breathe in the ocean air, stare out at the amazing views of the California coastline, and, shop at some of my favorite boutiques!  Usually, the minute we arrive in our hotel room, I'm saying to him "I'm not leaving!"

One aspect of this trip had a very somber note.  I was shocked at the number of retail vacancies downtown and in La Jolla.  Especially since we had just been there in late October 2009.  In less than a year, many businesses have closed, some of which had only been open less than two years.  I honestly can't help myself, now that I've gotten into the habit of always looking at space.  In fact, I had told my mom (prior to going to La Jolla) that we would visit certain stores.  At least half those stores were no longer there and the spaces were sadly empty.

In talking with one of my favorite boutique owners in La Jolla, she said that the combination of the economy and the cooler weather this year had devastated many of the businesses.  Many did not have appropriate cash reserves to keep going when tourism dipped by a significant amount.

Believe me when I tell you that I think about things like this ALL the time.  The economics of the business and the effect it could have on our financial situation was a big deterrent for a very long time in my decision-making process.   And I know failure is a possibility.  Seeing the situation there makes my conviction even stronger that I follow my business plan and remain thoughtful and flexible in my business decisions.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

West Coast Research

I apologize for not blogging as much this month so far.  With my mom visiting and then our trip to California for my cousin's wedding, I've had much more limited computer time and time to work on Zoe.  But it doesn't stop me from constantly thinking about the store and researching new ideas.

I'll be writing over the next few days about my impressions following the California trip.  I finished another one of my boutique owner books on the flight out.  Once again, I love that they put so many of the management and decision-making parameters into such common sense terms.  One area that the book talked about was the merchandising of the store (going back to the things my mom remembers positively).  When entering a store, do you like to see similar colors of clothing together?  Or do you prefer to see similar types together?  Or do you want all coordinating items together?  I observed this carefully in the boutiques we visited in Coronado and La Jolla.  Most seem to group by color.

Key space news!  The broker has confirmed that the landlord is ready to review my financials in relation to the LOI.  I'll be sending that on to him this week.

And, Cori and I are meeting for additional logo and Zoe Girl work tomorrow afternoon!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Little History

My mom is visiting me and we went shopping today at her second favorite shopping location - Tysons Corner!  (Her first favorite will be Zoe, of course).  She tells me that she really observes everything in stores now, down to the details of what she likes and dislikes about dressing rooms, the packaging of her purchases, and the expertise of the sales team.  We had a lot of fun discussing all of these things as we shopped.

Over lunch, I asked her to tell me what she liked most and least (and what was most memorable) about the stores we considered boutiques in Beckley and Charleston, WV (I've posted some on the influences these locations had on me in shaping my view of retail and fashion).  I really enjoyed the things that she told me about the stores that were prior to the time I was old enough to shop with her.  It helped create a new dimension to my thinking and planning.  The two biggest things that stood out to my mom over time - merchandising and customer service.  Her descriptions of what she liked about the stores helped to crystallize my thought process even more.

No word yet on the Letter of Intent - it was to go to the landlord on Tuesday morning.  I am being patient (yes, it is possible!)  On the way home from the airport yesterday, I drove by the potential location to show my Mom.  She liked it!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Rubber Stamp of Approval

Jim and I have a goofy ritual that we use when we are "signing off" on something.  We mimic pressing a rubber stamp on an ink pad and then stamping the paper that needs approval.  And then we laugh, even when it is something serious.

This evening, I gave the electronic "rubber stamp" of approval to my broker to submit the Letter of Intent on the space in Old Town.  He had done a wonderful job incorporating my changes, additions and concerns into the LOI.  As nervous as I felt when I read the original LOI, I felt very calm today when I reviewed it.  (As opposed to "I was not calm" - those of you who know me know what I'm talking about - ha!)

I am eager to see what happens and what the landlord says about the submission.  I hope that they will want to draw up the lease documents so that we can move forward soon and I can put the many other things that are now waiting on the leasing in motion!

The past three months have really been amazing.  I've loved the opportunity to learn about my new business and balance it with a peaceful personal life.  While I know that will change again soon as I ramp up the efforts on Zoe, I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity.   I think so often about what my days will be like running and working at Zoe and I can't wait to get started!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Today is my birthday!  And I love birthdays!  I've been thinking all day today "I wonder when Zoe's birthday will be?"  With my birthday on the calendar this week, I've really been looking forward to the day that Zoe is open for business and officially "born"!

The broker sent the net charges for the space to me today for my review and I feel they are in line with what I would expect.  We are still waiting for the quote from the contractor so that we can finalize the LOI with our TI request.  Until that process gets going, we are in a bit of a holding pattern in all things related to the business side of the process.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Getting Closer

Some days, I feel like I make fantastic strides with Zoe, other days, I feel like I'm just plodding along.  I keep reminding myself that everything will happen in the time that it is meant to happen.

Following my changes to the draft letter of intent on Friday, my broker and I talked this morning to clarify my thoughts, questions, and changes.  He had made the updates I had requested and was also following up with the other broker on some of my outstanding questions.  The final piece is the request for the tenant improvement allowance and the definition of the "vanilla shell" (obviously, what I think of as a tenant and what the landlord considers vanilla are two different things!).  I think we are very close to sending the document to the landlord for review.

Last night, Cori sent over round 2 of the logo drafts and they are gorgeous.  I am really leaning toward the black/pink/white design.  We are going to meet this month (we both have out of town weddings to attend on different weekends!) to finalize the discussion on the use/design of Zoe Girl and the use of the logos.  Once that is done, Cori will digitize the logos as well as work with Lisa on the Zoe Girl design.  To see Zoe's personality coming to life just makes me glow, inside and out.