Monday, May 31, 2010

Location Location Location

One of the most important things in any real estate transaction!

Very interesting article in the Washington Post this morning regarding the pluses and minuses of "Lifestyle Centers". For the full article, see

I've considered locations like the Village at Shirlington or Pentagon Row for Zoe but am also drawn to more traditional "downtowns" like Old Town Alexandria and the Clarendon/Courthouse area in Arlington. Malls and strip centers haven't been on my list simply because they didn't seem to fit the character of what I'm trying to do with the store.

As a shopper, if I go to a location with a "big box" store (Target, Best Buy), I'm normally going for that store only - I probably won't shop around at other stores in the area. Where if I'm going to an area with a smaller store or numerous restaurants, I'm much more likely to shop at other stores in the area.

I loved living in Arlington, where we could walk to so many places from our home. I think there are a lot of people who long for that experience.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Business Plan!

Today, I spent a significant amount of time continuing to work on my business plan for Zoe - the hours went by so quickly! I've broken the plan down into key areas:

1) Mission
2) Keys to Success
3) Objectives
4) Company Summary
5) Products
6) Market Analysis
7) Strategy and Implementation
8) Web Plan
9) Management
10) Financials

I also spent time working on my technology plan, including the review of a checklist for point of sale system requirements. I also researched email marketing options to understand costs, levels, and functionality.

Now, a confession about the technology plan. I would love to do Apple based systems for the store but am really trying to determine if I should go in that direction. There are many Apple offerings available but I need to make sure it is the right decision for the business and not just because I think it would be fun/really cool.

Rouding out the day, I sent in the pre-qualification form for the AmericasMart Atlanta. With my family so close by, I'll likely go there to place the orders for Zoe. Just reading through their New Retailer Information Packet makes me want to get started quickly!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chief Financial Officer

I've been the CFO of my household since Jim and I got married but this is the first time I've been CFO of a company (I'm also the janitor, the receptionist, head of HR, etc...) Today, I checked in with my accountant, to let him know where I am in the process of starting the business and what I see happening in the next two weeks. By the middle of next week, I'll have prepared my second financial statement for ZCG LLC. (Right now, it is very easy!)

As a result of opening ZCG's bank account, I received the official business debit card in the mail. There was definitely a little thrill of excitement in seeing the business's name on the card!

I also spent time online, reviewing potential space availability and average rental rates for the areas I am considering locating Zoe. I am planning to speak with my broker next week to start narrowing down the space possibilities.

Zoe is growing a little bit every day!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Reference Guides

Today I had several doctor's appointments so I knew that it would not be a particularly productive day. Since the appointments require a lot of waiting, I took one of my reference guides for starting one's own business with me so that I could continue to plan next steps.

Of the books I've read, one of my favorites is "The Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business" by Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio. This book was recommended to me by Greer at Duo during my evaluation phase. It definitely has not disappointed.

The book starts out by asking a number of detailed (and pointed) questions about whether or not you are really up for running the show. It then moves on to helping you identify the types of businesses that might be a good fit for you and then discusses the details around legalities, licenses, permits, financials and funding. It also talks about business plan writing and being the boss. In addition to all of this, it intertwines real life stores of start up businesses in a number of different disciplines so that you can learn from their positive (and negative) experiences.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Storefront Windows

I enjoyed this article in the Washington Post Style & Arts section today -

As I think about the store, one of the things I often imagine is what she will look like, what will people think when they walk by, look in the windows, look at the colors and the lighting. Will they by drawn by the outfit in the window, a holiday theme, or that "must have" purse? Will they find the colors attractive and eye-catching (without being garish!)?

As a young girl, my mom and I enjoyed looking in the windows of the various local boutiques and department stores in Beckley and Charleston. My model fashionista, she also knew what was in every store! I hope to create that same sort of magic with Zoe!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Virginia Department of Taxation and New Financial Regulation Legislation

Hopefully, the title of today's blog entry did not put you to sleep!

This afternoon, I finalized my registration with the Virginia Department of Taxation for Sales & Use Tax, Withholding Tax, and Pass Through Entity Tax. Although the process is fairly long and tedious, they have made it easy by making it available online via their iFile site. And the Commonwealth also makes the whole small business entity creation easy with their Business OneStop system. It is very much like a wizard for new business owners to make sure you fill out all of the paperwork and registrations to start your business. This site is located at:

I also was prepared to register with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) but found that I am not liable for unemployment tax and am not required to register until I have employees in Virginia and meet a number of specific criteria. I'll keep that on my "to do" list for the future.

I am currently watching the New Financial Regulation Legislation passed by the Senate and now going to House/Senate conference committee. One of the amendments added to the bill would provide some regulation around how banks can charge individual retails "per swipe" of each credit and debit card. The current percentages taken by the bank for each swipe are fairly high and do not leave a lot of room for negotiation for the small business owner. It ends up resulting in the owner needing to charge higher prices in order to cover the fee. It will be very interesting to see where this goes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Logos and Locations

Today, I had a fabulous lunch with my very talented and creative friend, Cori Canady. Not only did we enjoy the chance to catch up but we also spent time talking about the logo and collateral design for Zoe.

As part of our discussion, she asked me for more detail on my vision for the store, the type of location and customer experience that I hope to provide to my guests. All of my ideas just seemed to flow so naturally when I talked to her! I brought her samples of logo styles that I like as well as suggestions for parts of the color palate. (Carol and Krista taught me about that at COPT!) She will work up a quotation/plan for me and we will go from there. I'm so excited to have her as part of Zoe's team!

Since we met for lunch in Old Town Alexandria, I spent some time walking around before our meeting. The purpose was to look at potential space and also get an idea of the operating hours for other non-chain stores in that area. I saw four potential spaces in just the few blocks I had time to walk! I wrote down information on each of them so that I can continue my research. I really need to go and walk Old Town, Arlington (between Ballston and Rosslyn) and Del Ray with a true sense of purpose, to pick up on the vibe of each neighborhood/location.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Today I contacted SCORE, a resource for people starting or growing small businesses. I have requested a mentor who specializes in retail start-ups in the DC area. SCORE was recommended to me by one of the first boutique owners I met with, Greer Johnson. Greer owns Duo, located on the Corner in Charlottesville, Virginia. More about her in a future blog, but she is definitely one of my angels!

If you'd like to read more about SCORE and what they offer, their website is Not only do they provide mentors, but they will answer questions, help with marketing and business plans, and offer numerous webinars and workshops.

I'll let you know how my mentoring session turns out!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Opening the Bank Account

Today's major accomplishment was the opening of Zoe's business bank account. While I haven't had to spend much money thus far in starting the business, I wanted to go ahead and separate my personal funds from the business funds so that when I do have larger purchases, I can make them from the business account.

I had informally interviewed banks and had identified the bank that would be my business partner. The meeting this morning was to finalize that relationship. There were so many questions to ask! I spent most of last evening finalizing my list and pulling together my paperwork (Certificate of Organization from the State Corporation Commission, Federal Tax ID number, DBA paperwork).

There are different tiers of business banking accounts, mainly based on the level of funds you are required to keep in the account and the number of transactions you expect to have in a month. Of course, the goal is to get the biggest benefits for the smallest amount of fees!

I will not only proceess my accounts receivable and payable through this account but will also take advantage of their payroll processing services when I have employees. This will include not only the handling of the payroll but also the reporting and tax services.

Another key area will be the ability to accept credit cards. When I reach the point of being two months away from opening, I'll meet with their Merchant Services division to set up those capabilities. And, I also have the ability to perform remote deposit via a check scanner (I know Erin and Michele are LOVING this) if I so desire.

Yes, the banking stuff is the boring stuff but a necessary part of the vision. It feels good to have this next step complete!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why Zoe?

Jim and I had always said that if we had a daughter, we would name her Zoe Catherine. What I did not realize was that the name Zoe is Greek for "Life" or "Alive". How very appropriate for this new venture!

I have been searching for my purpose for a long time. God creates each of us with unique gifts and I have wanted to make sure that I honored Him by using mine appropriately. Somehow, a career in technology didn't really seem to fit His ultimate purpose for me.

In April 2006, Jim and I were discussing a new technology job that had been offered to me. As we talked through the pros and cons, I realized that the job did not excite me at all. Sure, it was prestigious and challenging but the thought of it left me feeling empty. Jim said "You know, you really should open a boutique to sell women's clothes. You would be so good at that!" While I immediately thought that would be fun, I came up with many reasons that it would not be a good idea. But, I didn't take the job.

I took a different technology job in October 2006 and set my mind to making it a success. When we realized that a biological child was not meant for us in the summer of 2008, my heart and mind began to focus intently on God's purpose for me. There were many ideas (none of which had anything to do with a boutique) but God quietly shut the door on each one. I began to pray for a burning bush to show me what I should do!

I was led to what has become my signature verse for this venture - Matthew 11:30 - For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. I realized that God wanted me to work but to do something that was enjoyable! And I truly feel alive when working on Zoe!

In the fall of 2009, I decided that I needed to find out if the dream of a boutique was really a possibility. I interviewed boutique owners and studied their strategies to determine if this was something I really could do! And I found that I could! Jim and I started talking about how we could make this a reality and I also started reviewing my remaining projects at work to determine the best time to make a change.

On April 1, 2010, I submitted my resignation and my final day was May 7, 2010. I am now focused on making Zoe a reality. This blog will be used to chronicle my journey and my inspirations.