What It Takes To Open Your Own Store

sweet clover barn vintage

Turning a dream of shop ownership into reality requires a magical combination of hard work, dedication and creative thinking. Today, Sweet Clover co-owners Cassie Bustamante and Sarah Zullo share what it takes to open a store of your own (pep talks included!).

Are you a creative business owner dreaming of owning your own retail store? The ideas and images of being your own boss, making your own schedule and growing your business are certainly alluring ones. Turning your creative vision into a brick-and-mortar location demands a dream followed by lots of hard work—but if you love what you do and are willing to put in the time and effort, you can succeed! Here are some of our best tips for getting started on the path to store ownership.

sweet clover barn Cassie Bustamante Sarah Zullo

Acquire experience in your market.
Before you can run your own retail store, it’s important that you understand some basic ins and outs of the business. We suggest working at or consigning items in a local creative store, or selling goods at local craft or flea markets. You want to get a feel for the community while networking in your specialty area, experience running a customer-driven business on a smaller scale, and get a good grasp on market values. Before we opened Sweet Clover, we were vendors in local vintage-style shops and outdoor markets. These experiences gave us insights into customers, marketing, accounting and merchandising—and the contacts we made in the vintage dealer community have had a lasting impact on our business as well.   

Have a clear vision and mission statement.
With creative shops popping up in every quaint downtown area these days, it’s important to think about how you will differentiate your shop from competitors. Write down your vision and create a mission statement as soon as possible, and continually circle back to both to ensure that your brand stays true to its original tenets. At Sweet Clover, we firmly believe there is room for healthy competition and cooperation between shops—a varied store community creates a vibrant shopping experience for customers! However, we also went into our business with a clear plan to bring something different to the market and to fill a specific need. We translated this vision into a mission statement, which we often refer to when making business decisions.

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sweet clover barn vintage

Challenge yourself.
Even if you take the time to thoroughly understand your market and acquire firsthand experience, you will inevitably face challenging new tasks as a store owner. When such situations arise, simply put on your big-girl pants and get to work! Do your homework—conduct research online, reach out to local support groups or attend local classes to soak up information. It’s also important to recognize when it may be beneficial to outsource certain tasks (perhaps those that entail accounting, marketing or tax prep). As Sweet Clover has grown, we’ve faced many challenges that have required us to grow with it. We have each taken on tasks that fall outside of our comfort zones. The key is to characterize challenges as positive learning opportunities. 

Practice positive self-talk.
There will be highs and low as your shop gets off the ground and grows. When doubt creeps in, remind yourself who you are, what you’re made of and why you started working toward store ownership in the first place. Reread your mission statement and give yourself a little pep talk. Remember all of the challenges you have overcome in the past. To be a successful shop owner, you must be made of tough stuff—don’t give up when you encounter a setback or two. When you can’t overcome a challenge in the way you anticipated, devise a new plan and keep on going!

In the past two years that we’ve owned Sweet Clover, we’ve faced our fair share of trials. There have even been times when we’ve thought about closing our doors. But when we’ve been there, we’ve looked back to see how far we’ve come, and then we’ve changed direction and continued moving forward.

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sweet clover barn vintage

Written by Cassie Bustamante and Sarah Zullo
Photography by Jalapeño Photography

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  • This article is coming at THE perfect time for me, I’m opening my first brick-and-mortar next month! Thanks for pep talk ladies :) Xx, Jenn

  • I would love to get some more information about the nitty gritty of running a shop… How did you get financing to open your own store? How did you know which/how much inventory to purchase? How did you decide on a location? What have been your challenges in opening a boutique, and how did you resolve them? This article was very upbeat and inspirational, but I would love to hear more informational advice. Thank you!

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