Leslie Chapman and Marion Blount teamed up in 2012 to write a blog devoted to their favorite food, décor and entertaining tidbits. Over the course of just one year, they expanded that blog into Open Door Shop—a boutique and bridal registry service celebrating Southern style and hospitality, one lovingly wrapped order at a time. Leslie and Marion stock their virtual shelves with everything from barware to baby blankets, and are preparing to open a brick-and-mortar store later this month!
These savvy entrepreneurs currently share a co-working studio in Charleston, S.C., with a close-knit community of creative women who cheer each other on all day, every day. We’ve already toured the connecting offices belonging to Leapfrog PR, ByrdHouse PR and Cortney Bishop Design; today, we’re walking through Leslie and Marion’s welcoming doors!
How did you go about transforming your passion project into a thriving business?
In 2012, we partnered to write a blog—Open Door Charleston—in an effort to share our favorite recipes, design tricks and entertaining essentials with friends across the South. After a year of blogging, we realized we wanted to take it to the next level. During the summer of 2013, we began planning and creating our website, and we launched on Labor Day. That year of blogging gave us the opportunity to refine our taste, complete industry research and, truth be told, to realize that we worked really well together.
Describe your company’s vision in three words.
Inspire everyday entertaining.
How can we add an element of Southern charm to our homes?
We think Southern charm means having on hand the entertaining essentials that are needed to welcome guests at any time—even the occasional unexpected guest. Southern charm should be effortless, not fussy.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned since becoming business owners?
When you own a business, it can be difficult to know when to “turn off” work. When we first launched the website, it was so tempting to stay up late at night loading products onto the site or answering emails. At some point, though, we realized we needed to set some boundaries. We began making a conscious effort to keep weekends and evenings work-free. That doesn’t mean that work things don’t pop up from time to time—but consistently making the effort to mentally “turn off” work distractions allows us to recharge and clear our heads.
What are your go-to business resources?
Other female entrepreneurs seem to be our go-to business resources. Charleston has this wonderful community of female entrepreneurs who support each other. We are able to bounce ideas off of one another, collaborate and ask each other for help. We also rely on podcasts a lot! We are nerds at heart, and on long road trips we love listening to podcasts about online marketing and running an Internet business.
Why did you decide to set up your office in a co-working space?
We launched Open Door Shop out of Marion’s guest room. It was a great way to save on overhead, but after a year we were ready for some elbow room. Moving to a co-working space seemed like a natural next step. We found this location and fell in love with the bounty of female creatives in the building. Sharing a space has kept us motivated and accountable.
What is a typical workday like for you?
We arrive at work and immediately begin wrapping and packing orders from the day before (yes, we still pack and ship everything ourselves to ensure that it’s all packed to our standards). Once we’ve finished fulfilling orders, we sit down for our morning meeting to discuss the tasks for the day. This is also when we go over re-orders and new arrivals. After that, we split off—Leslie handles the financials and day-to-day business; Marion handles social media and the back end of the website. (While we each have different roles in the company, we do all of the buying together.) Throughout the day we bounce ideas off of each other, ask questions and get feedback.
How do you maximize your productivity?
We plan ahead! We are planners, perhaps to a fault—but this ultimately keeps us organized and on task. Since there are two of us, we typically delegate daily tasks during a morning meeting or phone call. We also sit down on the first Tuesday of every month to go over our calendars and schedule appointments. This past year we each bought Plum Paper planners, which we carry everywhere and use to map out everything from social media calendars to coffee dates.
What’s on your desk right now?
How have advancements in mobile technology allowed you to streamline your business practices?
We rely on apps like Dropbox and Docs To Go to store and share photos, business documents and to-do lists. On a recent road trip to Virginia, we were able to look over orders from the day, send images to an editor and schedule social media posts (using Buffer) for the weekend—all from our mobile devices. Mobile technology gives us the flexibility to work from anywhere, at any time.
Spill: What’s your favorite Charleston dish to indulge in?
What’s been your most exciting business opportunity so far?
Well, in two weeks we will be opening a retail shop in Charleston, which is by far our most exciting opportunity. We’d been dreaming of opening a storefront for a while and finally decided to take the plunge. We’re excited about maintaining our online presence while also getting a chance to work with customers face to face.
“We would gladly drop a pretty penny on _____!”
A weekly flower-delivery service. Or, since the holidays are around the corner, a Mignonne Gavigan necklace.
Favorite piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
When we started out, we created a logo for our website using InDesign. We thought it was a decent logo and figured we had successfully “branded” our business. A year later, we were at lunch discussing our business with a creative consultant who advised us to consider rebranding Open Door. At the time her advice was a hard pill to swallow, but we considered it and ended up reaching out to PRINT. PRINT really taught us what it means to have a brand. We worked closely with the owner, who created a graphic identity for us. That advice to rebrand and refine the Open Door brand is hands down the best we have received.