Are you a die-hard shopper? Well, believe it or not, there are ways to really cash in on your love affair for cashing out! Below, Rita Mehta, of The American Edit, shares her story plus some tips for making your own shopaholic tendencies and creativity count.
I’ve always loved to shop. As a teenager, I loved nothing more than to spend my days at the mall. Long before online shopping and Instagram made it possible to know what was going on all over the world, I would read the shopping lists at the back of magazines so I would know the best shops in every city. Before fashion blogs were a thing, I read fashion forums, and whenever my family would vacation, I’d save up my money and insist on taking a detour to visit the shops I’d read about previously—and buy whatever I’d been coveting. It feels silly to say this—and obviously a bit shallow—but I really couldn’t imagine anything I liked more than shopping!
I knew that I wanted a job that had to do with fashion and shopping. Growing up in the Midwest before everything was accessible on the Internet, I didn’t really know what that meant or how to go about it. An obvious choice would have been to move to New York City or Los Angeles for college, but that wasn’t the right option. Instead, I went to The Ohio State University, where I studied marketing and consumer behavior, or why we shop the way we do. I worked at various retailers throughout the school year and interned with a product development company, a marketing agency and a retail showroom in the U.K. My boss at my last internship actually called me “the ultimate consumer” because I always had a new product or brand to show him. I took that as a compliment, which is ironic as now I encourage people to consume less!
“My boss at my last internship actually called me ‘the ultimate consumer’ because I always had a new product or brand to show him. I took that as a compliment, which is ironic as now I encourage people to consume less!”
After shopping my way through college, I moved to Minneapolis to work for Target Corporation. Over my eight years with the company, I worked across sourcing, product development and merchandising strategy. My dream was to have my own store one day, and I saw my career at Target as an amazing learning opportunity. As I worked with Target vendors and designers in Minneapolis and abroad, my personal obsession with style and fashion evolved. I still loved the act of shopping, but I began to see that less really was more, and quality, ethical manufacturing and responsible production became more important to me than staying ahead of trends.
My passion for American-made and sustainable production grew, and I felt the need to find a career that aligned with my interests. I was newly married, so moving out of the Midwest was no longer an option. Instead, I decided to start my own business. While in grad school, I’d realized that owning my own shop was no longer my dream—the work involved didn’t align with my other life goals. I realized that some interests are better left as hobbies. However, I’d always been passionate about small businesses and saw an opportunity to utilize my corporate experience to help creative, responsible brands.
I launched my blog, The American Edit, in September 2013, and began consulting at the same time. One of my current clients is Wilson & Willy’s, an independent retailer in Minneapolis focused on American-made products for men, women and the home. I’ve been working closely with the founder since before the shop opened, focusing on everything from business strategy, product development (half of what we carry is designed exclusively for W&W), buying, merchandising and marketing. It’s basically the best possible project—it realizes my dream of having my own shop, while simultaneously allowing me the opportunity to work on other goals and projects.
It’s easy to say that I love to shop, so I found a job in retail. But what I’ve really found is that I am an obsessive researcher (and sometimes a bit of a know-it-all). I crave newness—these days of ideas more than things, but newness all the same—and have major FOMO so I read about everything and ask a lot of questions. This helps me make new discoveries all the time, and to find content for my blog and new products to carry in the shop. There are probably other fields where this skill would benefit me, but combining my passion for research with my interest in design has helped me build an incredibly satisfying career.
However, a love of shopping and of design can turn into many different careers. If you enjoy numbers, you could study finance and work as a financial analyst, analyzing sales and market outlook of various companies and brands. If you have an eye for color, scale and design, you could become a store merchandiser, a personal shopper or a stylist. A clear communicator and strong writer could become a journalist covering fashion, or work in PR for your favorite brands. You could also learn how to sew, or make jewelry, or build furniture, wire your own lighting, etc. and build your own brand. The possibilities are limitless! There are a thousand different opportunities that we can all take advantage of, but combining what you are good at with what you enjoy is often the benchmark of a successful career.
One more thing. While doing what you love is something we hear about ad nauseam, and something many of us aspire to do, remember: a job is a job for a reason. Shopping and searching for new cool things used to be my hobby, and I still love it, but now that I have to do it, it can be a little less enjoyable. And sometimes even a bit of a burden. Nothing is as fun when you have to do it! This isn’t an entirely bad thing because it has led me to discover new interests like photography, podcasting and studying furniture design. But it’s worth remembering: you should have things you enjoy doing outside of your career.