Velvet S. McNeil / The Detroit News
Making dough on consignment
Brian O'Connor / The Detroit News
When Nancy Solomon worked at Domino's Pizza LLC, success meant getting the pies delivered in 30 minutes. But when it came to success in launching her Smart Chicks Consignment store, that took a little longer.
"They say it takes three to five years to build up your business," says the 47-year-old Pinckney woman. "I thought, maybe for others but not for me. Now, going into my fourth year, it's phenomenal, even though this is where I expected to be after my second year."
While in Ann Arbor, she saw an ad for jobs at Domino's Pizza headquarters and applied.
She worked with franchise owners, then moved into store development, working with store construction and helping franchisees manage their businesses.
"They were good at making pizzas but didn't know a lot about business," she says.
"I was in my 40s and there were changes," she says. "I thought, 'I don't want to do corporate work for the rest of my life.' As great as it is to get a paycheck every week and paid vacation, I wanted to do my own thing."
She researched the business with the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops, which is headquartered in St. Clair Shores, went to a national conference, read and scouted locations. She also had a friend who wanted to join her in the business.
Once they had a plan outlined, Solomon approached her Domino's bosses in May 2003 about quitting. They asked her to stay on part time, which gave her time to get ready and open the store in Novi in November.
"I had no idea how much sales fall off in retail after the holidays," she says. "By January of 2005, it just died after Christmas and I wasn't prepared for it. I though we were going to have to close."
Instead, Solomon invested money from her 401(k) retirement account, and her landlord worked with her on her lease.
"I was just angry at myself for thinking that we didn't need to have a lot of money in the bank, even though that's what everyone says," Solomon says. "And I didn't want to go back to corporate life."
She had luck with additional advertising and some other nearby consignment shops closed. She managed to hang on until business picked up.
"I just never lost faith," she says. "It was as if we were blessed.
"Have money in the bank before you open your doors," Solomon says. "We thought we'd make money from the day we opened and we did. The problem was that we were putting it all into the business. In retrospect, we should have saved the money."
Choosing the right location is another point Solomon emphasizes. Her store is on Grand River Avenue near shopping, but also near an expressway. Die-hard consignment shoppers will travel to a good store. Solomon says the location even helped boost business despite road construction.
"When traffic was backed up they had nothing to do but look around -- they saw my store."
Solomon also has learned from experience, tweaking her advertising strategy and refining her pricing and mix of clothes.
"We've gotten smarter in the way we do things than when we first opened," she says.
Now, with three employees and turning a steady profit, Solomon is talking about expanding to more space or even another store.
"Last year, I finally was able to tell my husband, 'I think we're going to be OK,' " Solomon says. "I always knew my store would work and that we could be successful."
You can reach Brian O'Connor at (313) 222-2145 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Money Headlines