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10th Anniversary – Oh No!

by threelittlebirdsinc

posted in

For the last two weeks we’ve been telling you about our journey to ten years.

So, after having an official business I started looking for a brick and mortar location.  When I wrote my business plan, I had made some estimates on rent rates, locations, etc.  I selected a newer real estate agent, Patrick, who was kind and patient; a perfect combination for me!

With a real estate agent I searched throughout the city for the perfect location. I looked at the “up and coming” neighborhoods of NoDa and Plaza Midwood. I looked at established enclaves of Ballantyne, Myers Park, but it was with Southend that I fell in love.  It was close to Uptown, Dilworth, Myers Park, Eastover and SouthPark.  There wasn’t a stationery store in the area, which was not the case with the other areas of town that often had one or as many as four stores in their geography.  The neighborhood fit in perfectly with the demographic I wanted and wrote about at length in my business plan.   The vibe of the area was creative and quirky and sophisticated.  That’s how I saw myself so more validation that this was perfect.

The space I wanted needed upfitting, which means the space has nothing and you ad EVERYTHING.  There was a gravel floor, and some walls; no more.  No worries, I thought, how much could that cost?

I selected a contractor who told me the estimate, $60,000? Huh?  Plus inventory. Plus Staff.  Wait, what?

It’s too much, with uncontrollable sobbing I called my husband.  Driving, he softly told me to stop driving that he would come get me. Ironically, we left my car at The Buttercup, a stationer where I’d shopped and written about in my business plan; a planned competitor and model of how I would do it differently.

Being risk adverse I just couldn’t spend all I had.  

My mom agreed; “it’s just too much”, she said.  He said I could, that he would always support me.  He’d always be there for me for assured so  with a smile I thanked him and the next day, I called the contractor and the real estate agent.

Oh my, the job I hated just became more important than ever.  I had to keep it. Damn it!  Wait, it’s temporary for a greater good, right?

So I negotiated the amount down, compromised on a few “must haves”, signed the lease and construction began.  The space went from a gravel floor to finished floor, and subcontractors added electrical and HVAC to cool air and heat and finished walls. It felt like all of this took an eternity; I stopped by daily to watch the progress.  In reality, it took less than a month.  And just like that, I was broke.  But optimistic.  And I still had my corporate job.

Inventory that I’d researched for months began to arrive, first at my home then at the unfinished store.  The FedEx Ground driver, Trudy, finally met me after a week of attempted deliveries and said, “wow, why are boxes coming here; you’re not open”.  I explained, that I was excited and wanted them in the store.  She laughed.  To this day, she still laughs most days when she see us; even when the boxes of paper weight 50 pounds each!

I interviewed and hired staff; one full time and two part time employees.  Before we could complete training the two part time folks quit; one had transportation issues, one never came back after the first day of training.  maybe it was the 30 page employee manual, maybe it was something else.

Furniture was purchased and moved in and on November 5 we opened.

Our official first day of business; November 5, 2007!

We even had more than one sale that day!  

My husband was traveling, but he sent the most beautiful roses.  Family who couldn’t attend also sent flowers.  I was so excited.  But still broke.  I still had my corporate job and thought, I’ll make that money back quickly though, right?

And within a month; BOOM!  The economy tanked.  Layoffs became rampant.

My target customers of Wachovia and Bank of America customers weren’t thinking of weddings and parties, they were worried about keeping their jobs.  Weddings were postponed and reduced in size as there was so much uncertainty.

Trying to be optimistic, I thought, no worries, it’s not like we had revenue from the year before to use as a comparison of the “good days” versus the “bad days” so with a staff of one, Christina, a Graphic Designer, we proceeded.  She worked at the store from 10 am to 5 pm then I came in and worked until our closing time of 7 pm.  I worked each Saturday.  I loved everything.  I remember our first order, it was for a lady in the neighborhood, an imprintable order for a small wedding.  So it seemed like we were off to a good start.

Tune in next week for more…

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Three Little Birds is an award winning stationery store located in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Offering design, illustration and calligraphy, we work with customers throughout the world.

We pride ourselves on our knowledge of printing, papers, etiquette, customs and traditions.

We love what we do and look forward to working with you.