This is a Frederick Review Interview with Sue Shepard. Sue Shepard is a professional stylist and the owner of Style Me Sue Consignment. Style Me Sue Consignment is located at the shops at Damascus Electric in Damascus, MD.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your business.
My name is Sue Shepherd and I am a stylist. About 4 years ago I started very part time in the business and 2 and a half years ago I opened a consignment store in Damascus. It is a middle of the road consignment store. It is not a thrift store and it is not a high end ladies only consignment store. It has just worked out really well. All women have things in our closets that are too good, too nice to go directly to donation. So that is where I come in.
Before I had the store I would go into people’s homes and help them put outfits together, help them find their personal style, that kind of thing.
What was it that make you want to start the business?
I wanted to have a store, this store particularly, because I wanted to bring retail to Damascus. That is the number one reason. If you have been to damascus there is very little, really no retail. I wanted to change that. Being a stylist I would go to people’s homes and help them with their styling needs. When I did multiple trips I would always seem to find that box or bag that I would share with them, I would say “take this to a consignment store”, and when I would go the second or third time that box would still be there. They wouldn’t want to venture all the way out to a consignment store. So that’s where I found the need for a consignment store. That coupled with needing retail in Damascus it just made sense.
What sets your business apart from your competitors?
You know it is because I’m a stylist. I think that is the most important thing. It is my passion and mission. People can come here and find really nice middle of road, not too high end, not low end, very affordable priced clothes and I can help them put really nice outfits together at a very reasonable price. We have a different atmosphere too. It is very similar to the old Mayberry stores. It is very much going home, coming in and it almost feels like you should have a cup of coffee in your hand.
If you could go back in time, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?
I thought about this question a little bit and ultimately I don’t think i would do anything differently. You always end up where you’re supposed to be, I’ve always taken that philosophy in my day to day life. But really if I had to say, you should always have more money in the bank, because if you have more money in the bank when you start a business then that makes everything a lot easier. That would be the number one thing. I would probably find more help as well. I’m a one man band, I still can’t really afford anybody to be on a payroll so it makes it very difficult. I have wonderful people that come in and volunteer to help me. If I didn’t have them I couldn’t make this a reality, it is very hard.
There are not enough hours in the day, so if I didn’t have my volunteers I don’t know what I would do. Plus I have one intern from Damascus High school that comes in. That is new as of this school year. So if I had more money that would certainly help. I literally started looking for retail space in June and I basically went home one day and told my husband I was quitting my job. I was working part time and still building my styling business and I went home one day and said to my husband I was quitting and I decided within about 10 days to have a store. So this was not a lifelong dream, we didn’t have money in the bank, so having more capital is really key.
What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
The people. I am definitely a people person and it is always the relationships. People think when you own your own business that you have all this freedom but that is never true. You really don’t because you are really tied to your store. It is the people, the relationships you build and the experiences you make. I love clothes i always have loved putting outfits together but I really love how people come back to me and say I could never have afforded this, I could have never put this outfit together, you helped me look better than I’ve looked ever. You know I love that. I genuinely, truly love that.
What’s the toughest thing you face being a business owner and how do you handle it?
The most difficult thing is time. I do genuinely love doing this, I don’t have small children, my kids are grown but I have grand-babies and before I had the store I saw them every single day. Fortunately they live here in town so I see them quite often but I still don’t see them as much as I would like. So time is an issue, I’m grateful that I still love and believe in this.
I believe in my original passion which is to bring retail to Damascus and I’m so fortunate that every single day people tell me that how grateful they are that the shops at Damascus Electric, which is where we are housed, and I am part owner of, how grateful they are that we are here. That what an impact, our store and our seven merchants that make up the shops, what an impact they have brought to the town. If it wasn’t for that support then the lack of time would be so much more difficult. That goes all the way back to the personal relationships too.
What’s the number one way you currently bring in new customers?
Again, because of the lack of resources if it wasn’t for Facebook, Instagram, sources like you, word of mouth, we would not be here. It is just that simple.
How has technology played a role in your business?
It is just exactly what I just said really. One of our merchants here is an aromatherapist but also in her real job, I’d like to say, she is a website designer. I had a website but it looked like a twelve year old did it because I did it and she took my words and made it beautiful. So she reworked my website, the Style Me Sue website, and she made the shops at Damascus website, so we have wonderful websites. I am the mastermind and the voice of both the shops Facebook page and style me sues Facebook page. So we keep that up to date, we keep that going and then I dabble with instagram. The lighting of this whole building is terrible though. I take pictures of my clothing and I look at them and think oh gosh I wouldn’t want to wear that because the lighting is so bad. But we dabble because we have to stay current with social media. Hopefully before Christmas I will have an online store for my higher end items.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to others thinking about starting their own business?
Isn’t the Nike ad “just do it”? I mean that is really it, just do it. Because you can’t wait. I was self employed before, it was not a store it was a home party planning business. Very successful for about 17 years and there is nothing like it. You just have to figure out your passion, don’t wait to figure it out. Because more times than not it is going to find you. Once you are your own boss it is hard to go back, and your passion will find you. There is nothing like it.
If the first time that you try it and it doesn’t work just keep looking for it. Cause as I just said it will find you, and then surround yourself with great mentors and just keep networking, I hate that word, but it is something you have to do. Just keep talking to people and find those couple of people that want to support you and surround yourself with likeminded people. Just keep talking to them and stay away from the naysayers cause they will suck the life right out of you. Believe in yourself and know that you can move mountains and just figure it out because I wasn’t sure myself when I looked for this building I couldn’t even get people that were supposed to be in the business of renting retail space to call me back. Now we are almost at two and half years later and we are thriving.
For more information about Sue Shepard and Style Me Sue Consignments please see the information below:
Instagram @ stylemesue