Shop Expert. Quite Possibly A Dream Job.


We work with so many creative entrepreneurs – serious guys and gals running their own show, their own life and establishing themselves as creative experts in their own specialities. And though we’ve used our Braid blog as a platform to share some work we’ve created for them (from logos, to business-vision plans, to brand videos), we’ve also tried not to bombard you with “look-what-we-made” posts. But our part aside, we want to show you more.

So we’re adding a new thread. We’re going to start sharing the stories of these creative self-starters (many are just a few years, or even a few months, into their biz.) We want to give you snapshots into how their work/life ticks – when it’s not chaotically rocketing ahead at its own crazy pace, that is. So first up, Allison Barta Bailey, a shop expert (yes, that’s an awesome job) who helps independent shopkeeps – keep on keepin’ on.

What does a shop expert do?

latest big and little victories

A day in the life

favorite work tools and work uniform

on expertise sharing and social media

number 1 advice: define and refine

- - - - self-imposed rule - - - -

“It’s important for me to be able to say that I bought an article of clothing at a local business. My clients have to trust that I will represent their brand. My image needs to be up for that task.”

Allison Bailey quit her corporate job in January of 2010 to pursue her passion – local shops. As a new decade was beginning, she was preparing for her own brave step into self-employment, and starting a new business. Some prep, for example, included taking a class to brush up on her graphic design skills, which she knew would help serve her as a blogger, advisor, and promoter for the shops she wanted to attract as clients.

Fast forward two-plus years, and Allison can tout a list of modern, plucky, (and paying) Oklahoma City shopkeep clients and events. Allison has carved out more than a self-sustaining career, but an expert reputation as a retail consultant for local independents.  So Allison’s sharing with us how she splits up her time, stays on top of all-things-shop, and insists on wearing local-bought (and lipstick) if it’s the last thing she does.

What are some victories for you in the past six months?

Allison: Following in the trend of the national Better Block movement started by Jason Roberts – I recently co-managed Better Block OKC with the executive director of The Plaza District. We took an overlooked, desolate street in downtown Oklahoma City, and transformed it into a vibrant, engaging community for one weekend. Better Block OKC not only gave two entrepreneurs (a flower market and a home goods shop) a chance to set up shop for the weekend, but brought over 2,000 people to an area of the city that most had never walked through. A victory on a smaller level? I was able to hire a marketing assistant to help me one day a week! Baby steps!

What’s a single-day snapshot of running your business?

Allison: I spend about 40% of my time out-and-about with clients and 60% of my time at a desk. Each of my clients gets daily attention from me. Plus, I try to work on one large event, which takes months of planning. I find that it keeps me fresh and interesting to balance this long term versus immediate timeline.

I usually start the day reading up on blogs, current events, and making note of trends and products. I’m not really a morning person, so I ease into my day doing this, still in my pajamas and drinking coffee. Lately, I’ve gotten in the habit of sending out a tweet, “hey, I’m going to be at Elemental Coffee at 10am, come chat with me.” Not only is it fun to see who joins me for coffee, the casual environment breeds an easy introduction to possible business relationships.

Following that, it’s off to client number one for the day – taking photos, discussing communication for their customers, making progress on the next marketing event (right now it’s back-to-school shopping for one client, and Christmas for another).

In the afternoon, I address anything on the to-do list for the event I’m planning – permitting, sponsorships, rentals, insurance, promotional material. Then, I move on to the clients that didn’t get my morning time. Somewhere in there, I like to write an article for Shopcrawlr, or work on a side project that isn’t client related.

What’s the best advice you give your clients?

Allison:  Define, followed closely by refine. Don’t be afraid to say what your shop actually does (or what you want it to do) and exclude products or services that don’t fit into that definition. Shops should constantly be refining their product lines, their customer connections, their marketing efforts and ask “does this product fit into my definition?”

Do you think creative-types have unique challenges as entrepreneurs?

Absolutely. Most challenges that I encounter personally and with my clients relates to valuing creative work. We tend to be passionate people, both about others and the work we do. That’s usually a great thing, but it can interfere with physical financial transactions. I have to remind myself that just because a project sounds like the dream project, it still needs to be a financially valid use of my time.

What three daily “must-haves” can you not live without?

1. My bag-of-the-moment is a must-have. I have a tendency to collect canvas & leather bags. I’ll rotate between several, but currently I’m in a love affair with Shop Good’s Market Bag. I also have a Russell+Hazel leather portfolio that I adore for carrying paperwork, usually as an accessory in the Market Bag. See, what I mean. It’s sick.

2. My app dream team: Wunderlist, Dropbox, & Hootsuite. I have all of these apps on every Apple product that I own, and I use them many times a day.

3. Lipstick. Even if I’ve had a stressful day, putting on lipstick gives me a chance to calm my mind. I also feel put together no matter what I’m wearing.

What cost-of-doing-business necessity do you not mind paying for?

Clothing. Although it wouldn’t be important in every line of work, I think it’s essential to mine. My clients have to trust that I will represent their brand well and that I provide a more modern way to connect with their customers. My image needs to say that I’m up for that task. When asked, it’s important for me to be able to say that I bought an article of clothing at a local business. If I sacrifice a super-duper-crazy-markdown price to do that, I’m fine with that. Also, I think those markdowns are bad business.

Do you keep your work/life time clearly divided, or is there an overlap for you?

Allison: It’s probably unhealthy how much my work and life overlap, but it doesn’t seem to bother me. I enjoy what I do so much that it still feels like a hobby. Solutions or concepts will come to me at all hours of the evenings or weekends and I always allow myself to run with them. I’m thankful for the freedom to be able to do that. A few times a year, I do enjoy putting up an out-of-office away message on my email and heading out of town though. Ironically, my favorite vacation activity is snapping photos of shops.

My “pinch me” moment usually occurs when an idea hits me and I actually jump up and get so excited I can’t sit still. That’s pretty fun – and then I realize that I’m working. Pinch.

What's your favorite way, as a creative entrepeneur, to share your expertise? Face-to-face or via social media? Let us know on our Facebook wall.

Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.



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