My Education: BA, Communications, Worcester State College
My Prior Experience: I worked part-time for the prior owners for many years but when they decided to sell the business, I bought it.
My Company: My business is a small, single-location, hotel gift shop. We try to focus on local artists, craftsman, and businesses for our inventory of gift merchandise.
Job/Career Overview: I never realized the responsibilities involved in owning a retail business. Despite working my way through high school and college in the retail industry, I had never been fully responsible for the day-to-day operations of a business.
Learning the ins and outs of visiting industry show rooms, attending gift shows and meeting with traveling sales representatives has been quite a learning experience. I learn a little bit more every time I sit down and speak with experts. When it comes to selecting merchandise, I'm at the mercy of their integrity. If they're lying to me to get rid of a line that hasn't been selling well at all, chances are I'll be stuck with it. After doing this for a few years, I learned that stocking the store with only things that I liked did not work. It's incredibly difficult to gauge what others will like and tastes vary wildly from person to person. Basically, it's all a crapshoot. Will it sell? Who knows...?
Besides having to stock the shop for gift items, I also sell snack and convenience items: soda, chips, candy, gum, aspirin, cold remedies, and sundries are just the tip of the iceberg. In order to maximize my profits on items like these, I have to shop around for the lowest prices. Sometimes this involves ordering from several different suppliers. It's time-consuming and tedious, but very necessary. Maximizing profits is imperative for a small business. Operating costs are many and they add up quickly: rent, utility bills, transportation costs for the company car, internet access, insurance, corporate filing fees, state and local permits, etc. They never seem to end.
The retail industry deals with a great deal of taxable merchandise and this brings the Department of Revenue into the picture. Every month I have to report my taxable sales to the Department of Revenue in order to determine the amount of sales tax I owe the state. You see, the merchandise I purchase from suppliers and vendors is purchased tax free, and I am the one that collects the tax from the customer and repays what is owed to the state.
In addition to all of these things, there's also the responsibility of decorating the store, arranging the merchandise, designing displays, and staffing the store.
Being independent means a great deal to me. Would it be easier to just work for someone else? Of course it would. But I would have no control over how the business was operated, what merchandise was being stocked for sale, and where the merchandise came from. It's very important to me to do what I can to support other local businesses.
It's an incredibly difficult job, but it's so fulfilling to know that I'm doing this all myself. I wouldn't dream of doing this any other way.
I rate this career 8 out of 10.
Easily the best part of the job is the satisfaction I get when things are going well. Knowing that I'm making smart and successful decisions is fabulous. Whether it's finding new merchandise lines, or having a busy day of sales, it's such a good feeling to know that I'm succeeding.
On the other side of the success coin is disappointment. I'm not keen on calling it failure, because it's not necessarily a fail. Sometimes making smart choices or good decisions just don't matter. The retail industry is having an incredibly hard time getting by right now. The past 6 months have by far been the slowest I've ever seen. I say thank you every day that I don't have a large staff to support and that I'm in a much better position to ride this storm out than many others.
I wish I had taken more business courses in school. Being a communications major is not the most beneficial course of study for a retail shop owner.
Pay attention to what goes on around you at your part-time job. The more you learn the better off you will be. So much can be learned by simply observing and paying attention to what is happening.
Listen to people when they speak to you. If it's important enough for them to say it, it's important enough for you to listen.