|Words of Wisdom|
"When you start your business, don't assume it's going to be all fun. It's hard work! You have to love the business you're in to succeed."
"Our PNC banker suggested a new idea, and it has been an outstanding solution for us. We make fewer mistakes and have improved our efficiency and customer service significantly."
How to Succeed? Go with the Flow
Kemper Chapman isn't big on business plans, market research or feasibility studies. The co-owner of Trade Whims, a specialty retail shop situated in the heart of historic Easton, Maryland, trusts her instincts and follows her passion, and success follows.
"How do you write a business plan for a new retail business?" she asks. "You don't know what demand will be or which items will be popular. You have to go with the flow."
This philosophy has led Kemper and her co-owner husband, Bill, to steady double-digit growth in each of the six years their shop's doors have been open to the vibrant tourist market as well as to local shoppers. Kemper's willingness to adjust her merchandise offerings to accommodate demand has enabled Trade Whims to evolve from a custom clothing and china store into an establishment brimming with table linens, accessories, silk and cashmere items, hand-painted china, and gifts and clothing for women, babies and toddlers.
"Bill and I traveled to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia in 2005, and became inspired by the fabrics and merchandise there," says Kemper. "We thought it would be fun to share these treasures with others, so we imported some interesting items and offered custom-made clothing through an Asian tailor. We found that the long distance between customer and tailor wasn't ideal, so we discontinued the tailoring and instead began carrying a variety of clothing items. When we expanded our space into the vacant storefront next to ours, we added linens, which quickly became popular."
Balancing the Creative with the Practical
One item whose demand has held steady from the start is Kemper's hand-painted china. Demand has become so strong that she spends five days a week painting and firing seasonal and special-occasion china. Thanksgiving- and Christmas-themed pieces are huge sellers, as are special items to celebrate weddings, births and other life events.
Kemper's other two days are spent managing the store and four employees, a task she shares with Bill. The couple is always looking for new ways to become more efficient and profitable. PNC helps.
"Our PNC banker suggested a new idea - a merchant services system - and it has been an outstanding solution for us," Kemper shares. "We make fewer mistakes and have improved our efficiency and customer service significantly."
Kemper recognizes that customer service excellence is vital to Trade Whims' success, so she always puts the customer first - especially when selecting merchandise for the store. "After six years in business, I have a good sense of what our customers want," she says. "We don't rely on what's trendy or what's expected to be the 'next hottest thing.' If I'm not confident that our customers will love it, I don't buy it."