As a teacher, Nicole Pollard spent her summer vacations traveling to places like London, Italy and
Japan, where she indulged her passion for shopping. She thought about starting a business hosting
luxury shopping tours overseas, until a friend suggested she focus on her native Los Angeles.
In February 2008, Pollard came to the Santa Monica SBDC for help financing her startup and
completing her business plan.
Pollard took workshops on sales and marketing, writing a business plan and using QuickBooks.
She met with SBDC Business Advisor Monica Rayes for sales and marketing consulting on
everything from approaching clients to developing a Web site and building a brand. “Monica
has supported, encouraged and given me the tools needed to create a successful business,”
says Pollard. “She is always available to help me prepare for an important meeting, discuss sales
strategy or give me a quick pep talk over the phone.”
• Know when to get help. “I had a business plan, but I knew it wasn’t good, and
I didn’t know what to do,” says Pollard. A business plan writing class from SBDC
Director Michelle King helped her get “unstuck.”
• Bootstrap your business. Pollard came to the SBDC for help with financing. Instead
of seeking a loan, SBDC Business Advisor Ron Sardisco urged her to revamp her
business plan and figure out how to start on a shoestring—advice that positioned
LaLaLuxe for success in a recession.
• Be confident. Perhaps Rayes’ biggest role was building her client’s confidence.
“I work with royalty and celebrities, and that can be intimidating,” Pollard explains.
“Monica helped me gain confidence and prepare for meetings with my biggest
LaLaLuxe launched in July 2008; in the past year, sales have increased 200 percent. The company
still offers shopping tours, but Pollard quickly found that personal shopping and concierge
services were what clients wanted most. With a staff of five and a roster of contacts, LaLaLuxe
helps affluent clients do everything from choosing a wardrobe or planning a party to finding a
Pilates instructor or a personal chef.
Rayes is proud of the success Pollard has achieved in less than a year and a half. “She understands
what it takes to be a business owner,” Rayes says. “She’s willing to put in the hard work,
ask the right questions and learn from others.”
Pollard’s ultimate goal is to establish LaLaLuxe as a luxury lifestyle brand. “I want a bigger company,
and I know it’s possible,” says Pollard. “From essential business planning during my launch
to helping me navigate the day-to-day, the SBDC has been a crucial factor in the success of
LaLaLuxe. They have shaped my company and showed me what it could be.”