CLIENT: All That & More Boutique
SBDC: Small Business Development Center Hosted by Pacific Coast Regional Corp.
Candance Pilgram had never owned a business before, but when a friend convinced her that her hobby of selling fashion accessories could become a full-time venture, the two took the plunge. They found the ideal location for their upscale women’s clothing and accessories boutique and opened in mere weeks, but quickly hit rough waters when Pilgram’s partner decided she wanted out—just two months after launch. Pilgram convinced her to stay on, but by March 2012, the two were in debt, locked in unproductive mediation and in danger of closing down. In March 2012, a friend suggested Pilgram visit the Small Business Development Center at Pacific Coast Regional Corp. for help.
SBDC Business Advisor Harold C. Hart-Nibbrig advised Pilgram as she went through protracted mediation and negotiation to dissolve her business partnership while maintaining her store lease and vendor relationships. He then helped her develop a business plan, improve operations, hold a grand re-opening and turn the struggling business into a success.
- Sometimes, you need an outside perspective. Pilgram had spent 18 frustrating months struggling to maintain her business and her friendship with her former partner. Hart-Nibbrig offered a much-needed reality check. “The SBDC helped me to see what type of relationship I was in and that I needed not to maintain it, but to dissolve it,” says Pilgram. “They helped me to let go and move forward.”
- Honesty is the best policy. Pilgram was worried vendors would leave when her partner left the business. “Harold told me to be candid with them and helped me to see that even though the [partnership] hadn’t worked out, I was still the same manager I had always been,” she says. “With his assistance, I was able to maintain 100 percent of the vendor relationships I had established.”
- Make a plan. In their excitement, Pilgram and her partner launched their business just six weeks after getting the initial idea. “We had no plan or foundation,” says Pilgram. “Putting my business plan, sales goals and projections, and daily sales down in writing has made a huge difference.”
- Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. “Going into business, there were a lot of things I didn’t know. We didn’t have a partnership agreement or an exit strategy,” Pilgram recalls. From the SBDC, she learned “never to enter an agreement without putting it in writing in order to understand the intent of the partnership and, if it doesn’t work, how to end it.”
When Hart-Nibbrig reviewed the company’s trademark and discovered Pilgram had no rights to the name or logo, she was forced to rebrand. “It was a nightmare,” she recalls, “but Harold was there, literally holding my hand at times.” As soon as she relaunched under the new name All That & More Boutique in September 2012, sales began to rise by 10 to 20 percent monthly. One year later, sales have doubled and Pilgram is well on her way to paying off the partnership’s debts.
With three part-time sales associates and plans to hire more soon, Pilgram’s immediate goals include boosting efficiency with new point-of-sale systems, selling products online and obtaining a business loan. Along the way, she’ll continue to work with the SBDC: “I wish I had known about them from the very beginning!