In this show ”Small Business Stacey” interviews the owner of My Big Finds, Jodi Rapaport, who has a very unique antique style retail establishment. In today’s age of Amazon and tough online competition, what can retailers and shops on Main Street do to grow their businesses? Great marketing nuggets shared here especially for brick and mortar retailers. If you like our episode please subscribe or leave us a comment.
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Stacey: Welcome, everyone, to another edition of Where Marketing Meets Technology. I’m “Small Business Stacey”, your host, here today with Jodi Rappaport, owner of My Big Finds, located in Market Square in the Kentlands in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Welcome, Jodi.
Jodi: Hi, how are you today? Hi, everybody.
Stacey: Oh, I am great. We are filming this today in Jodi’s store, and I feel like a kid in a candy shop, because there is just so much fun stuff that is so nostalgic. It dates back. I saw this camera, check this out. This is how people used to take pictures. I don’t even know how this worked.
Jodi: There you go.
Stacey: Do you know how it works?
Jodi: Not so well, but a lot of people come in and tell me all about it. Then it brings up their history and family, and that’s what everybody loves about this place.
Stacey: Great. I want to hear more about you and your story, but I always like to open my interviews up with some fun questions so we can get to know a little bit about you. I have some fun questions. Are you ready?
Jodi: I’m ready.
Stacey: No right or wrong answers.
Stacey: Let’s see. Would you say winter or summer?
Jodi: I actually am a fall girl.
Stacey: Oh, a little bit in between.
Jodi: Less frizziness for the hair.
Stacey: Okay, [crosstalk [00:01:31]
Jodi: I like the changing of the trees.
Stacey: Okay, great. Beer or wine?
Jodi: I guess wine.
Stacey: Yes. Red or white?
Jodi: Oh, only white. I’m kind of a dessert wine, again, the sweet tooth [crosstalk [00:01:43]
Stacey: Okay, all right. Would you say drawing or picture? No, I said that wrong. Drawing or painting?
Jodi: Oh, okay. I’m thinking painting. I took one of those classes recently, and it was a lot of fun. You don’t realize what you can create with all those colors.
Stacey: You can paint with wine, right? One of those classes.
Jodi: Exactly, exactly.
Stacey: In the fall.
Jodi: That’s right, only in the fall.
Stacey: All right, great. Jodi, did you grow up one day and say, “I want to have a store on Main Street?”
Jodi: No, not at all. I definitely did not.
Stacey: Tell us a little bit about your backstory and how you came to be here in the Kentlands.
Jodi: I grew up in Long Island. I am one of three children. I don’t think I ever got interested in this stuff until my late twenties. I don’t know if people figure out what evolves, but I almost felt like I was an old soul because I was always drawn to, it started with costume jewelry, and then when I got married I wanted to have an antique ring. It’s very important to me to figure out who’s it was and the way it was set. Things were made so much better back then, I think, and it had so much detail. That’s where my love started. Then it became going to flea markets and checking things out, and then it became, I have to have this. Not like I needed it, and then it started to collect. I started buying things even though I knew I didn’t need them, but it would be great for somebody.
Jodi: Then I had a garage full of that kind of stuff, unnecessarily. I worked in corporate America for 24 years in the same industry, brokerage industry, very math-oriented and very white collar. I loved it. I grew up in that. It’s something that’ll help me for the rest of my life, learning how to send your kids to college or retirement. I’m very thankful for that, but it was just getting to the point where everybody was buying each other out, and every industry kept changing. We’ve all experienced that, whether it’s for ourselves or someone in our families. I just felt like I wanted to be my own boss. I always thought I knew everything better than everybody else, but we all probably feel that way. I don’t like always reporting in to somebody. I had this opportunity to try not working, which I literally did since I was fourteen years old. I worked in a bakery with my working papers. I was a working hard kid.
This was an opportunity for me to do something relaxed. Well, look at me now, not relaxed at all. I stand on my feet all day. I found this space where I thought I would paint in the back and I would sell stuff that I made up front. I just kept getting people coming in the store. I tried it for three months, and I found that I’m also a people person. It became getting to know their story and their background, and then you build relationships. I was like, “This can’t end yet.” I keep going, and now it’s been a year, a little over a year. I expanded, not just doing painting furniture and old things, but added a mix of gift stuff and newer stuff that companies make that look old, maybe not as expensive as vintage.
Jodi: I guess looking back I probably answered too many of your questions in one statement. Started recognizing things that I liked, and then since there’s no corporate coming down telling me what to do, I could really go and try and buy anything I wanted, but I also had to reflect and think what other people liked, and started asking that question as people came in.
Stacey: Wow. I’m sure that those of you out there on Main Street can relate that standing on your feet, running the day-to-day of the store, doing it all, that Jodi’s definitely doing it all. I love that everything that she has in her store, she said some very key things, that she tweaked it to find exactly what her customers were looking for, that it wasn’t necessarily what she liked anymore, that she had to kind of change it for what her customers were looking for. Very importantly, that she was building a relationship, because we don’t want people just coming in and leaving. That’s called a transaction. We want to build relationships. If somebody does come in and you’re listening to their story and you’re building a relationship, do you do anything special to expand on that relationship and bring them back again?
Jodi: I could probably be doing some things better. There’s some technology things that I need to create and do, even doing birthday things or ways to reach out to people. Currently I am in the middle of, hi, how are you today? We are obviously filming in the store, so there’s people.
Stacey: You’re okay.
Jodi: You’re fine, please. We have another associate here to help you.
I do a lot of events. Come seasonally, like on first day of spring I’m going to be giving out flowers or plants to everybody so they can plant for the first day of spring. I do have an email list where I send that out. I do events. I did a big candy bar and a celebration, which you were thankfully a part of, and so a lot of my regulars would come out and take pictures of me and they always wanted to support me. I had some people come and bring me flowers earlier in the day to celebrate the one year. There’s a very community feel, and I try to do things that do that. A lot of times people come in with their kids. I have little gifts for the kids to play with so that either it’s a lollipop or it’s a little toy, just to keep their hands busy. There’s the little things, and I always introduce my name and we always work hard to greet and say goodbye.
Jodi: I think it becomes more of a, “I saw you come in. I can’t wait for you to come back.” Get their name and try to ask it again the next time. Even if I don’t remember it, I will say, “I’m so sorry, but I remember you.” Or if I can remember part of that story, they appreciate, “Oh yeah, we did talk about that.” Sometimes I get emails too, where they’ll show me the finished product and share how they hung it up, or somebody used it for their wedding, and so again, that’s that relation part that I love.
Stacey: Wow. Guys, there was a lot of nuggets in there. She told me before we started, “Oh, I don’t do any marketing.”
Jodi: Not like officially, I guess. I could do better.
Stacey: I definitely know that she does a great job of events because she had a customer appreciation event during the holidays to celebrate her one-year anniversary. She had hired my coffee and smoothie business to come in and do a hot chocolate bar with toppings. The store was full of people and the cash register was ringing, which wasn’t even expected.
Jodi: Yes, it was.
Stacey: You’re doing a great job in that regard.
Jodi: Thank you, thank you.
Stacey: There’s so many things in here from all of the ages. How do you find these things? How do you decide what to keep in stock?
Jodi: If anybody knows antiquing or that area, it’s really hard to say no to anything. I have three storage units, and the whole idea of this business, I think, is you have to have the next big thing. Our people come in weekly. They want to see new stuff. Smalls are big, as I’m sure you all use that lingo, but having some small things people could get, also having the big furniture and having the next thing available. Honestly, the way it’s occurred is either yard sales, finding it when I travel, but most importantly it’s really been community coming to me. It’s the strange, strange phenomena, but they call come in. “We’re downsizing. I want to get rid of things, but I don’t want to do this myself. I don’t have enough to do an estate sale. Are you interested?” I explain my process of being more of a wholesale because I need to then resell it and pay for the space and employees and utilities. They were all very interested in passing it on to others who have interest and will love the piece, rather than it going somewhere that they don’t know. I try to get their story to then pass it down, I guess cross-generation, rather than within. That’s kind of how it’s been working. I can hear my husband in my ear going, “Stop buying,” but it’s hard.
Stacey: Now, it’s very interesting, because in a business like this, you have to come in and touch it and feel it and experience it, right? I’m all about creating experiences. Really, what you’re selling here is nostalgia. For people our age, cameras like this that perhaps we could have grown up with or even before our time, that are antiques and collectibles. What you’re really selling is nostalgia. That is hard to do online. I recently just read a story the other day about how Michaels Arts and Crafts, I’m sure you’ve heard of them, they do not sell anything online.
Stacey: Which I found very unique. They are only brick and mortar storefront. They say their reason is because they want to build those relationships. You have to come in and touch and feel the crafts, and every week they change their store front so that every time somebody comes in it’s a new experience, which I guess is what you’re alluding to. Do you sell your products online?
Jodi: I do some. For example, being in this environment, every day somebody comes in and is like, “I didn’t know you were here. How long have you been here?” I put flags and I try to put some furniture and things outside to draw attention, which works, and people love it. But if they’re not driving through this area, hence one of the things I could market better in that category, but there are some people that are looking for certain items. Dining room tables, entryway tables, that they don’t know that that’s something I can carry for them. If they’re looking for it, they might be looking at set stores. I have been doing Craigslist and some other online sources. I actually had a woman reach out to me who’s supposed to come to the store. A lot of times, and I try to do delivery on smaller things, but that is a hassle, so they come here. That gets them in the door to then look at other things. I’ve had somebody here from Glen Burnie, Maryland, which is a good 45 minutes away. This woman’s coming from maybe 20, 25 minutes away, who would have never heard of the store. It is a way to advertise the store.
There’s some other sites that I plan to use, but as a single business owner, it’s hard to wear those many hats, which we can all relate to. That’s actually worked well, because it doesn’t cost anything. You just have to reload them when they expire, but for me, if I sell something and I don’t have to share it with the company who’s posting it, it’s a great way for me to get new sources in here. It’s more really for the larger, more expensive pieces. I usually do it for anything $150 and over.
Stacey: Right. That is a great strategy. It’s almost omni-channel. It’s using online marketing to then drive traffic into your store.
Stacey: Do you do anything on social media?
Jodi: I’m Instagram, mybigfinds, come like me. I have a Facebook. A lot of times I will, when I post something that I think looks good or it’s the right amount of time, I’ll boost that post, if anybody’s done boosts in Facebook. I think they’re harmless. It’s a few dollars, maybe ten, and you can figure out what audience and location you want that to affect.
Stacey: Very good.
Stacey: All right, so she’s done a lot of marketing. Is there one particular strategy that you feel works best for you?
Jodi: I actually just, there’s a magazine called Consumer Eye, and it’s a local, simple magazine that goes out. I just started. I did that this month. It hasn’t even gone out yet. That was one of my goals for 2017, was to try a little physical advertising and see if that makes any other difference. I’m still trying to figure out how you track those strategies, and I haven’t really gotten to that level yet. I’m thinking when I try to do more of this send out the birthday thing or something, but a lot of times I do, my email will have a five dollar coupon. That’s how I know they’re getting the email, because a lot of them use it. It’s not a lot, it’s not a huge discount, but it gets them to read the email. Then I really should ask them to, I think I’ve just got a new strategy, everybody, while we’re doing this. If they send it to two friends, maybe I can do something where they get a bigger discount.
Stacey: Yeah, I’ve seen that done.
Jodi: So I think I’m going to try to do some of that.
Stacey: Social sharing.
Jodi: So thank you for making me think of that.
Stacey: There you go, social sharing. In here, is there one particular item that is the most popular that people tend to look for, or what would you say?
Jodi: I’d say it’s small items. There are some things that can be personalized. Besides the vintage, I’m all about unique gift-giving where you tie something to the person you know, rather than getting everybody a gift card, which, I like, but there’s some times where it’s, or a tie. Maybe you can get something if they do like photography and it’s somebody special, you could buy them a really cool old camera. I’ve had a few people do that. I have some dish towels, so sometimes if somebody’s doing a housewarming party, they’ll come in to accent the bottle of wine with a funny dish towel. It’s usually a joke. It’ll say, “Save water, drink wine,” all the things we’ve heard to go with it, or wine stoppers. Sometimes those things are good gift items. I do try to do that. Jewelry is big too, and I have some unique, and I have vintage, and then I have some lower price point jewelry.
Stacey: So you have everything at different levels.
Jodi: I’m trying to be a gift shop too.
Jodi: Sorry if I interrupted.
Stacey: Yeah [inaudible [00:15:41]
Jodi: Some of the items I get are made from small businesses, so then I tell the story. Most people like that whole shop small, so I promote the idea that you buy this pillow, it was made by Susie. I know her first name. She lives in Mississippi. They love that.
Jodi: It just gives more of the story that they can then share when they give the gift.
Stacey: Wow. All right, Jodi’s been in business for one year. Congratulations. She’s working on number two.
Jodi: Yes, I am.
Stacey: What’s your big focus that’s going to get you there?
Jodi: I’m still figuring that out. Marketing was my thing this year, and then I also wanted to, I got some more gift books and just gifty things. That was the new thing for this year, because there are a few gift shops in the area, but not a ton, and so I felt if somebody can’t get that big purchase, they can still come in and buy some of the smaller things that I can provide that are a little different than they would get at other area stores, than even their friend in their town would have, because it’s so unique it’d be hard to find. That’s kind of fun for me.
Stacey: Great. Any last words of advice for a small retailer on Main Street?
Jodi: Networking, networking, networking. Tell everybody. I actually have to say one thing. One thing I’ve been doing a lot too is working, when I can, in my children’s school and helping out in community events, because then it lets people know, I’m not necessarily sitting at one of those marketing meetings, but I’m doing things for the community, but then promoting my business. Then it gets different people I would have never met before in the store. I think that’s worked really well, actually, because then they pass it on. Then they feel like they’re connected to me a little bit, and then they have a little pride in the concept. That’s helped me a lot.
Stacey: Wow. Jodi, thanks for being on today. You shared so much great information.
Jodi: Thank you so much.
Stacey: If people want to get in touch with you, how could they do that?
Jodi: I have an email. It’s my name at my store, and it’s Jodi, J-O-D-I, @mybigfinds, and that’s F-I-N-D-S, as in finds, dot com. They can look me up on my website, Instagram, and it’s all My Big Finds, which, by the way, I tied my family to. It is named after my children’s initials. People love that to. Everything has a bigger purpose or meaning, and that, I guess, ties more to who I am. I think people like that. I tell anybody who will listen. You’re all listening. The name of the business is My Big Finds, so it means something to me, and then it has this meaning of, you can find something really cool and different here.
Stacey: Absolutely, so much fun stuff here. Whether you can physically come and visit or visit online, definitely stop by and say hi to Jodi. Thanks for being part of this video and podcast today. This is Small Business Stacey, your small business marketing specialist, here to help your business grow to seven figures or more, by helping you become a small biz marketing whiz. Buh-bye.
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Stacey Riska, aka "Small Business Stacey" is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small business and rebuilding Main Street. She helps small and local business owners become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients/patients, MORE sales, and MORE money. Stacey is the founder of Small Biz Marketing Specialist, THE go-to place for marketing tips, techniques and strategies that get results. She's also the author of "Small Business Marketing Made EZ" where she shares the 6-simple-step plan to get your marketing into ACTION - literally and figuratively. Stacey is also the creator of the Daily Deals for Massive Profits, an online video training program that teaches small and local business owners how to use daily deal sites like Groupon to skyrocket their business growth and get massive profits. In this program she teaches from experience, as it was the key strategy that transformed her coffee and smoothie business from being $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business. When not saving the small business world, she enjoys sipping red wine, eating chocolate (who doesn't!) and spending time with her amazing husband.
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