Spotlight Interview Questions
Posted on July 27 2012
Hey fans - it's Randa! So I've been working away on answering some questions for Dirt Road Daughters Magazine as they are featuring me and SJ in the Fall 2012 issue! Anyways, I'm not sure what all they will or will not publish - so I figured it would be good to share with each of you what I shared with them. I've been getting more and more emails asking how SJ began and some advice I would give, so read below if you're interested. I apologize it being fairly long, but if you will notice I have a lot of mentors! Oh and I recently turned 25! Here is my favorite present - designed and given to me by my baby brother. Happy Friday xoxo 1. Tell us a little about your personal background - where you grew up, went to school and your involvement in things that lead to a few of your current business ventures today. I grew up in a small community called Bremond, TX. I was one of those "involved in everything" kind of students, like many that come from small schools. I played every kind of sport - softball and cheerleading were my favorite. I was in the National Honor Society and the FFA. But one of my maine passions through high school was showing registered Brangus cattle, which I still raise today. After graduating Valedictorian in May 2005, I headed an hour south to College Station, TX where I couldn't wait to be an Aggie (A first generation one at that!). I studied Animal Science and Business, and at this point in my life I still thought the cattle industry would be where I spent my entire career. I was on the Livestock Judging Team and even interned with the American Angus Association in St. Joseph, MO. Upon graduation in May of 2009 where I was the College of Ag and Life Science's nominee for top senior of the University, I decided to turn down multiple graduate school offers and pursue my own path. At this point I had a small business/hobby called "Southern Jewlz" where I sold some handmade jewelry and other fashion items. I still to this day credit a small set of friends and family that pushed me to pursue this crazy dream I had. At this point I had NO retail experience nor a fashion background. But, I was anxious to learn and had a good customer following, so I gave myself one year to see what I could make of it. If no success, I'd get my butt back into school. 2. What inspires your personal style - what is your style/fashion philosophy? My personal style is very bright, fun and attention grabbing - much like my personality! And that is exactly what I believe the philosophy behind your very own personal style should be. Your look is the way you portray yourself to the world! One of my dearest customers said it best that "Life is too short to not look your very best every day!" Whenever I shop for myself, I like to buy both statement pieces to build an outfit around, as well as many simple basics to have to compliment my "wham-bam-thank-ya-mam" pieces. I let my personal style show through onto my retail shelves as well. I like to think of Southern Jewlz Boutique as young contemporary with a touch of Southern flair. I like the store to be fashion forward enough to inspire the customers to step out of their comfort zone, yet to still have Western inspired pieces on the shelf to compliment my personal background. 3. What are you top five fashion trend picks for this fall? Bright colors - Fall 2012 is sure to be colorful! The typical Fall colors are black, gray, brown, taupe, etc., but this year retail shelves are sure to have lots of color to pick from. Black will still be a popular color, but be prepared to spice it up with a colorful sweater, pair of shoes, scarf or accessories! Navajo/Tribal prints - even though this has been a very popular Summer 2012 trend, expect for it to hold strong into the cooler weather months (if that even exists in Texas). I personally LOVE this print and trend! The Chevron Stripe - Okey I know I sound redundant with these trends that are holding strong through the Fall, but trust me, the Chevron stripe will continue to hang around. Incorporate it into your look with a top, dress, scarf, phone cover, cloth or even a Chevron-influenced manicure! The Oversized Baggy Sweater and Leggings - This is more of an "SJ" signature style that we somewhat introduced last winter, but I'm excited to push it even harder this fall! Pairing a baggy sweater with a statement piece of leggings and boots is a super easy and comfortable, but yet super fun way to dress this Fall. Blazers - I personally LOVE a good blazer! It can be worn with almost any type of an outfit. Pair with with skinnies and a fully enclosed wedge or try a mini skirt and a pump. Need a more professional look? Simply add a fun blazer to your dress pants and button up! And don't just buy that "basic warm color" blazer - grab one as well in turquoise, melon or any other eye-catching color. I promise you will feel like a million bucks - and look like it too! 4. You currently are at the head of a few different businesses (Southern Jewlz, Royal Genetics, Stock Show Royalty) - can you tell us a little about each of your current businesses. Southern Jewlz is a young contemporary boutique that is also online at www.southernjewlz.com. Through our retail and online store front, we provide our customers with friendly customer service, fashion forward apparel and accessories, and a competitive price point. With over 4,000 online customers, 25,000 Facebook fans, 2500 instragram followers, 1650 twitter followers and 10,000 youtube video views, we market and advertise solely through social media avenues. Royal Genetics is the name of my small cattle company that began from my show heifer projects in high school. I run around 20 head of Registered Brangus Cattle with a strong emphasis in artificial insemination and embryo transfer. I sell the elite females I raise as show heifer prospects to junior exhibitors or other Brangus operations. I am a product of growing up showing livestock and am not only a cattle enthusiast because of my passion, but I truly believe in youth programs emphasizing livestock projects. I see it as an investment in our future - building good people with even better values and work ethic! I still judge cattle shows and showmanships across the state of Texas. With SJ growing as fast as it is, it can be hard to keep up with Royal Genetics, but with the help of my family and those families that show my cattle - it somehow all comes together! Stock Show Royalty is my latest business venture that launched this past March at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. John and Dede Sullivan - owners of Sullivan Show Supply (the largest and most elite livestock show supply company in the country) approached me last fall about a business proposition. They had recently started "Stock Show U" which was a clothing and product line where 100% of the proceeds would fund youth livestock clinics and scholarship programs. Dede loved my cattle background tied together with my fashion business and thought it would be great to market a girls exclusive line with both their name and SJ on the products. I handle all the product selection, designing, social media and marketing of Stock Show Royalty, which like Stock Show U funds and supports the youth of the livestock show world. Stock Show Royalty currently carries caps, shirts, hoodies and even youth and toddler sized products that are perfect to wear while hanging out at a livestock show. It works out great because I can cross promote Stock Show Royalty during all of my Royal Genetics travels. I also am featured as the exclusive fashion consultant for DRIVE Magazine - one of the largest youth livestock publications. 5. We are probably most familiar with Southern Jewlz - can you tell us a little about what lead you to start Southern Jewlz and how it has grown to be the success it is today? I started traveling to stock shows and rodeos to set up as a vendor full time in the Summer of 2009 after my graduation from Texas A&M. That fall I rented a kiosk in the College Station Mall and got my first taste of the retail world. When I saw the amount of sales made in the month of December, I knew SJ could be a forever thing. Within the next few months, I worked hard as setting up an online store (this was much more affordable than going retail just yet) and I utilized social media all along the way to target my audience. In July of 2010, the USA Today featured me in a story about how small businesses can really capitalize on growth through social media use. This gave SJ so much exposure that is was then time to open the first retail storefront. october of 2010 my dream turned into a reality. I had a 900 square foot hot pink house that I called my store and it was every bit of fabulous! In April of 2011, it was time to separate the online inventory from the retail. I purchased a small portable building and set up shop. This was another huge step for me to own and manage two different entities and inventories. And by the Summer of 2011, I began the search for a new location as I was outgrowing the space I had. In March of 2012 we opened the doors to what is currently the Southern Jewlz headquarter. There is a 1700 square foot retail space that is probably the best possible location I could be in College Station, and a 1500 square foot online warehouse that we ship orders out of Monday thru Friday. What began as a hobby during my college career has now grown into a lifestyle for me, my team and all of the fans and customers. I strive to promote the "inner beauty" of my customers with a "conquer the world" attitude. I truly love waking up in the mornings to come to work and that is a treaty way to live life! 6. What has been the biggest obstacle in getting started with your own business(es)? There are so many obstacles in starting a business. I think one of the hardest things is there is no "how-to" book. I had to learn through trials and errors along the way. But hindsight 20/20, this was such a blessing as it taught me so much and kept me grounded and humbled. Being a retail business, finances were a hard obstacle at first because everything I made for a substantial time period had to be spend right back into the business for it to be able to grow. Keeping good product levels on the shelf was critical. And like I mentioned previously, I had no prior retail experience so that was an obstacle in itself. But, the power of networking has truly helped me to make it when I am today. I have a lot of friendly competitors and mentors that I can call and ask questions. Unfriendly competitors can easily be an obstacle for anyone in any type of business. I learned to let them push and drive me to work harder and be more successful. I also realized it was more important for me to keep focusing my time and energy on moving forward, rather than stopping, turning around and being held back by them. And probably the last obstacle I will hit on is managing my employees, or as I call them "Team SJ". I truly believe as the boss, it is my responsibility to lead by example. I do not ask any of my girls to do something that I wouldn't do right beside them. I have a strong respect and deep love for the girls that have jumped on the SJ bandwagon and have faith in this journey I am leading. I keep their best interest in mind and push hard enough without going too far. Respecting their time off and rewarding them on a job well done combined with our company meetings twice a month, I try to stay very active and keep communication flowing. I believe a job should be a good balance of challenges and victories, and that is what I strive for with my staff. if I set the basis of being good to them, they will be good to me and SJ right back! 7. Have you had a mentor in staring your business(es) - if so , please tell us a little about that person and how they have influenced you. I've had many, many mentors along the way. I'm so scared I will leave someone out, but here goes: Ruth Ann Coomer from Van Alstyne, TX. I met Ruth Ann at my very first booth at the Heart of Texas Complex in Waco, TX at a livestock show. Ruth Ann must have seen the eater and want-to in my eyes and she soon scooped me under her wing. She is a retired boot salesman that has since ran her own business and even worked for other retail stores. She is the definition of that person that can sell ice to an eskimo. She bought a necklace from me (keep in mind she was selling plenty in her own booth) and we exchanged phone numbers. She took me to my first fashion market, taught me what she knew of the industry, researched what shows I needed to attend and those to avoid, and even came and traveled with me on the road! Nancy Gilmore of Madisonville, TX now is the owner of The Mule Barn Boutique. I got to know Nancy through her daughter that also showed cattle like myself. Nancy has been in the retail business for many years, and even though her business is more Western inspired and cowboy boot based, her and I travel together to fashion markets and I know I can ask her any retail question and she can answer with years of experience to back it up. Luke and Catherine Neumayr of Boling, TX are now the owner of Luke and Cat Photography. Not only are they the sole SJ photographers, but they are very dear friends who have helped me in the journey. Luke and I judged together at Texas A&M and Catherine used to work for the advertising agency that launched my first ever website. She is actually the one who researched and found the commerce company that I still use today. Even though they aren't retail business owner, I consider them very dear mentors because they share any business knowledge with me that I ask for. Plus, Team SJ and our models just love when they come to town for our photo shoots! Lorinda Van Newkirk of Weatherford, TX as you all probably know is the co-owner of Gypsy Soule. Gypsy Soule is a huge mentor company to Southern Jewlz. Even though I have only personally known Lorinda for a few months - I know she is one of those "real" people in my life. She is such an inspiration to myself and so many others - I look forward to hopefully many business ventures in the future with GS! Her journey relates to mine and I love that my path with SJ led me to her. Jackie Lackey of Aspermont, TX is the owner of Encore Visions and DRIVE Magazine. Jackie used to work in the Animal Science Undergraduate Advising office during her career at TAMU, which was over right before mine started. Jackie is one of those self-empowering ladies that owns multiple businesses that have become industry-leading in only a matter of years. Encore Visions designs and hosts the SJ website and as I previously mentioned, I work very closely with the DRIVE livestock publication that she owns. I remember being at a bachelorette party two years ago with Jackie and her telling me at dinner - Randa, you need to capitalize on the potential you have with SJ! Her being a successful business owner herself and believing in me before SJ was really anything meant so very much! Emily Huskinson of College Station, TX is not only the founder of Ring Wraps, but is also one of my best friends. Emily and I do a lot of cross promotions between SJ and Ring Wraps, but more importantly, our friendship is so real and deep that we are constantly looking out for each other, even in a business sense. For instance, if she finds a new feature to implement into her website, she is sure to call and tell me about it and vice versa. She is one I can have a brainstorm session with or just a life goal setting party! Tiffany Henley of Bryan, TX is the co-owner of Catwalk Hair Studio. She does hair and make-up at all of our photo shoots and events, but what I truly cherish about Tiffany as a mentor is the fact that her hair salon is a year and a half older than my retail store. So any problem or question I have about anything from a contract to a customer satisfaction issue - I can ask Tiffany and she can speak from experience, but she still understands operating a fairly new business in the same town as me. Katie Ruffino of Bryan, TX is a realtor at the Cheery Ruffino Real Estate office and not only helped me to find the new locations that Southern Jewlz currently operate out of, but she is also a young and motivated professional that I meet with very often to keep myself pushing forward. Anything I would ever need as far as real estate or even for the betterment of SJ, Katie is on it at all times. James Decker of Haskell, TX is my lawyer and also a small business owner himself with an agriculture background. He is one I can call whenever I have a new idea. He evaluates it in the most logical and practical manner (y'all can imagine the things I come up with) and then does whatever he can to help make it happen. Nancy Banks of Lincoln, TX has helped me tremendously over the past few years with my show cattle operation. She not only takes care of and helps manage the show heifer prospects, but anything I might need done with Royal Genetics, I know I can ask her and she will take care of it so I can keep my attention on SJ! And of course my parents, grandparents and brothers have served as great mentors. If I'm ever overwhelmed or stressed, I know I can call and ask for help or relief and they are there! Whether it be a renovation project or help with the cattle in the pasture, I know any of them would help as best as they as quickly as possible. They raised me to have respect for myself and to work hard for what I want and what I have. And last but not least, God! I am just following the path he has laid out for me and I'm so blessed it is such a fun and rewarding one! 8. How do you manage your time between your businesses and stay on top of everything without giving into the stress? For those who know me personally, I am an energizer bunny 24/7. I can multi-task like nobody's business, but my attention span is lacking in a bad kinda way, ha! Life is all about balance. For the first year or two of going storefront, my personal and social life didn't really exist. That was a sacrifice I had to make, but since then I'm back on track to being more normal. I have to equally manage work, play, family, worship, etc. And I used to be such a stressor. I still am, but very minimal speaking. I have learned that I am working for a higher power, bigger than anything I could every be or imagine. As long as I work hard, do my best and give back to those who have given to me, I know everything will work out! And sometimes time away from the business helps me to come back in such a rejuvenated and motivated way - that way I avoid getting burned out or run down. 9. What are some of your recommendations to other young women who have that entrepreneurial bug - both in fashion and agriculture. Eat, sleep, breathe and bleed it - especially during the premature stages of your business venture. Don't chase after money, chase after what you love. Be prepared with your elbow grease cause dreams don't work unless you do! Understand that you cannot get to the top by yourself, you will have to have plenty of help from family, friends, employees, mentors, etc. Be sure to thank them and be good to them! 10. What's next for you personally and/or professionally? A list of goals I still have that have not yet been obtained are as follows: -Have an SJ Booth at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo -Open another retail location in the next 2-5 years in Texas. -Launch an entire SJ wholesale line to be sold in retail stores nationwide. -Host a fashion show at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. -Style Miranda Lambert for a special occasion or performance. -Raise a Brangus show heifer to win at Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston Livesteock Shows as well as the National Junior Brangus Show. -Get married and have a family.