When I had the opportunity to open my own business, I knew that I wanted a shop that would allow everyone to feel beautiful, no matter what was in her bank account.
When the banker who approved my loan asked, “How will your store be different?” I told him I’m going to deliver Neiman Marcus customer service even if you only buy a $40 shirt. You’ll feel like you’re in that exclusive boutique with high-end customer service, and all those little touches that I dreamed of having, including, of course, a glass of Champagne.
LEARNING AND GROWING
That’s what I’ve done with fab’rik and I believe it’s worked. Almost everything in our store is under $100, but it looks and feels much more expensive. Our first store opened in 2001, and today we have five company-owned stores and 35 franchised stores as far away as Denver.
When I first started, I didn’t even know about the Atlanta Apparel Markets at AmericasMart. But I soon learned that my best guide was to find showrooms that are in my groove. Paula Hyman really took me under her wing and guided me through that process. Back then, it was extremely hard to find products that fit the price point we were trying to hit. Today, my challenge is finding that one label that everyone hasn’t discovered already.
Not everything has worked. We started off carrying men’s and women’s apparel, but we quickly realized that men would buy a lot at one time, then wouldn’t come back for months. That didn’t really fit with our culture, where we’re opening a box of merchandise almost daily. We also tried children’s clothing, but weren’t able to carry a large enough assortment to know if it would succeed. That’s still unknown. We replaced men’s with shoes. And jewelry and accessories have been part of our inventory from the start. I always wanted for someone to be able to walk in and create her entire look.
INSPIRATION BEYOND THE STORES
Franchising wasn’t initially a part of our plan, but then I had a vision: I wanted to give women like myself the support and encouragement they needed to open their own business. Most of my franchisees were shoppers or employees who have moved. Each location starts with the same initial buy, but can re-order the pieces that are selling best and add on items from a look book to reflect their area’s style.
fab’rik takes care of the women who can afford to feel beautiful, but what about the women who don’t have anything? Our nonprofit, free fab’rik, has completed my vision. We set up mobile boutiques at safe houses for women escaping sex trafficking, and treat them to a free shopping spree of gently used clothing donated by our customers. We always end with a fashion show and group prayer, and you can see the confidence come back to these women.
Finally, that above-and-beyond service is still so important to who we are. As they say, at the end of the day, if you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life.
DANA’S TOP THREE MARKET TIPS
1. Be disciplined and have a plan for what you’re looking for and what you need to buy.
2. Find those showrooms that reflect your style sense and develop a relationship with them. They can be a great resource for finding merchandise that will fit your store’s identity.
3. Put together a smart buying team. We all come at it from different angles to determine the big questions: is it on trend, is it our biggest need, and is it going to sell in all 40 stores?