Welcome to the first episode of the We Are Here podcast!
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Matt: 00:10 Welcome to the we are here podcast, a podcast all about entrepreneurship on the south coast, collecting stories and lessons from entrepreneurs and community leaders to learn firsthand how they’ve built their business or organization so we can build our own. The south coast is a small place and we’re letting the business world know that we are here. Show your support by liking us on firstname.lastname@example.org slash the. We are here podcast and join the newsletter for all of our latest announcements and upcoming episodes at southcoast.fm/subscribe. That’s southcoast.fm/subscribed. Everyone. Welcome to the podcast. First episode, super excited to have card use on the show. Shelley, of course, from hippo for he or she sort of just came down from a comment if there were an entrepreneurial universe somewhere out there and she fired off into the earth’s atmosphere. That’s where she would have hailed from. Just a wealth of knowledge in this episode and I just really enjoyed our conversation. You’re going to learn a lot, especially with folks who are just starting and even folks who were maybe a year or two into building their business like where are we getting our customers from? How can we think out of the box to attract customers to our area? That’s what we’re going to talk about in this episode. Really hope you enjoy it. Really hope you subscribe to our newsletter over at south coast.fm/subscribe. Don’t forget to drop us a five star review on itunes. Let’s get into the show.
Shelley: 01:28 So I’m a resident of new Bedford for the past two years was the executive director of entrepreneurship are all here on the south coast. My position just changed this past January to the director of programs for April and I’m also the owner of Hipaa, which is a small gift shop in the middle of downtown Denver. So years ago I always did something on a sign of always wanting to organize art shows, whether it was mine or some body else’s. And years ago I started a small tee shirt line on the side and I would sell them at craft fairs and was pretty soon after selling them I helped as a vendor coordinator for Alyssa pathetic Calico, she was organizing an event called [inaudible], the open market, so I would help, you know, talk to crafters and just do that type of communication over time. Her and I worked on an event called craft aroma, which was an outdoor art market as well as a seasonal market as well. So it’s really something that’s been a progression that really started from art market to pop up to full-time retail store
Matt: 02:33 part of the show as we talked about some of the challenges on the south coast. Logistically it couldn’t be that logistics customers, uh, you know, finding the right product, fit market product fit in the south coast, in and around the south coast. One of the big particular challenges that you have being a brick and mortar store owner, maybe specifically in the south because I think many of us know that driving foot traffic is difficult. But is there anything that really sticks out on the south coast that you’ve, you’ve really overcome where you still working to overcome and say, man, I wish this was a little bit different.
Shelley: 03:04 You know, it’s really hard, especially right now. So we’re a few weeks into January and knowing that gift shops or seasonal knowing that a lot of retail seasonal, but it’s so drastic and so, so drastic. So December with the holidays, you have people coming in, you’re looking at the daily sales, you’re running out of paper bags and making, you know, having to run to the bank to get changed and then all of a sudden January hits and it is the exact opposite. New Bedford is going through a lot of growth right now, which is really exciting. But with growth, that means construction and road closures. So those are some barriers that we deal with as well. And you know, the tourism and seasonal and we really try to reach out to the local community. But um, we really need a mix. We need a mix of people that are coming in. A lot of times when people are traveling, that’s when they’re willing to spend more money on themselves
Matt: 03:55 as small as, you know, new Bedford is, and even the south coast is compared to a bigger metro areas, you know, in and around Boston, you know, even providence to a degree, I don’t think I see it as prominent as new Bedford does it right where businesses, other businesses or helping other businesses amplify their message. Ah, there’s always this feeling I feel anyway, uh, that there’s, you know, businesses saying, hey, let’s all corral together. Let’s get attention. Awareness, let’s drive customers to all of our stores. Not just our individual store, but all of our stores. I feel like there’s at least a good concerted effort of that happening in the downtown area versus wherever else I look, uh, you know, even fall river to her two degrees. Certainly Dartmouth. I mean, I don’t see that kind of coalition happening in other areas
Shelley: 04:41 and you know, I mean years ago when I was doing a holiday pop up shop and I was on social media trying to tell people to go, I recognized at that time, it’s not enough for me to get somebody to get in the car on a snowy day to come to just my little store that I really needed to say, hey, there’s a lot of shopping that you can do downtown in Bedford. You can go get something at be tools. You can go to tribeca and get some wine. You can go get hot sauce at no problem in a really give a lot of options because if you think about it, so many people. I love shopping local. I love topics while, but let’s be honest, on a cold winter day, if you have the option of sitting home and shopping online, a lot of times you’re going to take that option.
Shelley: 05:21 You’re not going to just get in your car to go to one place, but you may go out if you know, hey, I can actually get a lot done at once. So I think a lot of the business owners see that benefit and what’s really great as a lot of the business owners who are just very willing to share information. A lot of times when we pass each other, we’ll say, hey, how was last Saturday for you? I noticed it was kind of slow for me. Was it the same for you to try to figure out what the patterns are? And um, I think we all know we’re all, we’re all in this together. I’ve also been active this past year on, on Dnbi Inc, which is the downtown new Bedford Inc, which is, um, advocacy for businesses and we did a really successful workshop recently on instagram and really just figuring out how we can share knowledge with each other.
Matt: 06:05 How did you start? What’s the genesis of getting another business to join you in a concerted effort to, uh, to make this sort of community happen? Is it, does it start with a conversation, does it start with a facebook page, instagram, what’s the best tip to get more businesses talking together?
Shelley: 06:21 It is a long process of just connecting and communicating. So I started facebook pages. That’s great. But I think just even just having basic conversations with people about what their needs are and what they want, what they need to see. I think sometimes what I see is there too many efforts at once where people are trying to start a new networking programs. Then, you know, new workshops. It’s like let’s figure out what’s already happening and where the real need is.
Matt: 06:53 Explain to us what your role is. I mean, you have a new role now at all, but explain to us how you got into that role and where it’s going with your new position.
Shelley: 07:03 Yeah. So, uh, you know, when I started at ea for all two years ago, it was really to get you for all south coast up and running. He for all stands for entrepreneurship for all to non-profit. That started in mobile in 2010 and was brand new to the area. I mean, I think people aren’t down here talking about entrepreneurship. People are certainly talking about small businesses, but when we started to introduce things like pitch contests and accelerator program, people didn’t know what language we were speaking. So just to clarify pitch contests. A lot like shark tank and accelerator program is when a group of entrepreneurs get together to learn about starting businesses with mentorship and a classroom setting. So I really got involved to launch this really great non-profit here in the south coast and now with the transition of being director of programs, I’m helping overlook all the different sites. So that’s in Lowell, Lawrence, Lynn and the south coast as well as new site. So we are hoping to expand adding a few more sites throughout the country this year. And really our goal is to have 50 cities under our belt over the next few years. So I’m helping plan out that expansion, plan out the training that we’ll need and working with our it and tech staff to just make sure we have like the best software to make this job easier for all the sites. So it’s really exciting.
Matt: 08:30 So you mentioned that entrepreneurship wasn’t really talked about or amplified as much on the south coast sort of until he came about, but small business certainly was what w, what are the big differences that you’ve actually learned at this role at Aef? Raw? Like what, what did you think about small business and entrepreneurship prior to, you know, helping the Egfr, all south coast chapter, you know, really grow to where it is today. Uh, any big takeaways you said? You know what, I’ve been thinking about this stuff all wrong until I, until I got, until I saw it from this, from this angle,
Shelley: 09:03 you know, it’s funny and I mean I don’t, I don’t want to say nobody knew the word. I mean I’m just, you know, there are certainly groups that we’re dealing with entrepreneurship, but I didn’t ever consider myself an entrepreneur and I’ve always had a side hustle. That to me is when I looked at it as a full time job and a side hustle or I go to college and I do this on the side or a Cyborg or projects. I never used that term for myself. And what if Robert believes is that there are people in the community that have the answers to problems that needed to be solved. And so a lot of times it’s the people, it’s not the college educated people that are taking entrepreneurship classes in and yeah, they can be very successful too. But we’re talking about families, we’re talking about people that are from this community saying, Hey, here’s an issue that needs to be solved.
Shelley: 09:54 So what I learned very quickly with the for all is when I would go out to speak to people, they don’t, didn’t necessarily associate it with the terminology and I should have known that because I didn’t either and I would’ve never said, oh yeah, I’m an entrepreneur. So you know, really trying to communicate with people and learning the ways to say, do you want to start a business versus are you an entrepreneur? I’m also building trust in new Bedford. Fall River has taken some time. I think he, for all, to be honest, sounds like a scam. Where we’re like, hey, we have these events. They are free to attend and share your ideas. Maybe you’ll win some money and everyone was waiting for what’s the catch and there really isn’t a catch, but I get it. I get why that sounds so shady at first, until they realize and they see other people go through it and they say, OK, this is, this is real, this is legit, you know?
Matt: 10:47 Yeah. And you bring up another sort of grate. A piece of this conversation is a lot of people see this. So the word entrepreneur has been glamorized and sort of just really a more modernized and celebrities with shark tank and people just look at the winnings, right? Uh, they see something like a shark tank. They see these celebrities that are judging people and they say, oh look, this person will, you know, get whatever, a million bucks or I don’t even know what the prices are on shark tank, but they see this and they say, wow, I want that money. I went to go get that money. And then he comes out and says, Hey, you can win a thousand bucks, but I just pitching your, you know, your idea. And then people started thinking, well, I’m just going for the money. Right. That’s what entrepreneurship is all about.
Matt: 11:27 Um, sadly mistaken once they actually can get into it and how much work it actually takes. I mean, what, what does that look like when you see people who say, wow, this, this really isn’t for me? Or have you been in a position either at hippo or at for when people are like, you know what, this is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. How do you sort of coach them through that? Or what kind of guidance do you give people? Like, Hey, this is going to be a lot of work. It’s not just about the money.
Shelley: 11:51 Yeah. Well, you know, we certainly do talk about it in the [inaudible] for all program a lot is that it is a lot of work and there are certainly people that want to start a business just because they don’t want a boss or a think, well I want to start a business so we’ll have more time off. Which I don’t know where they get that idea. Ah, it certainly seems to be the opposite for me, but I think what really helps is when people are in our program, they have mentors and oftentimes the mentors have had this experience of owning a business and can tell them first-hand what it’s really like. So, you know, I don’t think just hearing from one person it’s going to be a lot of work resonates, but I think hearing from a lot of people around you is really good and when we screen people to be in the program, we’ve really try and make it clear that a lot of work in and try to see if they’re up for it.
Matt: 12:40 What are the things that you’ve learned, maybe, maybe let’s say specifically on the marketing side, um, or the biggest lessons that you see people either not know until they go through [inaudible] things that maybe you didn’t even know until you were a part of you for all. Um, but what are those big marketing lessons that you see people say, Aha, this is this. Is it like, this makes sense now.
Shelley: 12:59 It is the hugest thing in what we express any for all. And what I’ve learned is you need to know your customer before anything else. You need to know your customer for every reason. So what I find, it’s the three l’s people that want to start a business often go straight to loans, leases and logos. They’re like, I want to start a business. What place can I rent? How much money do I need? Let’s brand this thing. And, and I get it. Honestly, I’ve been there before, you know, I talk about starting this business, selling people’s, uh, you know, artisan’s goods, but I really want it to start a candy store. And I went straight to, you know, a real estate agent to start showing me places and well, what’s the name could be. And, and, um, you know, trying to figure out the money and when I talk to somebody about writing a business plan and we’re like, well, who is your customer?
Shelley: 13:53 I’m like, well, in a lot of people will say, well, everybody’s my customer and it’s just not true. So really defining who that customer is is huge and you know, we’ve focused on it so much, so much for all program. And I see it the same at Hipaa. It’s, you know, every time you post something on social media, every time you plan a workshop, every time you bring a new product, you have to be thinking about who that customer is in. Yes, we do have some 15 year olds that buy things and we do have some 65 year old stuff [inaudible] things, but that it’s not the main demographic. So you really have to think of, well, who’s the bulk of the, like who’s the majority that’s coming in here? And really think of that person as, as the persona that you’re speaking to. So, um, I think that is a very common mistake.
Shelley: 14:43 Again, in a lot of people make loans, leases and logos, those really should be the very last things that you do. Figure out what the customer first build the, you know, if there’s something that you want to start, start talking about it first, you know, started blogs, started conversation, be the expert in that field before you all of a sudden have a space. And, you know, over years and years of working with artisans and, and selling stuff at these markets, I was able to learn who the customer is, if, if I didn’t know anybody and just opened this gift store downtown or there’s no way we would’ve been the last of the full year.
Matt: 15:19 I know I was watching a, uh, one of my colleagues does a, a pretty good youtube channel on Seo and content marketing and marketing in general for businesses and he’s not really speaking to the small business, but he did a video the other day on content marketing and the cost of content marketing. And uh, for folks who are listening who maybe the, maybe the hearing that for the first time, it’s a whole wide range of creating content on the web. So that’s a blog post, an email, facebook posts, instagram, any social outlet plus content on your website is considered content marketing. And he was talking about the costs of content marketing and how expensive it is because it just takes so much time to do it right. Um, but you know, it has, this has a huge payoff at the end. If done right, I think that small businesses are set to climb a pretty steep hill. I think it’s super competitive online. Um, Moreso than ever, especially on facebook. Um, have you learned, because again, you do a lot of great things with facebook and live streams and instagram. Um, have there been some really solid wins for you and your business or things that you’ve seen through you for all that have worked really well in the online space that somebody could take away from this episode?
Shelley: 16:29 That’s a good question. It’s taken awhile to learn. So, um, you know, our instagram, which I’m really happy with a shop at hippo, it’s all run by Sarah for tomato who’s the shop manager at the store and she does a great job. I’m showing product and really trying to engage through the instagram stories and everything and I, and it’s really good content, but what I’ve found that I’ve done with facebook, because I would do these live videos that are basically saying, hey, what’s new? What hip hop I walked around the store. Often Times I do it when I actually don’t know what’s new so that it’s a genuine me being surprised at, um, what’s changed since I’ve been there. [inaudible] I’m not really there during the week. And at first I was thinking like, oh, these are kind of silly, you know, just walking around acting shocked that I haven’t seen a coloring book or whatever it is, but people that I started coming up to me and saying, hey, I really liked those tours that you do have the store.
Shelley: 17:25 And I think they’re, they feel more comfortable coming in because they had a torn or sometimes people have come in because they see the video, they saw something in the background and they, and they buy it. So that’s again, it’s, I tested something out, but then I really listened to who the audiences because when I go live maybe three people, you know, are watching at that time. But then after awhile it gets looked. It gets talked about and share. But having people actually tell me, hey, I like those, keep it up. Um, is something that I think is good and I think it’s the human touch and sometimes when people come in like they want to meet us, they want to know who shelly and Sarah are because they’ve seen some videos or photos and they liked the, especially in a small town like this, you know, for people that live here in new Bedford,
Speaker 3: 18:12 they, um, they like that.
Matt: 18:15 One of the, one of the challenges, another challenge I think for small business owners on, in the online space and creating content like you’re talking about is people are actually, they’re just afraid to do it, right? They’re afraid to like put their face on, on camera or record their voice on a podcast or show themselves personally on facebook live, that kind of thing. Youtube live, uh, what’s your, what’s your advice? I mean, you’re, you’re not shy of the stage at all by any means. Do you have advice or how do you kickstart? Somebody just said, you know, what, get into gear. Like you gotta do this, you have to do this. If, I mean there are all alternatives, but I mean man, that building that personal brand around your business is huge. So how do you get somebody to do it? Like W, what words of advice do you give people?
Shelley: 18:56 Practicing is important. I was fortunate that I played in bands for years so I was in front of audiences and I had that experience. But even if you haven’t had that experience, it’s all about practicing and people have asked me before like, are you comfortable speaking in front of people? And it’s like, yeah, comfortable if I know what I’m talking about. If I don’t know what I’m talking about. Um, no. I’m so nervous and I’m not going to feel great about it. So if you know that you know what you’re talking about, that’s great. I do have a few tips for myself, especially if I know that there’s going to be somebody is going to come and take a video of me
Shelley: 19:29 or if I’m going to be in front of people at a need for all event. I, it’s, you know, silly things. Like as soon as I’m getting on stage, I put heels on instead of sneakers and I may be wearing comfortable shoes while entertaining people, but as soon as I get up in front of people, I want a certain, a certain pair of shoes on, people laugh at me, I’ll say, wait my lipsticks not on yet, don’t take a photo. And it’s just his little things that just make me feel like I’m in presentation mode and I know that doesn’t work for everybody, but I think figure it out for yourself. Like do you need a minute alone first or is it just having your hair down or you know, put it in a little bit of extra effort that day on what you’re wearing. But
Speaker 3: 20:07 um,
Shelley: 20:09 yeah, I think just practice different things for sure. And you can video tape yourself first. So if somebody is afraid of going live, if you have a phone just video, tape yourself doing it and it seems awkward, but that, you know, you’ll catch things about yourself and say, OK, I keep looking off to the side. Maybe I should stop doing that. Where you may find that it actually works well, you know, things that you think are a problem just aren’t really a problem.
Matt: 20:32 So many small business owners, I find that when we’re doing consulting and their about page about yourself and about page about your business or why you started this and people get so stuck that they get just like a deer in headlights. I don’t, they don’t know where to start. They don’t know what to say about their business and it, it perplexes me because I’m like, why did you start this business in the first place? Like, what was that inspiration at some point in your career you were inspired to do this? Um, you know, why do you think it’s challenging for some people to, when they’re looking at a blank canvas to start that? Who am I? This is what I’m about. Um, you know, any way that you help people define themselves when they’re going through a, at all or just other peers in your space?
Shelley: 21:15 Yeah. And I can see it. I think it’s hard to explain. When you asked me why did you start it? It’s, I told you the story of while I started selling an art markets and then it, but sometimes the other story is I always wanted a candy store. Why did I want a candy store? Probably because when I was growing up, my dad had um, gourmet foods stores and candy was part of it and it made me happy and I love the colors of it. But does it go deeper than that? Is it because I grew up in this retail setting? And is it because my parents split up and the time that I spent with my dad was at a store, I don’t know how deep it goes. So I think sometimes there are so many reasons why people want to do things and it’s hard to nail down like, but what is it, what’s the story? And we do talk about this, that he for all we, um, we have a whole class where we talk about social impact and we really get down to the nitty-gritty of like, why exactly are you doing this? And it’s, it is important to figure out what’s the, what’s the more shallow reason, but what is it like the deep down a bit of why, why is it important to you, why do you choose to do this versus getting an office type job or whatever other solution there could be. You know,
Matt: 22:34 what other things are changing from your perspective, from your retail business and things that you’re seeing from April. Shifting either you know, more traditional business people walking in a, are you shifting more to online sales at hippo? Do you or do you feel like the high touch come in and feel a tangible product is actually getting better because people aren’t touching and feeling things before they’re buying anymore. They’re swiping right on Amazon and just ordering it for the next day. How do you see the shift? Is it going online more for you or is it a mix of both? What does that look like?
Shelley: 23:08 We’re still always talking about going online and selling more online because it’s, it’s a lot of, um, time and money for us to do it. And I feel like the basis of hippo is, it’s for people that want to buy something that they can’t buy online, so we don’t sell anything that you could get on Amazon or um, or at target or any, anywhere that’s convenient. And so, I don’t want to say convenient, it’s very convenient to come and help out. But the point is, is we want people to have this experience of able to find unique items that camp on and walk around the store and find things that they weren’t even looking for. So you know, we have these great enamel pins and sometimes people will be like, oh my God, this one, it has the cat holding a piece of pizza. Like it’s not something you were looking for, but it’s something that may be the perfect gift for your roommate because she loves cats and pizza.
Shelley: 24:08 And so there’s definitely something about that experience of people just walking around and saying, oh my God, this is perfect for so and so. Or Oh my God, I love lavender and Vanilla Soak and smelling it and holding it. And so it is tough because we do want that option of how can we sell in the winter and how can we make sure that, you know, sales can continue on these days that are. See we have to close close, but it’s hard to know if it’s going to be worth the investment. So we’ve talked about maybe starting with just like a few of our most popular items and launching that way, but it’s a tough one. I struggled with that decision all the time.
Matt: 24:44 Yeah. I’m wrapping things up here for folks who are listening who might be on the south coast and they’re looking at, hey, I want to start a business. I want to get things going myself or pay up and running the business for a year. And then maybe I need to take the next step. Do you have one parting piece of advice? It could be like a book recommendation that you, that you enjoy that you think everybody should read or just one piece of solid advice for folks who are listening to get started, uh, either today or start improving right now.
Shelley: 25:11 I think reading books, listening to podcasts is so huge for me. I listen to NPR, it’s how I built this. I love hearing the stories of how other business owners did it and just constantly learning is so important. There’s always going to be other people out there that are talking about your field so you know I’m part of facebook groups and listen to podcasts that are all independent shopkeepers and I’m always learning from those. So definitely find what you’re into. Figuring out who’s talking about it, whether it’s a magazine, a book and just soak up all that information. But also I’m going to say none of the thing. Even though you’re asking for one advise, have fun. Like, you know, when you started this, you said, I’m at wrestling. I go to comedy. Like I ain’t going to work a full time job. I own this business. I volunteer a lot, but I made sure to always have fun cause it’s not worth it. If you can’t, you know, I love what I do, but at the end of the day you just have to sometimes laugh at some jokes and just yelling at some wrestlers and allow yourself to do that and if you need to sometimes ask for people to help so that you can do that, that’s fine, you know, but I think just always making sure that you’re, uh, you’re having fun.
Matt: 26:25 That’s awesome advice. Something that, uh, that more people have to do because sometimes when you’re running your business, especially if you’re just a one person shop or even a two to three person shop and get pretty lonely sometimes. So keeping yourself, uh, entertain and not so, uh, you know, 1000 percent into the business every day. Don’t get old Gary Vaynerchuk on us now. You don’t need to go that crazy.
Shelley: 26:44 Yeah. And you have to step back from it because I think sometimes when you’re the only one looking at it, like you have to step back and just remember the world around you and and see what the needs of customers and, or you know your clients or whatever it is. Like just step back sometimes. It’s so important.
Matt: 27:04 Yeah, absolutely. Shelly, working folks find you to say thanks for doing this episode. Feel free to promote anything you have going on here for all hippo.
Shelley: 27:12 Yeah. So, um, you for all you can find us at you for all talk work and Hipaa were at shop hippo, [inaudible], but also were on facebook and instagram shop at hippo. So definitely send me a message. I’d love to hear from people.
Speaker 4: 27:25 Yeah.
Matt: 27:26 Everybody else is just the. We are here podcast. If you search for us on Itunes, you should find a by now. I hope so. God, if I’m doing my job right, you can search for us. We are here. Give us a five star review. If you enjoy episodes like this helps us get found. You could join the email list@southcoastdotFMatsouthcoast.fm slash subscribe to join the mailing list. We’ll see you in the next episode.