I'm Tami Parks, fourth-generation entrepreneur and small business person. I love small business and consider it the heartbeat of America's marketplace. My family has been involved in real estate, service, and retail; we're just regular people who have a passion for serving others and being our own bosses.

My husband and I have made a committment to run our business, Great Lakes Wedding Gown Specialists, LLC, as a debt-free business. This blog is our accountability partner!

Friday, March 8, 2013

I wonder if...

Yesterday, I asked one of my team members, "I wonder if our customers know how much we pray for them?"

Lord, bless this appointment.
Lord, make me a blessing to this customer.
Lord, this customer is difficult.  Is she hurting?
Lord, PLEASE let this gown be in stock!
Lord, help me find the matching fabric...
Lord, where did that spot come from?  Now show me how to remove it...please??
Lord, please let this gown fit (usually prayed while I'm trying to zip it!)
Lord, please help me be kind to this frustrated bridesmaid.
Lord, please bless the bride who is wearing this gown today, and make a happy marriage.

There is no difference between secular and sacred.  We are called to serve, called to be kind, called to "pray one for another".

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

5 Books that Formed Me

This morning, I'm listening to the EntreLeadership podcast, from the Dave Ramsey organization.  The guest is Rabbi Daniel Lapin and he is phenomenal!  I read his book a few years ago and I got to thinking about the books I have read in the past 10 years that have really formed my thoughts about business and service.  I want to share this short list with you in hopes that it may help you, too.

1.  Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung  Especially helpful for a young person who is looking for their "calling" in life...or for someone older who needs confirmation!

2.  The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

3.  EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey  If you only read one business book this year, this is the one!

4.  The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant by Terry Felber  A short book, a long fable.  I read this one with my 13-year-old son and he loved it, too!

5.  Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin  The author I mentioned above.  This is the most challenging of the books to get through, it's deep and heavy at times.  But, the truths found in it are business-changing!

Happy Reading...I can't wait to hear what you think.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It's not worth it

You're busy.

You're trying to build or sustain a business.  You're trying to please your customers, make payroll, make a schedule.  Some days it's hard to just get everything done, let alone analyze the numbers from last month and plan for next month!

Take a day off.


Yep...you need a day off.  You can't do it all and if you do it all, it's not worth it.  Make it your goal this year to train your team to operate without you and then take a day off each week, or each month.  Read a book, do some backing, catch up on the laundry! (Yes, I do live that life)

If your business is really small and you don't have a team, then train your customers to give you a day off and close your doors for one day a month, ignore your email, and let your phone calls go to voice mail.  It will not close you down, I promise.  Instead, you'll feel rejuvenated and filled with energy and fresh ideas.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Join me at Smitten!

Happy New Year, 2013!

Yes, it's been quite a while since I have posted here.  Along with one of my associates, I've created a Facebook page for bridal biz owners (my main niche), so I would like to invite my blog readers to join me there.  The page is called Smitten! and is a gathering place for a larger endeavor.  Smitten! also offers peer-to-peer consulting for bridal businesses in the areas of finances, customer service, team building, and marketing.  We have a Live Chat scheduled for January 11 and would love to have you join us.  Just request membership to the group and see the "Events" tab!

But, one of my New Year's resolutions is to return more faithfully to this little corner of the blog-o-sphere and share more about small business, family business, and most importantly, debt-free business!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Gift

Yesterday, my husband brought me a gift.

Last weekend was our wedding anniversary, and he bought me a pretty bead for my charm bracelet.  So, when he presented me with another gift, I was a little confused. 

Yesterday's gift was a copy of Dave Ramsey's brand new book, EntreLeadership

When we were at the EntreLeadership Master Series back in May, Dave gave each attendee an advance copy of the first chapter, and I asked Dave to sign my copy.  Now I'm so excited to read the entire book.  I am only wondering if there will be much information that is different from the conference that we attended, or will it be the same material, just in book form?  Either way, it will be an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

An Open Letter to a Young Businesswoman

Last week, our bridal boutique was featured on the Dave Ramsey Show!!!!  (yippee!)

Since then, we have received calls and e-mails from other business people all around the nation, congratulating us on our story and our success.  One of these e-mails was from a young woman in the South who has always dreamed of owning a bridal boutique.  She wrote and asked me for some advice and the answers to some specific questions. 

Well, I'm pretty sure she's not the only young woman out there with this dream.  So, in hopes that I can help even just a few, I'm going to print my response to her here.  As background, this young woman is in her mid-twenties, married, and has a baby who is about a year old.

Dear __________,

Baby boys are so much fun!  I have two sons.  Josh is 15 and a sophomore in high school.  Jonny is 12 and just started 7th grade this week.  My husband, Jeff, and I will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary on September 18.

Both pairs of my grandparents owned businesses in our town while I was growing up, and my parents own a dry cleaners that they have had for over 30 years.  I grew up working in the cleaners, and my Mom trained me to clean and preserve wedding gowns when I was 15 years old.   When my boys were small, I helped with payroll and misc things at the dry cleaners and taught piano lessons so I could be home with them most of the time.  When they both got in school, I started getting the "itch" to have my own business.  With my husband's encouragement, I revived my mother's teaching in regards to the wedding gown cleaning and care; and opened a business that was closely connected to the dry cleaners, but specialized in wedding gown preservation and restoration. 

When I was shopping for my own wedding gown, way back in 1991, I dreamed of having my own boutique one day.  Over the next 15 years, that dream would come and go, but the time and opportunity was never there.  I didn't give up on it, though.  I just kept learning everything I could about gowns and customer service as well as developing relationships with people in the wedding businesses.  In 2007, one of the bridal stores for which I did wholesale gown preservations closed their doors, leaving gowns still hanging on the racks!  We re-opened the store 3 months later as "September's Bride". 

After that background, here are my answers to your questions:
How did you decide to get started?  See above :)
How much money would say it took to get up and running?  A lot.  More than you think.  Depending on what you need to get a space ready, I would say no less than $100K.
Do you have a certain amount of dresses you try to sell each month?  Yes.  We set goals for our team each month depending on many factors.
How do you sign up as a retailer for different dress lines?  Lots of research, contacting sales reps, attending bridal market
What do you find to be the most challenging running your own business?  The most challenging part to me is balancing my personal life and my business life.  When you own your own business, the two are intertwined significantly.  Cash flow is always challenging, as well as leading a team.
Do you ever have a "Bridezilla"? How do you handle a sticky situation?  Oh, yes.  Each situation is different.  Bridal is one of the most intense, emotional, businesses in which one can be.
Do you have any promotions, sales, or advertising ideas that you can share?  I use social media marketing as much as possible.  Also, word-of-mouth is the best advertising, but that takes lots of time to grow!
I have a wonderful assistant who is also our boutique manager.  There is no way I could do this alone.  My husband is also as involved as possible. 

My advice to you would be to wait until your children are at least middle-school age.  I cannot tell you how many bridal boutique owners I know who have gone out of business because the demands of running the business and raising small children was too much.  In the meantime, save as much $$ as you can and learn as much as you can about weddings and wedding gowns.  Perhaps do some wedding planning...that is a good way to break into the business without the pressure of having to make rent and payroll each month :)

Owning a bridal boutique was one of my dreams, too; and I really love it.  I hope I haven't discouraged you from pursuing your dream, but instead given you some practical advice so that when your time is right, you'll have a boutique that is a blessing to you and your family and not a rope around your neck.

Kelli, feel free to e-mail me anytime if you have more questions.  I love to talk business and bridal!  Also, we have a blog: www.septembersbride.blogspot.com and a page on Facebook, so please join us and follow along!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Best Thing I've Done Lately

Last month, Jeff and I attended EntreLeadership Master Series, taught by Dave Ramsey.  I cannot recommend it enough to any small business owner!

We learned so many valuable things; some of which we are chewing on, some of which we will do in the future, and some of which we were able to incorporate right away into our business.

One of the most useful tools that we began using immediately is the Weekly Report from our employees.  I ask each of my team members to fill out a very simple Weekly Report.  On this report, I ask them to detail something they learned that week, something at which they were successful, and then a quick high point and low point of the week. 

Wow!  I am learning so much about my team, and it's only been 4 weeks!