Launched At the Pandemic’s Start. Maggie Owens Business Thrives Today.Ramon Ray
Launching your own business at any time is a challenge. Doing so during the pandemic can prove to be an enormous feat. While some businesses have been doing exceptionally well due to these times, (think cleaning services, Amazon, and grocery stores), others, (think restaurants and party stores) have had a steep hill to climb just to stay afloat.
Maggie Owens is the founder of Presley Paige, a gift and paper store headquartered in Arkansas. Ramon Ray, founder of SmartHuste.com recently interviewed Owens on how she launched successfully, and what her tips are for other entrepreneurs hoping to do the same.
How did she do it? Owens credits proper inventory management, an organically grown online presence, and the value of relationships for helping to boost her business higher.
About Presley Paige
Presley Paige is the culmination of years of dreaming for Maggie Owens. While still working full time, with a background in marketing, Owens opened her first brick-and-mortar location for Presley Paige in Arkansas in January 2020.
The store focused mainly on selling party goods.
Today, Presley Paige sells an assortment of gift items, party decorations, cards, beauty and wellness items, paper goods, and accessories. Think: Hallmark with a unique twist. (Some of the mugs now on sale online boast slogans like “You are a f**king gem”, “It’s a damn good day to give a damn”, and “Hide your diamonds, hide your exes”).
Owens says the company’s current focus is to grow its e-commerce presence and to become a top retailer in the gift space. But the reality wasn’t always so bright.
Launching a Store During the Pandemic
Obviously, launching in January 2020 meant that the challenges of the pandemic hit the company soon, (March 2020), and hard. As the brand’s focus was initially centered heavily on birthday party supplies, this proved to be a huge hurdle with bad timing.
No one was hosting crowds at home. In response, Owens says she initially tried to shift and market her inventory as “specialty items”.
“I tried to get really creative on taking those party products and creating an at-home activity for children saying, “This is so much fun. They’re at home with you every day. Create a fun breakfast for your kids, maybe a princess-themed breakfast.”
Owens found she couldn’t sell her inventory, however, and had to pivot. Deciding to open up an e-commerce store in addition to her brick-and-mortar location allowed Presley Paige to branch out and essentially compete with itself in the retail space.
The Switch to Online
Today, Owens says online sales form about 30% of her business. During the winter holiday season, this shoots up to about 50% of total sales.
“The first challenge was driving traffic,” she says. “This is because we’re in the South, and we’re not in a big metropolitan area. So it’s really about driving brand awareness.”
Owens says she uses social media coupled with unique store-front experiences to drive online and in-person traffic.
“I would say the challenge is driving traffic because continuously with a storefront, you want people coming in the door to help,” says Owens. “So we have somebody there to help customers and for them to see and touch and feel the products in real-life…this makes it a totally different experience when you’re engaging with a product in person versus online.”
Online, the customer journey is different. In the digital world, Owens says you need to engage your audience by building a storyline and by being able to help your audience understand this story.
For Owens, one of the biggest challenges with her own store has been managing inventory. What’s popular one week flies off the shelves but can’t be restocked for another fortnight.
“It’s so exciting when something sells out and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, it’s sold out.” And then you’re like, “Oh no, what do I put here now?”” she says.
Today, finding the right balance of products for her customers is coming more easily. It’s all about getting to know your customer, says Owens.
“What is she buying or he buying? What are they wearing? What kind of things do they like to do on the weekend? The products that you are purchasing will complement that lifestyle or what they like to do,” she explains.
Getting into the head of your customer is what can truly help your business grow. Part of that involves delving into the wide world of social media and asking customers questions, Owens says.
The Value of Social Media
Presley Paige is an active brand on social media. The store is currently present on:
Owens uses social media to promote her brand organically and to communicate directly with her customers every day. Being authentic and enthusiastic is important.
“It’s about showing up on there (social media), not once a week to post, “Hey, there’s this cool product”, but really showing up to say you’re so excited or show them what you just ordered. It builds a connection with them (your audience). So it’s like you’re showing up for them every day just like you would show up for your friends.”
Owens says it’s through social media that the business has really grown.
“It’s like, “These are our friends. These are the people that we want to spend time with,”” she says.
It’s on social media that her audience can really feed off the brand’s energy Owens says. Presley Paige does weekly lives, asking customers what products they want to see. (Your store doesn’t have to be professionally lit- work with what you’ve got, Owens says).
The brand also uses polls on social media and receives messages to build relationships. It’s strangers who have found the brand online who are now the biggest cheerleaders for the business, according to Owen.
Presley Paige uses Facebook Instagram to promote their products and to communicate with customers, and Pinterest as part of the discovery phase of their customers’ journeys. The store has also used TikTok to show the behind-the-scenes reality of visual merchandising. The company even had one video about a pink nutcracker go viral.
In 2022, Presley Paige plans to focus more heavily on creating additional TikTok content and to double down on its other online content in order to optimize it for online discovery. The brand also plans to keep growing its brick and mortar stores. So, what’s Maggie Owen’s #1 bit of advice for budding entrepreneurs?
“Listen, forget about everything that you don’t know and just start with what you do know, because you’re going to learn everything else along the way,” she says. And that’s about it. Amazing!