Valerie says she had been teaching for a few years when she realized she wasn't happy with her career. While moonlighting as a waitress, Valerie became friends with the chef, Marcie, and the two decided to go into business together. With $20,000 in savings and four 0% interest credit cards, Valerie and Marcie became co-owners of Open House, a home furnishings store. Valerie says using credit cards to buy inventory was a risk she understood. "For me, I was young—had no responsibilities as far as children go," Valerie says. "So, either try it, or be miserable like I had been the past year."
Despite being located in the red-light district of Philadelphia, the store was a success. "It took off from the beginning, thank God, because we didn't have any employees," Valerie says. "I was working every day, trying to pay off those credit card bills, because I had never paid an interest fee on a credit card bill."
Valerie says the store helped revitalize the neighborhood. Soon, with the help of a private investor, Valerie and Marcie opened a Mexican restaurant on the same street called Lolita. The restaurant used the concept of BYOT (Bring Your Own Tequila) to interest customers. "You don't want to open a business that is just another business," Valerie says. "It has to have something that will draw people to you." Now, along with a gourmet food store called Grocery, Valerie and Marcie are looking to open more businesses.
Here is some advice Valerie has for anyone looking to open their first business:
- Research the market. Make sure you are offering something unique to your area that has worked in other markets.
- Save your money. Valerie says you will always need more money then you think. Items customers don't see, like appliances, can be bought secondhand.
- Be flexible and listen to your customers. Customers offer important growth areas for your business.