Tag Archives: competition

WCE VS CTA

Like I’ve said before, the buzz is flying all over the St. Louis area about a women’s only resale shop in south county getting a reality TV deal with the Style Network…. I have personally never shopped at this particular store before, in fact, I had only heard of this store a handful of times before hearing about the TV deal.

So naturally, I began to look into it. From a glance it looks to be an amazing opportunity for this store, as well as, an opportunity to bring St. Louis resale into the national spotlight. Of course this is excellent (general) news for the St. Louis resale community (myself included), but looking into the company’s reviews from it’s customers, my impressions are beginning to shift from optimistic to more concerned.

Here are a few that I found within just a few minutes on google.

I found this a decent place to shop for designer clothing items, however unless they are on sale, the pricing is not much better than retail. Most disappointing was their attitude about consignment, I’ll go elsewhere in the future for that. One day I brought in about 40 items, most of them were formal gowns and cocktail dresses bought in the last year or so and worn once. A few had matching shoes and purses. I was shocked that they turned down ALL of them! 40 really nice items and they could not accept even ONE??? Unbelievable! No explanation nor reason was given. Shocked! Maybe they were over-stocked or something, but if so it would be nice to be told that before I hauled it all inside. If you’d like to consign designer clothing, it may not be worth the time and trouble to bother bringing it to Women’s Closet Exchange. Many of the exact same items were accepted at other ‘upscale resale’ shops. – A WCE customer review – 3 weeks ago.

I feel the same. I brought in formal wear several of which still had the tags on them, but I cannot wear them as I have lost a significant amount of weight. While I spent time shopping for an outfit for a wedding, they were supposed to be evaluating them. When I was finally called, the “Buyer” was so rude, telling me that these were not what they are looking for at this time and “take your items right out; unhuh huh right out,” repeating this several times across the store as I was carrying my dresses out. I was made to feel like I had brought in rags. This was my first time in this shop and my last. I understand each business has a right to say yes or no, but to be rude about it was unnecessary. Do yourself a favor, shop somewhere else. – A WCE customer review – About a year ago.

I’ve never felt so disrespected. I brought four bags of carefully folded clothes from high quality brands (Banana Republic, J. Crew, Ann Taylor) worth over $1000. I wanted to get an estimate of what the clothes would be worth were I to sell them to the store. They offered me $20. They put down many articles of my clothing as they were disrespectfully rummaging through my bags (commenting that many of them were too small for their shoppers – size M!) and then shoved the clothes back into the bags. I pointed out that my clothes had been folded when I went in and they had the nerve to sass me and tell me that they didn’t have time. Needless to say, I left with my clothes and intend to sell them for a fair market value on eBay. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME WITH THIS PLACE. The women working there should be ashamed of the scam that they are trying to pull. – A WCE customer review – About 2 years ago.

Now I know you can’t please everyone, but these are minor, and should not have made it all the way to a customer writing a poor review due to defective attitudes from the staff.

This honestly makes me want to throw my arms up in frustration!. Here, this company has the most incredible opportunity, that many of us could only dream about, and they are squandering its full potential. Their focused appears to have shifted from bettering the company and the community, to bettering only themselves. This truly is a shame, not only for this company, but for the rest of us that are trying to bring the resale industry up in St. Louis, and bad business just makes the rest of us work harder to make up for their downfalls. Bad reviews don’t hurt individual resale shops, per say, but they damage the overall industry. We want to grow the percentage of resale shoppers, and these reviews aren’t helping.

It truly is time for something better.

Time to step up our game, and hit this area with everything we’ve got.

WE WILL show the STL area what this industry is truly about.

This is why our company is hardcore about community improvement and involvement, we stay true to our roots!

STL = Show The Love

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Protected: One Thing We Don’t Do

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ARCH GRANTS LOCATION CONFLICT

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OK… UPDATE ON ARCH GRANT PROCESS….THERE’S ONE LITTLE PROBLEM…..

I emailed the committee through their website requesting permission to submit my business as a valid entry even though it wouldn’t be located within Downtown St. Louis, but IS still located within the city limits. I have yet to receive a decision…so I am currently stuck in limbo, but I am not stopping any momentum I am trying to build up.  I am continuing on as I have been for the past year, and hopefully will get a big thumbs up…soon. There are major reasons why I want to launch outside of downtown; which I expressed my main ones through my email to the Arch Grants, and wanted to express in a little more detail why I don’t feel downtown is the best market to consider at this time (not to exclude it completely from future local expansion plans)

1.) Limited pedestrian traffic, and limited vehicle traffic. — Yes, this area is rebuilding and rebounding, which is awesome and amazing, but it hasn’t yet hit it’s peak, and there is no guarantee that, once it is completed, that it will pull people back to the downtown area.  My business could actually have a GREATER chance of FAILING by simply having to “wait and see” if the area does in fact, rebound.  Currently,  I don’t see a lot of daytime traffic (pedestrian or vehicle) outside of Washington Ave. and Market St.  And even then, it is only certain blocks on Wash Ave and Market that would make it a viable market for my company.

I don’t have the time to wait for my target market to come to me, nor, do I have the extra finances to invest in additional marketing, advertising, and enticing promotions.  I have to go to them….SIMPLE!  I find locations that ALREADY have the pedestrian and vehicle traffic established, in combination with, my customer demographics. Downtown, currently, is a POSSIBLE market, but not appropriate for my action plan at this time…unfortunately.

2.) Not exactly an open market….anymore — My initial excitement about launching in downtown was the fact that it was an open market opportunity.  There were no current resale providers (with a positive public image) within the area. However, last June, MOV clothing store launched at Washington and 13th. (My Round 1 Arch Grant submission last Feb/March listed CTA’s location to be at or near Washington and 4th) One of my stronger advantages is locating open or under-served locations, and as closely located to my target market as physically possible. It’s having that “head-start” in building the company’s customer/client loyalty that will be a big factor in CTA’s overall sustainability, and most importantly, being EASILY ACCESSIBLE to my customers and clients.  I welcome the competition, but there are big perks in being first!

St. Louis (as a whole) is a very business-loyal community.  If you execute your business correctly, you will have loyal customers for life — FOR EXAMPLE:  The Coffee Cartel  (located at Euclid and Maryland in the CWE) is a single location, and yet, their customers and associates are so die-hard loyal that this one little St. Louis coffee shop put big ‘ol Starbucks (which was located across the street) out of business.

3.) Crime in downtown – Being a police dispatcher for areas bordering with St. Louis City, I hear of a lot more that goes on than what most St. Louis residents and businesses know of.  Most crimes never make it to the evening news, and my confidence is still insecure for a few different reasons that I can’t currently disclose of at this time (professional/political conflict of interest) but they are compelling.

4.) Target market conflict – Like I said before, my business needs to be located as close to my customers  as possible.  This is one of my marketing strategies that will greatly increase my appeal to my customers, the flow of customer traffic into the store, and provide me with an endless supply of potential employees.  I do not have this advantage if I launch in downtown right now. The building I have picked out to become my “living business model” has a large concentration of my target market located right across the street, and directly next door….no joke. This is an area that most in my position could only dream of having, and yet, here I am, looking at the big FOR SALE sign on the building and dying a bit inside by truly knowing its full potential.

……I am really hoping that they will accept my business submission, and that I will be able to confidently pursue the competition! Right now, only time will tell.

–FIN

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One year later……

Ahhh….it is that time again!

ARCH GRANTS COMPETITION 2013!

For my readers who are unfamiliar with the Arch Grants…here is a really quick run down: (20) $50K grant awards for businesses and start-ups either currently located, or willing to relocate their business to the downtown St. Louis area. It is a tough, tough competition with hundreds and hundreds of entries last year….and the AG committee is expecting the number of entries this year to grow into the thousands now that the competition is being offered worldwide. This will be Cargo Train’s 2nd year in the competition.

Last year, unfortunately, CTA did not progress far enough to win one of the grants, and that was OK. I had high hopes on winning of course, but I knew more importantly that I needed to pay close attention to the competition process that first year, and take the opportunity to strengthen Cargo Train’s foundation.

I can smile today being a last-year-loser simply because Round 1 was ultimately the event that launched the public awareness campaign for CTA, and it was the first time I had ever introduced this company to the public. This time…last year…. CTA was nothing more than all of my ideas and storefront doodles on cheap spiral-bound notebooks, and worlds away from what it is today.

Taking you back a bit….Here is the story on how I got involved with the Arch Grants.

…it was completely on accident/luck/chance/fate…..

in January 2012, I was contacted by Chris Lim, an entrepreneur based out of Los Angeles, CA, and his message to me was along the lines of, “Why are you special?” This obviously got my attention, and the first response I gave back was…. “nothing.”

Chris took my comment in stride and we began to play 20 questions after I saw that Chris was a former officer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department; a department that my uncle had retired from as Lieutenant some years ago after 35+ years of service (Yes, I did call my uncle to make sure that Chris was who he said he was…not that I didn’t believe him, I just didn’t know him….Sorry Chris) And yes, everything checked out just fine 🙂

Our Twitter conversation continued on. Then Chris had asked me, “What do you do for a living?” and I told him that I was currently a police dispatcher in St. Louis….,” then I paused briefly,….and for some reason I added, “…but it [dispatching] wasn’t my life’s ambition.” Chris proceeded to ask the million-dollar question of “why?”, and that opened the door for me to confess about my secret entrepreneur life that I had been hiding since high school.

Chris was intrigued and we agreed on a phone meeting, and this is when I took the opportunity of asking Chris why he thought I was “special”, and he told me that he was just curious since he saw that Tony Robbins was one of my followers on Twitter, and that is what lead him to initially contact me.

As our phone conversation continued, we went through my background and what lead me to…. just start designing this company back in high school. After hearing my story, Chris said that he wanted to help me pursue my life’s “true purpose” of pushing myself into the fashion industry somehow. I had the passion but no plan what so ever.

Chris heard information about the Arch Grants competition, and I love what he told me that day, which was in such a confident tone of voice: “We are going to get you one of those grants” It was one of the best feelings ever…..and at that moment, Cargo Train had began to SLOWLY take shape into what it where it is today.

Before the Arch Grants, I only knew that I wanted to be involved in fashion, and that I didn’t want to pursue apparel design or manufacturing (I suck at drawing & sewing) as much as I wanted to find an area where I could exploit my obsession for shopping and extreme bargain-hunting………and then..

LIGHTBULB!

Consignment Retail…BINGO!

My knowledge was vast among brand labels and designers after chasing them damn near my entire life, as well as, several more fun facts, and an OPEN MARKET OPPORTUNITY that show me this venture is more than possible to obtain with a true potential of ranking within the top 3 consignment/resale apparel companies within the Greater St. Louis area, and eventually paving the way to expand nationally

Round 1 did a lot in the initial development of this company, I can hardly begin to imagine what Round 2 will bring! If interested in learning more about the competition, here is the official Arch Grant website

():-)

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Ready to Risk it All!

Sitting in my office, enjoying the few moments of down time from dispatching on the radio. I start scrolling through my Twitter time line and coming across another story of success for a new start-up company that has secured (what is to me) a massive amount of funding, $250,000 to be exact, and all I could think of was “OH MY GOODNESS! I ONLY NEED A FRACTION OF THAT AMOUNT TO LAUNCH MY FIRST LOCATION”. I felt jealous and motivated at the same time. It’s an awkward feeling, and it’s an experience I have had many times before since I start putting my ideas into motion. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I can see all of the vital pieces I need to reach my goal in opening the Cargo Train headquarters/home-store, and it gets tougher the more time passes by and you still haven’t found what you are looking for. This is one personality characteristic that I do have, which is a lack of patience, especially when I am trying to be the first store and company of its kind in an open market area. I want to take advantage of having some breathing room to establish my company and begin building its reputation and customer loyalty without the competition smothering me, or being branded as a ‘knock-off” or “copy cat”.

As of right now, the closest location of my main competitor is over 15 miles away from where I want to launch.

Feelings of despair trying to knock you off course and try to make you lose your focus, and all you have to keep yourself going is knowing what an amazing opportunity your company really is, and not just for me, but for my future partners, employees, customers, and for the community itself. The biggest challenge is getting the ones who have the ability to take your venture to the next level believe in your idea as strongly as you do. Strong enough to confidently partner up and bring all of the pieces together.

I know I will be an incredibly strong force to be reckoned with in this particular industry. My strategies and advantages give me leaps above my competitors, and I am keeping those strategies very safe and quiet until the time comes to utilize them. The connections and relationships I have been developing and growing over the past 10+ years, & everyone who is standing by waiting for me to inform them that we’ve secured a financial partner(s) and are finally ready to hit this industry with everything we’ve got, is the pivotal moment that I am waiting for.

I’m working for that opportunity to prove what I’ve been speaking out about for the past year, and to show what I am fully capable of doing. After all, I was born and raised in the “show me” state…ironically.

My husband and I are currently in talks of relocating our family from what was our dream house into a much smaller place, as well as, begin to sell off as many of our belongings as we can. All of the money saved and earned will be going into, what I am calling, the “CTA Dream Fund”. This will be the beginning of the financial foundation of my company. It breaks my heart to let everything we’ve worked so hard for go, but this company means much more to me than my possessions right now.

A big part of getting to where you want to be is having the strength to let go of what you have. – Me

We are currently searching for available places to call our new home.

():-)

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Insomnia – The Good Kind

I CAN’T SLEEP.  Most of the time I would be getting pissed right about now, complaining about a day that hasn’t happened yet, however, some of my insomnia nights are very beneficial to me.  I can’t sleep because I have millions of idea running through my head, and can’t seem to shut them off. So as I know one way to suppress them, is to write.

 

Now I understand why one of my lead  adviser told me to keep a pen and paper near by me at all times.  A Laptop will have to suffice.

ANYWAY….

I literally dream and visualize my entire company.  I see my company having multiple stores, and I know exactly how I would accomplish that. My strategies and how they would make me unique in the industry.  I can see the steps that I have to take to get exactly where I want my company to be. I know what I will have to sacrifice, but keeping myself focused on the ultimate goal doesn’t make them feel like sacrifices simply because; my company is worth it.  I honestly can’t visualize myself doing anything else for the next 20-35 years.  This is it.

If I can cross paths with a handful of other people that share my intensity for business and fashion.  This company would dominate the St.Louis-Midwest region.  Finding others like myself is proving to be a little more difficult than I imagined, but I know they are out there.  Just a matter of time.  So until then,  I will keep building what I can to get myself closer to where I want to be. 

Ultimate goal:  Be the leading branded chain-resale merchandise provider within a 50 mile radius of St. Louis.  (Give Plato’s Closet some healthy competition) 

 

 

BRING IT ON!

():-)

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