What is your full name, title, and business name?
Stephanie Tersigni, Owner, Jolie Occasions
Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
Jolie Occasions is a women’s clothing, accessories, and gift boutique in the Short North. Jolie is the French word for “pretty”, so we do our best to embody the name of our boutique from the decor to the products we sell!
How did the idea for your business come about?
My dream was always to open a boutique, and when I found myself laid off from my previous job, I decided to pull the trigger. There was nothing like Jolie in the neighborhood, so I knew it would be a good addition to the Short North.
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
The turning point for my business was when we moved into our current location. The space we are in now is much larger than our original store, and it has allowed us to expand our product offering and increase the amount of inventory we can sell. We knew we had something special from the start because we were being original and authentic. When customers come in and tell us that they love our store, we know we did something right.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
Being able to call myself a business owner is one of the greatest feelings. I am so proud of what Jolie has become and I am so grateful to be doing what I am doing. It took a lot of work to get the business up and running while learning everything along the way, but it was a humbling experience and I would do it all over again. As an entrepreneur, I love the chance to be creative and come up with new business ideas for the store. I learn new things every day, which makes my job that much more exciting.
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
Everything! I was born and raised in Columbus and this city means the world to me. The people in Columbus are incredible and if it wasn’t for all of the other amazing small businesses already in existence, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to get out there myself. Columbus is such a vibrant place with a lot to offer and I am proud to live here and have a business here.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
It can be a lonely place at times, until you find other people like you who can relate.
What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night)?
The unknown. Each day brings something new, and not knowing what will happen tomorrow can definitely be a challenge in itself.
Example thoughts: “Are we going to be busy or dead tomorrow?” “Is someone going to try and shoplift from me again?” “What happens if my employee calls in sick and I can’t cover for her?” “What’s going to happen when this pandemic is over?”
Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
Adding too much to my plate and stressing myself out.
Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different?
I think the reason most business owners fail is because they were not prepared for how hard it would actually be. Knowing you most-likely won’t be able to pay yourself for the first couple of years is a huge challenge to overcome. A lot of people on the outside think that being a business owner is glamorous, and although it may be at times, most of the time it is hard, gruesome, and it takes a lot out of you. I had a pretty good idea of how difficult it would be and did my best to prepare for it. Working in a boutique beforehand and growing up seeing my dad as a business owner had helped. I kept reminding myself that Jolie is going to make it, I did my best to be resilient, and I had too much pride in myself to see my business fail. Failing just wasn’t an option for me.
What was your biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
To be honest, I don’t have one big mistake, I have plenty of little mistakes that I’ve made along the way. Those mistakes have taught me how to avoid them the next time and I used them all as a learning experience, no matter how bad it was.
What tool has helped you the most for your business (invoicing, accounting, shipping, plugin for website, etc.)?
Instagram. We have grown our following significantly over the years and it allows us to reach all kinds of people. We can easily share new products, videos, and behind-the-scenes of what we do every day. Customers will sometimes stop into our shop because they “saw us on Instagram”. Now, customers can shop directly from Instagram which has opened more doors for us and increased our sales.
When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
I knew it was time to hire someone before we opened our doors. As a retail business, I knew I couldn’t survive being the only person working in the store every day, so I hired a couple sales associates as soon as we opened. In terms of expanding the business, my intent from the start was always to move into a larger space after a few years (assuming things went well). When we moved into our current location I started expanding our product offering and started selling shoes, greeting cards, more jewelry and accessories, and even started making items myself.
What is something that you did that was a game changer for your business?
Learning how to make items ourselves! I learned how to sew on a sewing machine last year and I have made countless items for the shop that has brought in a whole new stream of revenue. Scrunchies, pet bandanas, baby bibs, skirts, dresses, etc. It has been really fun to learn and I hope to expand even further. Additionally, we taught ourselves how to make candles, and we designed our own assortment of keychains. We realized that if we can learn something ourselves and cut out the middle-man, we would save a lot of money.
What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out.
Creating our own clothing line. I had spent countless hours sketching out over a dozen designs and making mock-ups of them and even found a company to help make them. I had big plans of coming out with our own line last year and then the pandemic hit and I realized it would cost us so much money to do it that I had to put it on hold. With high MOQ’s and high cost, I’m still figuring out the best way to get it done.
What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
Rent. Our location is incredible and our store is beautiful! We are very lucky to have a corner spot in the middle of the Short North. The windows draw people in and the foot traffic is unbeatable.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
Embroidery! I recently got an embroidery machine and have been learning how to create my own designs on there so I can start embroidering my own product 🙂
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
Word of mouth marketing is definitely the most valuable to me. When a customer tells someone about Jolie, I know they must have had a great experience here because they felt the need to tell someone about it. And it’s free!
Who is your best Columbus resource (accountant, lawyer, marketer, etc.)? Please provide name and business name so we can give them credit!
My husband Mark Tersigni is my accountant/CFO and is the best there is!
Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
I see Jolie thriving in its current location, and a second retail store somewhere else in Ohio. I don’t think I would open a second Jolie, but a different retail concept.
What was the single worst decision you made regarding your business and how’d you recover?
Before I opened the store, I had bought a ton of inventory up front because I did not know how much would physically fit inside the store and how quickly it would sell. It turns out I bought WAY too much inventory. I should have bought far less and saved that money to buy better inventory once I knew what my customer liked/disliked. It ended up being okay, but I learned to listen to what the customer wants and changed up how I buy my inventory going forward.
When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to overcome this feeling?
I usually take a mental break and go do something else and then come back to it.
What’s one component of entrepreneurship that’s much different than what most people think?
The idea that working for yourself means you can make your own hours. In a way that’s true, but owning a small business is more like a 24/7 job. I may not physically be in my store some days, but it doesn’t mean I’m not working when I’m not there. Taking time away from work is also hard because you don’t want to feel like you’re neglecting your business, but we all need a vacation every now and then!
What’s your end goal with the business? Is this something you want to pass down to your kids or would you like to eventually sell?
I would like to keep it in the family somehow, but if that doesn’t happen I would like to sell it to someone who I think is worthy of owning it.
What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
Cameron Mitchell. Growing up in Columbus I have been to all of his restaurants and loved seeing his business grow to what it is now. It’s exciting to see what new concept will open next and he has inspired me to want to open more retail stores that are all unique with quality service, just like his restaurants.
If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
Go to the Columbus Zoo! If you know me, you know I love the zoo and love supporting their conservation efforts. They do so much for the animals in this world and there is a reason this the #1 zoo in America!