Posted on January 29 2016
Hey y'all! So I recently returned from my very first trip to New York City! And I went all alone! I am so proud of myself for still attending the National Retail Federation's Annual Big Show even though I didn't have a travel buddy. And for the record, if you plan on being a business owner or leader of any type of big organization, I highly encourage traveling alone on business trips. Helps you stick to YOUR path and have to get out and learn new things and meet new people!
Whenever I arrived to the conference, I was late tot he first conference. I'm not too shy, so I asked the beautiful woman in the row behind me what I missed at the beginning of the session. As we got to talking, we had a bonding moment and exchanged contact and come to find out she is the VP of marketing at Overstock.com. (Which happens to be the 6th most trafficked website on the internet). Ginger, I can't wait to keep in touch and see what comes of us meeting :)
The very first presentation I made was by Rhonda Abrams. She is a huge entrepreneurial advocate, motivational speaker, successful author (she gave me the latest version of her Business Planning and Strategies book), business owner herself, and the small business columnist for the USA Today. I was sure to go up and meet her after she spoke as the USA Today did a feature story on me and Southern Jewlz back in July of 2010 before I was even storefront. That was a very pivotal moment in my career life, because it verified me wanting to open my first brick and mortar retail location. While I was waiting in line to meet her, I heard the girl in front of me telling her that her degree was actually in animal science. For those of you who have kept up with my SJ journey from the beginning, or if you know me personally or from college, you will know that my degree is actually in animal science and business. (Nothing fashion or retail as people may think) I offered to take the young lady's picture of her and Mrs. Abrams and as I looked down at her name tag, I saw she was from Texas A&M University. I introduced myself as Randa of Southern Jewlz and she immediately knew who I was. Her group had made it all the way up to nationals with their business plan and strategy competition. From that, I received her advisors contact as well as another girl in the group who lives here locally in College Station. Crazy to meet locals all the way in NYC. But anyways, I was sure to tell Mrs. Abrams about my journey and how monumental the USA Today feature was. I received her contact and took a picture with her. Hoping when I email this blog post as well as a copy of the article from back in 2010 alongside my picture with her that maybe I can make another USA Today publication!
Riding on the shuttle bus to the kick off mixer party, I met a super helpful man by the name of Randy that had attended his 20th conference. After small talk, it turns out that I had actually previously read his blog on what to expect/how to prepare for the conference. So it was so cool to meet in person and exchange contact info to keep in touch in the future!
After a full day of learning and networking, I went to do a little sight seeing. I stayed at the Lotte Palace on Madison Avenue and I highly recommend it! It's right across from St. Patrick's Cathedral - which is so amazingly beautiful! The pope had recently visited that church a few weeks earlier.
I also walked down to Rockefellar Center and was sure to buy my ticket to go to the "Top Of the Rock" to se the amazing lit up night version of New York City. I highly encourage anyone who is planning on going to NYC to do this while they are there!
Day 2 I did a little fashion research on Times Square and made my way back to the Convention. I got to meet one amazing robot, Pepper, who is currently being highly used in Japan and will be making his way into the US soon. He has so much personality, can be completely customized and he even fist bumped me!
Traveling home, I had to fly out of the La Guardia airport. (I highly recommend flying into and out of JFK so much more) But as I went to go find a spot to sit to order some food out of the legit only cafe in the entire airport, I possibly met my favorite person of the whole trip. I could tell she was tired and had a long day. She offered the other seat at her table to me and told me I didn't need to feel like I had to talk to her. I told her I was traveling alone and had been used to now starting conversations with complete strangers the entire trip. Turns out she is from Missouri (the only other state I have ever lived in for my Summer internship in 2008) and she owns her own PR and marketing firm. She had been up in New York for the day helping with a client's new commercial. She has huge clients like Enterprise Car Rental. Her husband is also an entrepreneur and they have 4 children. I enjoyed so many business and life talks with her, especially since our flight was delayed. You know what people "just get it?" - well that's exactly what she was! I then saw a familiar face in a cowboy hat. It was a friend of mine, Douglass Duncan, who was up there for the PBR event as he is a successful and well-known rodeo athlete. Not too long into saying hi and introducing him to my new friend did he ask if she was my mom. Of course Elizabeth was offended because she isn't old enough to be my mother nor does she look it, but Douglass just meant it because our personalities and demeanors were so similar. As we were getting ready to board, I was telling Elizabeth the highlights of what I learned at the conference. She savied everything I had to say. And when explaining my business and where I was headed she asked me "Who has the Alex and Ani account in your town" and I replied that I had just gotten accepted and would be launching that in the boutique in February. I felt like this was the perfect sign that me bringing on this line was a perfect fit for the current state of my journey. If you don't already know, Alex and Ani, it is a jewelry line made from recyclable materials. One core collection they have benefits multiple charities. They are primarily known for their individual charm bangle bracelets and I am so excited to be the College Station Alex and Ani retailer. Be sure to stop by the boutique to check it all out. Would make the perfect Valentine's Day gift, as we even received a specific Valentine's Day Collection from them. I'm planning a launch party next Wednesday, February 3 in store. Anyways again, I cannot wait to keep in touch with Elizabeth :)
I learned so many valuable things to incorporate into the Southern Jewlz Company this year. You will see so many NEW implementations, facelifts (like this new website), Modeling and Promotional opportunities, and even a new Loyalty system that will give back to charity. If you have been storefront or even owned any business for a few years now, I highly encourage a retail conference or any conference within your specific field. Great way to become re-energized for your business, learn the industry's upcoming trends, meet some valuable people and learn new business tactics. Special thank you to my real estate Katie Ruffino for encouraging me to attend my very first retail conference, even though I don't want to make traveling alone to NYC a hobby anytime soon.
Until the next post, I'll leave you with a quote that I actually wrote down 2 weeks before I opened my first store. This quote is printed on all of our tote bags and is mentioned throughout the website multiple times.
"Be selfless and dedicated. Give a compliment when needed. Learn something new everyday. Say your prayers and count your blessings. Be a role model, a leader, and an icon of success and hard work. Think outside the box, push every single boundary, and know that there is no limit to what you can do or who you can be."