Like many a mompreneur, Jodi Stevens' entry into the retail world started by chance.
Always a crafter, Stevens always is game to try any kind of project once. And, after she became a mom, those projects often involved creating cute outfits and accessories for her kids - three girls and a boy. Once friends saw her creations in person or on Facebook, they started asking for Stevens to make things for their kids.
Those requests spurred Stevens to open an Etsy shop, For the Little Peeps, offering appliqued and monogrammed clothing and embroidered felt hair accessories for kids. For five years, she ran the business from her home, making birthday or holiday T-shirts for her customers' kids. Eventually customers wanted Stevens to monogram their things - purses, scarves, hat.
So, in November, she took another big leap - opening up a shop in Holly Springs to sell not only some of her own creations, but women's clothing, accessories, home decor and more. Bless Your Heart Monograms & Gifts is at 636 Holly Springs Rd. at the corner of Holly Springs and Bass Lake roads.
Stevens looked to Wake Tech's Small Business Center and its director, Theresa Peaden, for advice as she put together her business plan and began to set up shop. And, since opening about eight months ago, there's always a new revelation.
"I literally learn something everyday," she said.
Stevens wants Bless Your Heart to be a place where shoppers can pop in to find a fun gift for a friend or an item for themselves. She focuses on unique pieces that are affordable. A black, sheath dress, for instance, was just $35. Beach spikes, those cup holders that you can stick in the sand, were just $12 with a monogram.
She travels to Atlanta for regular gift markets to select items for the store. She also includes some locally made items. I visited the shop a few months ago when I met up with Kelly Shiley, the local mom who turned her idea into a multi-million business. Shiley owns the apparel, accessory and home decor line Mary Square, which is sold at Bless Your Heart.
Stevens also can personalize just about everything through embroidery, vinyl and heat transfer. She's happy to personalize items that aren't purchased in the store.
She also hopes to turn the shop into a gathering place. She's offered some classes, including several on calligraphy. And she offers monthly Wine Down Wednesday. The evening includes a special sale (which is revealed when you arrive), giveaways and other treats. It makes for a fun girls night out. The next one is this week - 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., July 20.
And she has a special VIP Facebook page where she asks customers questions about items she's considering for the store and seeks their opinions.
"It's very customer driven," she said.
For Stevens, there have been plenty of surprises since opening the store. But, the best, she said, has been the opportunity to meet and build relationships with her customers - including many long-time clients who first found Stevens as they were hunting for special items for their children.
"Its really neat to meet people face to face," she said. "We've played that small part in whatever celebrations they have."
Bless Your Heart's Facebook page has more information about the store and the items Stevens carries. And congratulation to Stevens. Suburban Living recently named the shop the best spot for accessories in Holly Springs.
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