I opened a gift shop in my hometown just before the pandemic hit. It has been a crazy experience that taught me more than a lot about running a small business.
How I Opened My Gift Shop in Alberta
Here's how it went down. I had been thinking about opening a gift box business for years. In fact, I registered the business in 2017 but my then real estate career kept me busy and I never found the time to work on Gift Smack.
In late 2019, I came across a little commercial space for lease and my gut instinct was that it was perfect for the little gift box business that had been growing in my mind over the years. Excited and terrified all at the same time, I signed the lease.
I went to work painting, organizing and setting up my gift shop, excited to help people find the perfect gifts and gift boxes in beautiful Alberta. After hours and hours of hard work and lots of help from friends, I grand opened my little gift box store at the end of February 2020. Three weeks later we grand closed, thanks to Covid! I had a lot of contingencies in my cocktail-napkin business plan, but world pandemic was definitely something that I hadn’t planned for.
So, would I do it again? Yes. But here’s what I learned and what I would do differently.
Get Your Website or Online Store Up and Running
When I first opened Gift Smack's gift shop, I was nowhere near ready to launch the website. Sure, it had been in the business plan, but opening a store and launching a website are two pretty big beasts to tackle all at once. If I was making any changes to the way that things rolled out, I would most definitely make sure that I had a website complete before opening the storefront.
When the pandemic hit, businesses that were set up and already rolling online, did amazing. Meanwhile, people still had no idea that Gift Smack existed or where to find us. So, if I’m giving advice to past me, I’m telling her to hire someone to work on the website and get it done and rolling asap! There are lots of great options for DIY websites and after a lot of research, I chose Shopify. It is an amazing and very user-friendly platform, so it's not that you can’t do it yourself, it's that it will likely amount to a bajillion hours of work and if you’re like me, you probably have 17 other things that also need to be done.
Put Your Gift Shop On Social Media
I see a lot of brands that do such a great job of promoting themselves before they launch, sometimes before they even have a product! I was scared and almost embarrassed to promote myself or Gift Smack. Actually, I was scared on so many fronts, scared I’d fail, scared of criticism, scared that people would think I was crazy for leaving my career in real estate. But here’s the thing, all that scary stuff, if you’re feeling it, is pretty much only inside your head.
People want to know what you’re doing, and for the most part, they want to see you succeed! This is something that I still struggle with, being the face of my business, when it’s just easier to hide behind the scenes doing busy work. I think most people love seeing the face behind the business and it’s nice to be authentic and let your personality shine in your brand on social media. I’m still working on the whole social media aspect, I mean, I have some of the easiest things to showcase! Who doesn’t love a good gift box unboxing??
Fully Commit to Your Gift Shop
ALLLLLL in, This is the last piece I would change. I sort of dipped my toes in the water and planned more for what I’d do if I failed instead of planning for success. Girl, wrong move. If you don’t go all in on yourself, nobody else will buy in either. Now I look at things very differently. I go so all in, that I don’t have the option of failing. I don’t have an easy way out, like I’m 100%, do or die, all in on myself!
Gift Smack offers luxury gift box delivery to Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer areas. We pride ourselves in making the gifting process effortless, while keeping it thoughtful. Discover our elevated collection of gift boxes for all the times. The good times, the bad times, and the in between times.