hello, just wondering - how many of you have a public store/studio? I am tucked away in the countryside and am wondering about opening up in the city ( 25 min drive) to grow my business. Any thoughts are appreciated!

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I think it is a great idea. Not only do you get up and go to work (which really does make a difference) but you also get to meet and talk to people and find out what they want and need. You'll discover your market and learn to make what will sell.
I have thoroughly enjoyed having my shop. It was the smartest move I made!
Good Luck!

yes, Dayna - every one of your points makes total sense! thank you :)

Opening a shop is a wonderful thing. It's lots of fun but it also brings huge disappointments. There will be days when you have 0 customers, money will be tight and you have to have enough to get you through the first year- which can be impossible to recover from unless you have other support. On the other hand if you are lucky enough to be busy- it will be difficult to find time to create. A double edge sword! So- as an alternative you might want to think about craft shows. I am the only milliner at craft shows in my area so it makes me unique and I make some very good money. I get to test market my products, interact with people but still have time to create my designs. So having a shop is great- but be prepared with enough money to pay your expenses for a year.

hi Debbi, I am quite aware of the financial commitment  - which of course is the scary part! The fact is that there is a slow time in our business...not a whole lot happening over here in NZ during the winter months. My ideal set up would be to have premises shared with another business and also possibly bring in other things like accessories, jewellery, clutches, gloves..that sort of thing.

Thank you for your input :)

So pleased you have been able to set up a store Dayna - there are definite advantages. One of my students had store @ Marina Mirage Gold Cst for years. It is a big decision to make & I guess everyone needs to evaluate if it is best for their circumstances & business.

I entertained this idea Monika but sort advice from my accountant - he was not enthusiastic!! I never moved into a store or a city studio . Your idea to add other fashion accessories may balance it all out. Years before we had been in Tourism with huge bank loan & recall stress of bank managers phone calls in off season. I stayed home based as needed to be around for 4 teens at that time -built up wholesale around country in 6 stores. For 3 of those local stores I became a consulting milliner. They would book 6-8 women in for consultation through day usually on a weekend, for bespoke hat. I also had clients come to house for bespoke consultations & maintained Commercial public risk insurance to allow this.

More recently I have been making hats to order all online - they send pic of themselves in the dress or suit. I would ask them to buy matching fabric if required and send swatch of fabric or a colour match swatch from a paint store brochure then I would send email pics of stages & trim options. Often did this for the Governor as she was too busy to have me call too often and it worked.

If you can work in with a business that has female customers - beautician, hairdresser or shoe store for space while major season happens is another alternative. In Melbourne I have known of milliners renting a store for just 2 months in peak time before Cup day or setting up pop up store in shop centre- not cheap but if you also sit doing some work you will attract their attention. Long term lease would not be best way to go if you do go into retail.

As creatives the last thing we need is STRESS - it kills creativity.

thank you, Elaine, for your thoughts on the subject. Everything you say is very valid...lots to consider....meantime I keep dreaming..we all know, if you can dream it, it can become true :) ...maybe

I have samples of my work in a local "tiara" shop and customers come in and see my work. I work full time else where and spend 3 hours on a Saturday in the shop to meet my clients/help them out.  It has worked well so far. It has impacted on my sales a bit as this year I have to pay 20% commission on my sales to help out with rent. but a lot cheaper than my having premises that I could not man in the week.  I attend a few local wedding fairs, but have yet to see any sales generated, but then most brides work at least 2 years in advance in our area and mums tend to leave the headwear to the last minute too.

hello, Jain....this "shop / studio" dream of mine only developed in the last 4-5 months. I have become a full time milliner a year ago. This next step of a location in the city seems maybe another milestone to achieve in order to be more visible, make it easier for customers to come and see me as well as benefit from being near other stores where my potential clients shop and could be directed " down the road to the milliner" for a hat.

I am looking at a space within another store...this could work well, since it generates more foot traffic and subsequently more exposure.

I'm in no immediate hurry, lots of things to consider....

Hi Monika.

I have my own store/studio, Ruby & Leo, which is in a little "village" just out of Geelong.

My shop stocks my own Millinery, Mass pproduced hats for Men and women,  Giftware, Accessories, Gloves, Handbags etc...

I have had Gift Shops and  Women's Boutiques for years where I have sold my own Millinery, with my first steps into millinery being Bridal headpieces. I began doing bridal millinery about 19 years ago and my passion for millinery grew from that.

Loving it soooo much led me to open Ruby & Leo, which is now in it's third year. It is my favourite shop I have had yet. So much so I have said i want to grow old and grey here Haha!!

I will be quite candid with you, having been a retailer for so long (at one stage I had 6 shops running!) I have a few pointers.

The idea of running your own shop sounds very fun and romantic but it is not for everyone.

1. Shop location is of utmost importance. You need good passing trade no matter what...even if the people who pass don't buy your hats they will tell someone and word of mouth is the best form of advertising.

2. Your Product has to be spot on. Customer's are a very picky bunch so be prepared for that. And also you are inviting anyone through your front door so you can't choose the personalities that come walking in. However I have some very beautiful loyal customers and they make all the difference.

3. You need good family support. My husband is my backbone, without his support it would be very hard to juggle everything. And if you happen to be sick and can't open your store you need family and friends to support you.

4.You need to be open set hours and not just when you want. The public are used to 24/7 shopping now so if you only open a few hours here and there you will just annoy them and probably lose them before you get them.

My shop is open 7 days, 3 of these I have staff....which is a whole other subject!!!!!!!!

5.The average shop takes 5 years to become established and reach peak potential..... so if you aren't prepared to stick around in the one spot for that long , quite possibly it won't work how you hoped.

6. You have to LOVE IT! If you really love it, the ball and chain round your ankle won't bother you...

I have heaps more I could tell you but they are the down to earth points that you really need to consider.

There are of course so many positives but you do need to know there are a lot of negatives, as far as I am concerned I couldn't see myself being anything other than a retailer and the benefit of being able to make hats during the quiet times is such a bonus. My shop is open all year round too so my customers know I am here for them anytime so I get work all through the year. My daughter is also a Milliner so my shop is a working studio which makes it very intriguing for my customers .

I have had retail stores for 24 years so feel free to ask me any questions you like, I am an open book!

Good luck with your decision!

Hope all goes well for you,


Hello Victoria,

thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question so detailed. So much to consider! My sole reason to open the shop would be to be more visible and make it a bit easier for customers to see me and potential customers to find me. I live 30 min outside the next big city in a small village. Even though my business is growing I'm wondering if being in the city won't be necessary to get to the next level.

Nothing is really decided yet - still a lot of considerations, next to committing to set hours I have to really think about the financial side. Right now I have my studio in a separate building at home - this has of course huge advantages.

I keep you posted with how I go, thank you again for your input, it's much appreciated!!!

Monika x

It is so true what you say about word of mouth. I went to the post office to post a fascinator off to a client and the lady behind the counter knew all about me and my hats, which are in a local store. Felt great! She was so helpful too, told me the quietest times to go in and handed me a brochure on parcel rates, and helped put the package together (I posted in a lovely blue shoe box)....

Thank you for sharing this Victoria - really appreciated

Your Hat Case is on it's way

You are a worthy winner



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