Velvet Lattimore is a born and bred New Yorker and has worked in the fast paced and frenetic fashion industry for many years. She always had dreams of owning her own business and just about six months ago, she was able to take that idea from a dream to a solid living reality.
Velvet recently opened her own storefront boutique in the upscale and extremely trendy DUMBO section of Brooklyn. She has since experienced a steady stream of clientele that are interested in her high end and mid tier priced leather handbags.
I caught up with this extremely busy lady in order to find out how she was able to realize this dream of hers and how it all began.
What made you want to own your own business?
Well, I’ve always wanted to own my own business and be able to attain financial wealth for myself. For me, it is all about the financial freedom of being able to make moves and do what you want to do instead of worrying about bonuses and raises. I was getting tired of the inconsistency of a regular nine to five job and worrying about whether I got hired for one position or not. To have that stability and be able to work for you and not someone else is definitely amazing. The pressure is still there in getting everything done, but at the end of the day it’s the personal reward that makes it so worth it.
What made you want to work with accessories and how did you go about choosing this field?
(laughs) To be honest with you, I’ve always loved them. Even when I was little I loved handbags and accessories. My first love for sure is handbags, so it was always a desire of mine to have my own designer handbag line. I never really thought that I could actually do it, but I said to myself ‘Velvet you need to go and just do this’. What I initially ended up doing is reselling wholesale purchased bags at better prices for my customers.
It all first started as a hobby and as a way to earn extra money for myself. Once I saw that I was getting regular weekly customers, I decided to make it a full time thing. I started hitting the streets, doing vendor events and networking as much as possible. I would attend the circle of sisters even that is held in the city at Jacob Javits Center. I would also go to different parks around the city, park my car and wait for customers. I was working all of this out all while still juggling a full time job.
Ultimately, I still want to have my own collection of bags. I found a couple of manufacturing companies that are not too expensive, so I am looking into doing that as well. I am finding people that can work with me on my price point in particular. Three years ago, it was harder trying to get a manufacturer to budge on their costs. Companies are more accommodating now though because of the recession.
Has the recession affected your business in any way?
Oh, definitely. The recession has affected my business in a big way actually, because I don’t get a lot of people that want the high end bags anymore. People don’t want to spend one hundred or two hundred dollars on a hand bag these days. Instead, they will buy from the lower lines and get a really good leather bag for like forty or fifty dollars. Those are flying off the shelves and my bestsellers right now. Before, I could sell around five high end bags in one day and do well because it was worth more. However, I now find myself having to sell three times as much just to catch up to that same level of revenue. Times aren’t what they once were.
How important do you think networking is? How do you network and help your product by using word of mouth ground roots marketing? What do you think about online social networking and how has it helped your business, if in any way?
Networking functions have helped me to meet and mingle with new people that can help me with my businesss or give me more information in order to guide me toward the right people. Now that I’ve added the ‘like’ sign for face book and the twitter button on my Vedazzling web page, I have noticed a jump in sales.
I’ve found in my experience that the networking face to face events where I can pass out my business cards have helped me to get in touch with people that are most useful to me. It is all about an exchange of information and helping one another out as business owners.
You wind up getting in touch with people that have been in your shoes before you and can certainly give you great advice on how to improve your business. It’s great because when you’re at these events, you are around other business owners so you can feed off of their amazing energy. Grass roots word of mouth advertising is great. I’ve made a lot of sales off of that alone.
The last event that I held for my store was a success because of a lot of word of mouth advertising. A lot of people were friends of mine, or friends of friends and that’s a really awesome feeling.
You recently opened your own shop in the very trendy and upscale DUMBO section of Brooklyn. How does it feel to be able to realize a dream that you’ve had for so long?
It feels pretty awesome and I’m still really excited by it all. I love being there every day. Even if I don’t make a sale, it doesn’t matter to me. I can recognize that I am just simply blessed to be there. Now that I’m there though, I have to focus and work hard at keeping it open.
What advice would you give to any entrepreneurs, other small business owners or those that are just getting ready to start their own business?
I would say to them that it is extremely important to stay focused. Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged.
If you’re determined, you won’t stop. Not for your mother, not for your boyfriend or anyone else. Stay diligent and stay focused and you will succeed. I learned the hard way not to bounce ideas off of people anymore. I make my own decisions and use Google to get any information that I may need. Sometimes people can be very negative. So it’s important to keep yourself inspired. Being an entrepreneur is a lonely road, (chuckles) but it’s totally worth it in the end.
145 Front Street (between Pearl and Jay Streets)
Qiana L Williams