Is someone telling you there’s NO WAY you can succeed? Remember, there’s no such thing as an overnight success. You need to be a visionary. Take our guest, Bobbie Stewart, CEO & Founder of Palette Stores. People say retail is dead. Bobbie is reinventing retail through innovation that delivers unique value.
Meet Bobbie Stewart, CEO & Founder, Palette Stores
The pursuit of happiness is doing what you love even when it puts the spot light on someone else. Bobbie Stewart is a serial entrepreneur whose passion is engaging with and building start-ups. As a former business advisor with the SBDC and TIE XL Bootcamp instructor her equanimity has helped guide entrepreneurs through their most difficult start-up moments. Bobbie believes that entrepreneurs possess strength and tenacity that are the building blocks of leaders.
Bobbie graduated Concordia University with a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) and minors in Entrepreneurial and Small Business Operations, Finance. Bobbie’s accomplishments include:
- CEO & Founder, Palette Stores
- Founder and President of KICIT investment club
- Business Foundations 1 and Business Plan Workshop Trainer, MercyCorps NW
- Former TIE Oregon, TIE XL Boot Camp instructor
- Formerly with SBDC, Business Advisor and Business Plan instructor
- Freelance contractor hired to coach small businesses and develop operations plan
Bobbie has chosen creating, developing and launching small businesses as her career; teaching and mentoring as her passion. She started her adventure as an entrepreneur at the age of 16. Bobbie has had a number of wise and accomplished mentors as well as encouragement and support from family and friends. Building a business takes time, dedication and a village.
Find Bobbie and Palette Stores Online:
Jen McFarland, CEO, Women Conquer Business
Jen McFarland ditched her comfy C-suite tech project management job in pursuit of freedom. Jen’s goal is to help business leaders like you vet ideas, take ownership of their projects, and incorporate digital marketing from day one.
If growing your business feels like rocket science, let’s fix that with these free business resources.
Moon Landing References
- What You Didn’t Know About the Apollo 11 Mission
- The women who helped put men on the moon
- Without these women, man would not have walked on the moon
- Meet the women behind NASA’s historic Apollo 11 launch
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Transcript: Overnight Success Myths; Meet Visionary Entrepreneur Bobbie Stewart
My name is Jen McFarland. I help business owners like you lead, plan and execute their projects for maximum impact. Women-led businesses receive less funding, yet our businesses are more successful. As consumers, we hold the purse strings. It’s time for us to take on the business world. Welcome to Women Conquer Business.
On this week’s show, we meet Portland’s own Bobbie Stewart. Bobbie is a visionary who not only builds businesses, she builds community. I can’t wait to share this interview with you. Speaking of visionaries, a couple of weeks ago people celebrated the 50th anniversary of the US moon landing. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, President Kennedy. These are the people who get the most attention. Not unlike many other yarns we spin declaring the latest overnight success. You see, we oversimplify success and then wonder why we don’t achieve it. Consider the moon landing again. I read this really amazing article I’ll put in the show notes. It was in The Smithsonian Magazine, written by Charles Fishman. “10,000 problems had to be solved to get us to the moon. Every one of those challenges was tackled and mastered between May 1961 and July 1969. The astronauts, the nation, flew to the moon because hundreds of thousands of scientists, engineers, managers and factory workers unravelled a series of puzzles, often without knowing whether the puzzle had a good solution.” I love this quote. Not only because it acknowledges the people involved, but also because it talks about problems, puzzles and solutions. It’s fascinating to me that most people shirk away from problems, not to mention puzzles and solutions. I mean, sure, as business owners we solve other people’s problems and often hang onto fear rather than solving our own. It’s easier to hang onto the overnight success myth, isn’t it? Are we afraid to put in the thousands of hours that it might take? Or is it the shame that we might not succeed? Or that we haven’t made it yet? What is it that stops us from tackling our own problems? I think the important thing is to get started, no matter how small. Work through those big business puzzles and when you get stumped, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You see, overnight success is a myth. And so is doing it alone. I think it’s that we’re shielded so much from failure. We don’t see the fear, the failure, the day-to-day grind problem solving requires. All we see is the success. I’ll give you an example. I remember years ago when I was working as a business analyst. It was my first project as a business analyst. I was collaborating with a team to convert Excel spreadsheets into a computer application that was calculating complex tax computations to the penny and then split it six ways, also to the penny, no rounding. Because when you’re dealing with millions of dollars, the pennies add up quickly. No one could get the math right. No one. My programmer was telling me to give it up. My supervisor thought maybe it wasn’t possible. My customer demanded it. And it was my first project, so I felt like I really had to deliver. One night, probably about 8:30, worn out from the day and tired of working through the same puzzle, I went home and broke down into tears. My husband hugged me and asked to see the equation. I didn’t even want to show it to him, because so many people had looked at it. And I didn’t really think he could help me. He looked at it for about five minutes and said, “Oh, have you tried this?” You see? My husband, who’s a lawyer [laughter], solved a puzzle the team of tax pros, a business analyst, and a programmer couldn’t figure out. We’d been working on it for weeks. Truly, we can’t do it alone. If you believe in miracles, then you know you can’t do it alone. But see? Today, anybody who’s working in that application that we built out of a pile of Excel spreadsheets, as far as those people are concerned, building the application was a piece of cake. These things never happened because they weren’t there to see it. There are no overnight successes, but there are plenty of people who never try. I’m not saying it isn’t daunting. I mean, are you trying to do something that’s never been done before? Good. Keep doing it. Is it hard? Good. Then it’s worth it. We need to start being more afraid of never starting than we are of the failure of doing something new or solving the problems ahead. We need to be the John F. Kennedy of our lives and our businesses, and I’ll tell you what I mean by that. I know. I know. It’s easy to think, “All Kennedy had to do is say, ‘The US will go to the moon,’ and then let the other people handle it,” right? You might be thinking, “Well, that’s cool. He’s not an engineer or an astronaut, and all he had to do was to say, ‘Make it so,’ and others had to do it.”
And that may not be the position that you’re in right now in your business, and I totally get that. I don’t have a staff of 100 people that I can make these declarations to, but I do have myself. And you see? While it may be true that Kennedy wasn’t an astronaut or an engineer, he was a visionary. And when I say that we need to be the president of our lives and our businesses, I’m talking about that visionary spirit. You see? Kennedy had this unshakable belief that the US would land on the moon. So much so that he was willing to stake his legacy on it. Kennedy didn’t know that he would never live to see the moon landing, but he knew what it meant to have a legacy. And he knew we had no idea if we could go to the moon or how we would do it, but he had the unshakable belief in the human spirit and of the human mind. And that, if it could be done, the US would be the people to do it. That’s what a visionary is. That’s what we need to do. You need to practice having that unshakable belief in yourself, in your goals, in your ability to get there, even if you don’t know how to do it. Like today’s guest Bobbie Stewart says, “Building a business takes time, dedication, and a village.”
Speaking of a village, one of the other things that doesn’t get talked about when it comes to the moon landing are all the women who helped get us to the moon. So before we meet Bobbie Stewart, I want to share a few with you. There was Frances “Poppy” Northcutt. She was the first female engineer to be part of mission control at NASA. She worked alongside male colleagues to plan the trajectory for the Apollo 8 to return to earth. She was also involved in Apollo 11 and the epic struggle to bring Apollo 13 home after it got into trouble. There was the engineer JoAnn Morgan, the only woman in the launch firing room for Apollo 11’s liftoff. Margaret Hamilton. She was the lead programmer on the ground-breaking Apollo guidance computer, which had less capacity– think about this for a minute– had less capacity than today’s mobile phones and worked on every crewed mission. So she was, like, involved in all of the guidance systems. And, incidentally, she came up with the idea to call her discipline software engineering. How cool is that? There’s Katherine Johnson, the scientist and mathematician featured in the book and film, Hidden Figures. Johnson’s trajectory analysis was crucial to the pioneering missions of Alan Shepard and John Glenn. And then the Apollo program, in particular, syncing of the lunar landing with the command and service module. She also worked on the shuttle program. I can tell you I read that paragraph and I have no idea what it all means, but I do know that Katherine Johnson is a badass. And she’s one of many badassesthat helped get us to the moon. I will add links to the articles highlighting the women involved in the moon landing to the show notes. Be a visionary. Have that unshakable belief in yourself. We’ll meet Bobbie Stewart after this.
I really do hope you love Women Conquer Business. Did you know that you can actually get paid just for listening to this podcast? I know it sounds insane, but it’s true. I just discovered this free new app called Podcoin, and it literally pays you to listen to podcasts. And more than 60% of their listeners are women. Super cool, right? So here’s how it works. You listen to podcasts and you earn Podcoin while you listen. Then you turn that Podcoin in for gift cards at places like Amazon or Starbucks. Or, if you’re a super good person, you could even donate that Podcoin to charity. The more you listen, the more you earn. So here’s what you do. Download the app right now on iPhone or Android, and I have a special code for you. Simply use our code “business” and you’ll get 300 Podcoin just for signing up. And if you listen to enough of us on there, you can get a cappuccino at Starbucks or an Amazon gift card on us.So go ahead. Go listen to this podcast, or virtually any podcast on Podcoin,and sign up with the promo code “business”. I swear it’ll change the way you listen to podcasts.
Welcome back to the show. Let’s meet Bobbie Stewart. The pursuit of happiness is doing what you love even when it puts the spotlight on someone else. Bobbie Stewart is a serial entrepreneur whose passion is engaging with the building of start-ups. As a former business advisor with a small business development center, and TIE XL Bootcamp instructor, her equanimity has helped guide entrepreneurs through their most difficult start-up moments. Bobbie believes that entrepreneurs possess strength and tenacity that are the building blocks of leaders. Bobbie is the CEO and Founder ofPalette stores. She is also the Founder and President of KICIT investment club. Bobbie has chosen creating, developing, and launching small businesses as her career. Teaching and mentoring as her passion. She started her adventure as an entrepreneur at the age of 16. Bobbie has a number of wise and accomplished mentors, as well as encouragement and support from family and friends. Building a business takes time, dedication, and a village. Please welcome Bobbie Stewart to the Women Conquer Business podcast.
So Bobbie, welcome to the show. Why don’t you tell all of us a little bit about yourself? How did you get here?
That’s a broad question [laughter].
It is, and I don’t [laughter]– and I don’t mean specifically on this podcast. But you’ve got some really big things going on with your business. So it’s mostly about how did you get to this place of, well, conquering business?
I actually started with a different business model and a different mission. And in order to support what I was doing, I added space. So I opened a boutique, and I was leasing space. And I decided to lease space to people of color. And when people come to the store, I would explain who the makers were of the other products, because it was a clothing consignment store. And they loved the story of the makers. And I realized that I was on to something much bigger than even myself or even the idea I first had. And it was time for me to pivot the business and really create something amazing.
So what was it about the makers’ story that you think really captivated people?
It was because they were all makers of color. That’s really what it was, that people just weren’t creating space specifically for makers of color. And when you start talking about different nationalities and where people come from and then you the quality of their products– a lot of them already had a following, which was really great. So people who already loved their products were coming to support. And then other communities– like when I had my boutique on 42nd Avenue, we’d have a town hall bike ride. Every time someone would come through that street, they’d always want to stop at my little boutique. And I absolutely loved it. And so it gave me a lot of opportunity. And it really took one person giving me an opportunity to create opportunities for other people. So that was a– eye-opener was it was really hard to get the first door open, but once the first door opened, it created a larger and larger and larger space. And it opened more doors for other individuals. So that is something we always have to face as a person of color. Especially being a black female, people– a lot of times, they look at me and they don’t understand that yes, I’ve gone to college. And I’ve been working in the business environment for over a decade. And that I’ve worked with lots of startups. And I have all this under my belt. And I’m a serial entrepreneur. And until they [inaudible]– you run down your resume, people look at you like, “Oh, she– oh, good job. You’re doing well.” They kind of pat you on the head a little bit. And then once you start talking, they’re like, “Oh, so you know what you’re doing?” Yes. Yes, I do [laughter]. I actually know what I’m doing.
Yeah. When we met, you were talking a lot about how you lead workshops and help coach other entrepreneurs to help lift people up. So you’re lifting people up not only as makers but also as current and future entrepreneurs.
Yeah. Because I teach a lot. So I’ve been really blessed to– I started teaching with the SPDC, and Tammy was the first person that gave me an opportunity to work in the entrepreneurial realm. So I was still in college. I went back to college at a later age, and I was still in school. And I did an informational interview with Tammy. And she hired me on the spot. She’s an ED of SPDC through PCC, and I worked–
So just in case people aren’t in Portland, Oregon, so–
Small Business Development Center [laughter].
Portland Community College.
Yes [laughter]. And I actually just saw her the other day. We went and had tea, her and Lloyd and I.So she was really the first person who opened that gate, that floodgate up for me. Because I wanted– I’ve always been an entrepreneur as long as I can remember I was always making something or trying a business and trying dabbling here and there, and I was actually going to school to become an accountant. I know. So not my personality at all, and I actually have an instructor who was like, “This is not your personality. You’re smart, but this is not it. You’re a people person,” and I’m like, “Yeah. I am a people person.” And so I started business advising for the small business development center. I did that for almost two years and I taught business plan classes as well. Before that, I had an internship with [Miso?], so I worked with a couple of organizations and really got my feet wet and it was really amazing, but the first I noticed when I was business advising was I was dealing with people’s emotions as much as I was dealing with their business needs. So a lot of it was just getting them to a place where they can start functioning again and working on their business and get rid of that fear and move past it and that doubt and those roadblocks and all those crippling, paralyzing things that happen to you when you’re in business and just move forward to take the next step. So I got really good at that. I call it talking people off the ledge [laughter].
I know. It’s so true. And people ask me about this podcast and say, “Why do you talk so much about things like mindset and you don’t strike me as that person.” I’m like, “Well, actually, these are the conversations I have with people all the time So I’m sharing it with a broader audience because it is so much about–” because there’s so much risk involved. Right? You’re putting yourself out there as an entrepreneur and you get right up. I’m afraid of heights, so you get to the end of that diving board and you’re like, “No. Yeah. I really want to jump.” But that’s why you need to be around people who can help you jump because otherwise, you’re not selling to anybody and you’re not standing in your own power and doing what you need, so.
Yes because you’re absolutely putting yourself out there, like you were saying. I mean, you’re not just putting your money at risk. You’re putting your personality, your connections, your stability at risk because that’s a major thing because when you become an entrepreneur and if you decide to be full-time, you don’t get that regular paycheck. You have to work to make that money. You don’t always know where that’s going to come from. And so you have to create different streams of revenue and you have to be confident enough to know that people will invest in you or to get people to invest in you, and that’s a skill. So you have to develop all of these really important skills that have nothing to do with actually running your business to be a really great business owner because you are going from a realm of learning how to be a business, being in support, to learning how to be a leader to actually running an organization, and you really need to gain a lot of skill along the way, and a lot of that has to do with your mental stability, your emotional mindset. Sometimes, it has to really be with your support system that’s around you. And then, once all that is in a really great place, then you have to tackle the whole issue of capital because I work with a lot of people who are makers, and there just isn’t a lot of places for them to go to get capital. So once you become an entrepreneur 100%, it’s a lot harder to go get a line of credit. It’s a lot harder to go get a loan. You have to have an existing business that’s been running for a while making money. So you leave your job and then you start a business and you seem to fall in this middle realm with education, classes, with opportunities. So you need to make sure you’re prepared for that.
I had a really good friend just like, “Don’t ever quit your job until you have enough capital in the bank.” And I was like, “Well, that may never happen,” because your job will only make you so much money, and it’s a lot of times about sacrifice. What can you sacrifice now so that you can have that capital for your business? Because it’s going to keep eating up money and eating up money and eating up money. So I sacrificed everything I possibly could to make sure that I have money for my business. And it’s about the long game. It’s not about the here and now. Yeah.
Well, and about having enough for yourself and your son and the rest of your family and [inaudible] because I have enough revenue for them. I have [laughter] [inaudible] to my store. And a lot of times, you have to realize that that money that you’re making from your business, you have to keep reinvesting it and reinvesting it until you can actually take money out of your business. Because if you spend the first dollar you make – guess what? – you’re back to zero [laughter].
Oh, man. So, in talking about funding, it’s harder for women to get funding. It’s even more difficult for women of color. Venture Capital, it’s like .0008 percent goes to black women So then, it’s like two million dollars and that’s like– to all black women [laughter] applying for Venture Capital when it’s like two billion or something crazy. And that is the biggest reason why I wanted to have you on the show is because you are responsible for helping to rise and helping other people rise with you. Is it because you know how hard it is, in part?
That’s a huge part of it because it’s almost daunting trying to pitch your business and people having enough confidence in you to really invest in seeing past your ability– what they think your ability is to scale a business and actually trusting in your knowledge. I’ve been to a lot of pitch contests and networking events and all kinds of things, and I see the same people getting the award, when I was like, “Why are we rewarding the same person over again? They have enough money to move their business forward. Let’s go to the next person who really needs those dollars.” And when I sit in front of you and talk about my business, because it’s retail, it’s an instant shutdown. They’re like, “Oh, retail is dead and blah, blah, blah.” I was like, “No, we’re innovating retail. We’re making it different. It’s changing and it’s growing and people are a lot more interested in who’s making their products now.” And that’s a scalable business if you create the right business model. And you can make money investing in it and you can make a lot of money [laughter] investing in women and women of color [laughter].
Right. I think that when they talk about– well, I think it’s really shortsighted to say retail is dead. Yes, Victoria’s Secret retail is dead, but what you’re doing is different than that.
Yes. Yeah. It’s completely different because we want to focus on the makers because– you saw this huge shift where advertisers are using faces of people of color everywhere, you look at storefronts and all the posters have a whole mixture of people now. And you walk in the store and everything is still manufactured in China. And like, “Who are we really supporting? You’re using our faces so you can take our dollars, but you’re not actually putting money back into our community.” So our business model, we’re actually directly putting money back into the community by supporting people and family of color locally. And that’s probably the most important piece of the platform because people are so much more invested, and they don’t realize that the products quality is so much better when you can walk in and get affordable organic products and locally-made small batch. They’re fresh. I’ve had people come into my store, and they have questions or they’re looking for something and it might not be there, like, “Well, do you have minute, I can call the maker. Like, “What? ” And I’m like, “Yeah.” Or if there’s a maker in the store, I’m always like, “Hey, you want to meet one of the makers?” There’s no other place you can do that. You can’t just always walk into a store and actually meet the people who make the product. So I love that part about the business and it being local and being locally made. And the sourcing that people do and that’s the main part of our business model. And people really want to support that model.
Absolutely. And yet, you are finding that people from across the country are coming into your store.
And you’re learning that what you’re offering is so unique, and isn’t offered anywhere else.
Nowhere else. Almost half of our customers that walk through the door are from out of state. And they keep asking, “Is there sort of like this in Houston? Is there a store like this in Seattle? I’m from Philly, are you going to move a store there?” And I’m like, “This is my first store, just hold.” So they first they identify with the things that are in the window when they walk by because they don’t see it anywhere else. They’ve never seen it in a mall. So a lot of it is very culturally specific. And we do not tailor things, products to culture. We are so just– let’s just say we’re whitewashed. So you can go to a million stores and they can sell the same thing, but you come to a Pallet store, and it’ll be very specific. And I have people come in and we have a line of clothing, African line of clothing, and they’re like, “There’s African clothes in the mall. Oh my gosh, there’s Africa [laughter].” It’s our top seller. People really want the clothes, they’re beautiful garments, but they just can’t find them. They have to find them online. And they can’t try them on and you know how hard it is to buy something offline and source it and know that it actually fits. And it’s what you want. And you can’t try four or five things on and pick out the best thing that you love, but at Palette, you can do that. You can come in and support– you can support your local Native American maker designer, product maker, your African American maker, your Mexican maker, your Syrian maker, your turkey, your– and so that’s what I love. And every single entrepreneur, I know, every single entrepreneur, I’ve met every single entrepreneur, I’ve talked to them, I can almost tell you how many children they have in their family [laughter]. It’s like it’s a real personal mission and everyone has beautiful energy. They love the space. They’re proud that their products are in the space. When people come in, they always talk about how beautiful the store is. And you know me I just see everything in that I want to be perfect. And I realized like it’s not the building that makes it beautiful, it’s the products in the building that make it beautiful. And where can you go to get handmade dolls and things that are crafted and beautiful pieces of jewelry? Yeah, I can go on forever. I love my store [laughter].
And it’s also that it’s meeting needs. It’s that you can’t find like some of the health care items as well in a regular store. I mean, a lot of products aren’t made for people of color.
I thought I turned the ringer down. Sorry. That’s usually my first thing that I always do, turn my ringer off.
I think my ringer’s off.
That’s why I have it here, it’s just in case it buzzes or something. It’s like–
Yes, and she’s definitely calling back.
Do you need to take it?
No, I can call her later [laughter]. Glad this is not a live show [laughter].
It’s not a live show [laughter] so it’s a question about, that it’s also a unique products that people can’t find, for people of color?
Okay. So let’s back up.
Okay. And I’m just trying to think about it.
What did I leave out? Okay yes. I’m going to do double. Okay. Let’s see. There was something else I was going to talk about, I forgot. But go ahead.
So one of the things that makes your store so unique is that it also has all these healthcare items for people of color that you just can’t find anywhere else.
Right. So we have [Zoeapathic?] which is a essence oil line. And you can get things to help you be calm, for your headaches, for anxiety, besides for the fragrances being amazing. Like there’s this hair and body mist, I just walk in the store and spray it on myself everyday ’cause it smells so good [laughter]. And then we actually have a CBD line that’s made by Essance skin care and it’s– she uses a local hemp grower, all her products are organic, she has a background in creating products, and she has a background in health and beauty so you know you’re getting a high quality. Her customers that come in the store are extremely loyal. A lot of times they talk about how amazing the product is and what it’s done for them and I love that. I love bragging about the makers in the store [laughter]. They’re amazing people. We have three makers that have PHDs.
So yeah. They’re extremely knowledgeable about what they do and you know that when you come in that you’re not going to get a product that’s created with a GMO or high chemical content. You can actually see the ingredients and you understand every single word on there. And we make sure that the products have a good shelf life so they don’t go bad when you take them home. Because they are natural, or organic, so having a quality maker make something that is shelf sustainable is really, really important. Not everyone is there yet. But when you come to Palette, you know the makers in the store have met that threshold and have exceeded it because they’ve been in business long enough. What other health stuff do we have? God, we have so many things.
Well, so the story that we kind of talked about before was that I had a friend share with me that all of the chemicals, like in the stuff that you put on your hair–,
Yes. Oh my God [laughter].
–and how it would burn her skin and that it has a lot of hormones in them that, especially for like young girls causes them to develop younger and things like that. And so white folks like me have no idea about this happening and so what you’re doing is you’re delivering something to the community that isn’t harmful.
We have a natural hair care line. Right now we are carrying the Bahia Honey and then we’re going to be carrying another natural hair care line. And the most important thing about having a natural hair care line is that, especially African American women, they’ve gone through these phases where the things that how we manipulate our hair has gone from just causing our hair to break to actually causing serious balding patterns. Patterns you’ve never seen before because of all of the weaves and the glue and the– it’s all kinds of things that we do to just be able to have a little bit of freedom for awhile with our hair. And it’s not always about just wanting to not be authentic. Hair is creativity, it’s our crown. And a lot of women who do amazing things with hair, they’re really artists. And they’re creating a whole sense of beauty and confidence and everything else, but unfortunately, a lot of it is really unhealthy for us. So we are more and more, African Americans are creating natural hair care lines so we can have healthy hair. More of us are becoming natural and wearing our natural hair and loving our natural hair. And being able to have those products in the store, people make a beeline to it.
I bet [laughter].
And my number one complaint is, “Can you stock more product please [laughter]?” I’m always like, “Can you just bring more product ’cause we just keep selling out?” And that’s not a bad thing [laughter].
Not at all.
So I also want to point out that you’re being exceptionally modest by just talking about the makers and not talking about yourself.
Yes. I know I am.
So what I want to do is just share a little story that I haven’t shared with you before. So we have this big event, it’s quarterly, called My People’s Market. And it’s a place in town where a lot of the makers are, right? Do you want to talk a little about My People’s Market or do you want me to tell my story?
Tell your story [laughter].
So I’m going to all of these– So I’ve worked with many people who have booths at My People’s Market and met a lot of people. And it was before I had met you, right, but I think we were going to meet at some point. And I was going and I was talking to people and they’re like, “Oh. You got to talk to Bobbie. Oh you got to talk to Bobbie.” I’m like, “Bobbie? Bobbie who [laughter]?” “That’s at Palette. You can buy that at Palette. You can buy that at Palette.” And I’m like, “Whose Palette? Whose this Bobbie person?” And then I met you and I was like, “Oh. I get it now.” Because you’re bigger than life, and you have these great goals, and you are the place, right? I mean, you are the place for all of these people who are doing pop-ups and working their ass of everywhere. And you’re the one whose like, “Come on. Bring your products here. We will sell them here.” And it’s like their home base. And it’s very grounding for people. And I appreciate that about you, that you provide this safe space, this grounding space, for other people because most people don’t have that in that community. The, “I’m going to make what I make and I’m going to sell it and I’m going to go–” That is hard work–
— to go from place to place, pop-up to pop-up. You maybe meet people one time–
That’s the whole point. Yep.
–and then you move on and that’s the thing. And what you’re doing is you’re saying, “Keep doing that but also have a place where you can sell that people can come back to.” And that’s important.
Yeah. And so, to just add to that – and thank you for saying that and sharing that with me [laughter] – is when you are vending, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of time and it’s not easy. And you have to dedicate that entire day or that entire weekend or however long those events are. And you do it over and over again. But the second the vending is over, so is the cash flow. You’re not making money anymore and then how do those customers find you? You meet them once and if they don’t follow through to your website, and that doesn’t happen very often, how do they find you? I actually had one maker, she’s like, “I’m so glad I got my product in your store. I can stop meeting people in parking lots [laughter].” And, okay I thought that was so funny. But it’s the best way to create a customer base, get customer validation, get customer feedback. And you have a place to send your customers. You actually have a place to meet your customers. But we really are not just about providing space, but we’re also about elevating brands. We want people to recognize your brand because I tell people all the time, you can buy a product, and you can go replace it with another product just like that. That’s no big deal. But people are loyal to brands. And so we want people to know you and your brand and what you stand for, and that’s how you create loyalty, and that’s how you create connection. And they can always come to a Palette store and not just a Palette store– I want every single maker to be in as many stores as they can, to have the furthest reach that they can, and if their platform to get started is Palette, that makes me extremely proud. Very, very proud. So I want to just help as many makers grow as possible because that’s what the Palette brand is all about. We’re really a teaching store. I will give you feedback about what your next steps are, what you need to do. I’ll work with you on your labeling and what customers are actually saying. If you actually have returns, I’m going to find out why you had a return. And most of our returns are really exchanges. They’re not really returns. People don’t really bring stuff back because they’re unsatisfied. They’re just like, “I grabbed the wrong size,” or, “I grabbed the wrong thing,” or they just preferred something else. And we are very open with returns and exchanges because we don’t want the customer to leave with a bad experience. So giving that excellent customer service is a little more difficult with topicals and things like that, but we don’t usually get those returned because they’re so excellent. So we’ve never really had a problem with that. It’s usually about sizing. Like, “Oh, I bought a gift for someone. It’s the wrong size.” “No problem.” Hassle-free.
“Here you go.”
Yep. There you go. We want you to come in the store, experience all the beautiful products, and enjoy being in the store and have a relaxed shopping experience. When you come up to the counter we want to give you another experience by wrapping the things you buy, making the bag beautiful, and people leave with a wonderful smile. And then when you get home you unwrap it like it’s a gift. And if you’re buying it for someone we will wrap it so you can just straight give it to them. And we want you to continually have that experience. And when you go somewhere else, you’ll realize, “I didn’t have that experience when I went to that other store. I only get it at Palette.” It’s like, yes. We want you to have a– I can’t even say the word [laughter]. I was on a roll, Jan. I was on a roll. But we want– we just want you to have an experience that you’re just not going to have anywhere else. And we want other stores to start upping their game because for so long we– African-American people, we’ll go in stores, and we won’t be treated well. We’ll be followed around. Stores that– like hair stores. If it wasn’t for our community, they wouldn’t exist, and for years and years and years you’d go in, and you didn’t get good customer service, but you needed the product, and they have control over distribution. They have control over the franchise. And so you’re stuck buying it from whoever provides it for you, and they don’t have to treat you well. Well, I’m just saying, “Guess what? Everybody’s money is green. They deserve good treatment.”
It’s like, you make the choice of where you want to spend your dollar and choose to spend your dollar with someone that will treat you well, and that actually matters, and that will go back into the community that you want it to go back into, and that’s what we provide for people at Palette.
Absolutely. And also providing products that you can’t find in other places.
Yes, you definitely can’t. Because the local makers, most of them still work full-time jobs, and they have families, and the only way they can get away from working that full-time job and really focus on their business is they have to grow it, and they have to grow it online, and they have to grow it in stores. They have to grow it in more locations. They have to get to a place where they’re in distribution, and they can actually have their products made and shipped, and that threshold is huge for small batch makers. It’s almost impossible for a lot of them because it takes a lot of capital. And that’s why we need more investment in this area not just in technology, but also in products. And there’s a lot of good products out there. And we can’t survive without [our products?] [laughter]. Everywhere you go there’s grocery stores full of it. And so I think it’s a good investment for people to make. There’s a lot of people that want to put their money toward something really great. And if you look in Palette, you’ll find a lot of really great products that need investors and that are excellent, excellent products.
Right. And you can do it. You can just go. If you’re in Portland, it’s at Lloyd Center.
Yes. Lloyd Center, on the second floor, next to the Gap. And it’s a beautiful store with great huge windows and it says, “Palette at Lloyd’s.” So every Palette store will have a location identifier. So when you hear about Palette, you will know where it’s located at. Yeah.
That’s awesome. So what is next for you?
So next is, we will be working on– I always say we as if I have this small army behind me [laughter].
I was going to say [crosstalk]. I mean you do have the army of makers, but yeah, you’re right. I’m like–
Where’s the we [laughter]?
I think it’s kind of– I always say we is me, myself, and I.
Okay. Honestly, I don’t do everything by myself. Jasmine, she’s our content manager. All the stuff you see on social media, she creates them, and people are always compliment me. So I’m like, “What did we post?” That’s Jasmine it’s not me. So I really don’t do everything. I outsource things that I’m just not good at. I know I have to because I just don’t have the time, things that eat up my time I have to outsource. I just have to.
Yeah, me too. Me too. We all have– and that’s about being aware about our blind spots, right.
When I saw your consignment stuff, and it was crazy, now I understand why you’re completely unfazed by that because [of your?] accounting background, but when I saw how you split all of the money and all of that, I was like, “Whoa. I mean, that is some high end stuff,” right. But that seems to be more in your wheelhouse than social media, right.
So you have somebody else doing the parts, and that is so important. I’m assuming you teach people all about that.
You don’t have to do it all. Don’t be the chief of everything.
Well, the most important part of running a store where you have consignment splits is finding the best software to do it [laughter]. So my software does it for me but it’s not perfect. And so I’m always looking for something that works better. So I’ve been with the same company since I opened my first store. And fixing all the little problems sometimes is a little daunting. But now we’re in a good space. We’re really in a good space. But sometimes we have to do a lot of adjustments, and go back, and you have to check accounts on sustenance, it’s not perfect, but guess what, I don’t have to manually do anything [laughter].
Which is great.
Yes. And then everyone has visibility of their own accounts, their own inventory. They know when they need to restock. So that’s the best part, is that it’s very transparent, and people have a little more control. And as an entrepreneur you should want that control. You should always want to know where your inventory account is, and what your sales are, and how much money is on the table.
Well. I mean getting back to the big goals. I mean you want to take this right?
Yes. So our next phase is to go eCommerce, and we want– there’s that word again. We want a national platform. So I was thinking about just doing something local for the local makers, and then I decided why are we thinking so small? We need to thik big. People are coming from all over the country and wanting stores like this everywhere, so let’s go on the internet and create a eCommerce store for makers of color. So that is our next goal, and so I’m going to spend the next year fundraising for that because I keep telling people it’s go big or go home, and I’m going to go big. If it’s going to represent communities of color, it’s going to be an amazing site. It’s not going to be anything chintzy, it’s going to beautiful, it’s going to be easy to navigate, and you’re going to be able to support the communities that you want to support.
Are you going to get off that Wix website? Is that what you’re telling me.
Stop it. Yes [laughter].
Yes, we working on that, so we’re going to do– we’re going to do a small website in Squarespace and really highlight the makers. And then the ecommerce will be– it’ll come later and it’ll be something different, but this website, our current one, will just be for Palette at Lloyd. And that horrible Wix one– I did that site myself, so that’s–
Hey. Like I told you, it’s a great starter website. I’very efficient just got to tease you. I’m about scaling to ecommerce. Wix is completely off the table.
You know that, but I had to tease you to give you a little jab. I was looking for your bio for the podcast and I was like, “Hey. She’s still got this Wix website. What’s going on here?”
Well, because I’m working with a contractor and because I was a single mom, my son’s 21 now, and it is the high time for graduation and traveling and all those things. And it’s like when I have free time, it’s her family time, and I totally respect that. I get it. I was there. So I was like no, family first. We’re going to get to this when you get your family stuff done. So you’re a contractor. You conrtol your time. And I don’t want her to feel like she’s going to lose a customer because she has to take her child shopping for graduation. Yeah.
Right. Well, and people like you and me who think big, we’re never caught up with our dreams.
We’re always just going to the next thing, so it’s like do the website, I’m going to work on this other stuff.
Yes. I got 20 other things I could be working on until we get back to this. For a company culture, what I want to create when I become a real corporation is the first thing I want to do is implement a 32 hour work week so you have 8 hours a week that you can choose to work or not to work. You have to be at work for 32 hours, and the other 8 are I have to pick my kids up by 3. I have a doctor appointment. Do you know how hard it is in a large company to get time off to go to the doctor? Why? Why?
It’s like you have to take care of yourself. And if you don’t have an opportunity to do that, and it stresses you out, it doesn’t make you healthier, it makes you sicker. So people who have children, I want them to be able to be there when their kids get out of school. If you have to take your kids kids to school in the morning, at certain ages. Daycare is expensive. It’s a huge cost for your family. So I want there to be a flex time that people can use without having to beg for it. Without having to, “Please, can we get that time off.” We don’t have to have a 40-hour work week. Most people work better with shorter hours than they do with longer hours. You start to disengage and disconnect after so many hours. So you’re just paying people to kind of sit there.
Well, that’s why I think it’s so critical for business owners like you and me who’ve been there to be the ones leading the world [laughter], because we know how crappy it is to work in these situations where they don’t care about your family. They don’t care about your health. They just want you to get the work done no matter how long it takes. And it’s because they don’t have any perspective anymore. Or maybe they’ve never had things happened that are avoidable. But you work for a jerk, and they don’t consider the whole person.
Yes. I’ve worked for a few people that were not the most lovely people [laughter] on the planet. One time, I had a manager who– she kept all the female employees late and let all the male employees go home. And every single one of us had a child to pick up from daycare. And I was like, “Does that make this–” And every single male employee wanted to stay late because I know they have a mortgage to pay, I know their wives are probably picking up their kids so they can stay late. But if I get to my daycare late, I get charged extra money. So [laughter] I don’t want the extra time. I want to go get my kid. I want to go spend time with my child.
Right. See, and I don’t have kids. And they would push people like me to work much longer, because they felt like we could. And I’m like, “I still have a family. It’s not– I don’t have a child, but I have a husband and things I want to do and a life.” So yeah, it’s about–
Balance. It really is.
–balance and equity and treating all the people the same that you have. And not treating some people better than others or giving the men raises because they have a family and wife and blablabla. And then not giving it to the women because they’re the wife. Because that happens, too. That’s the problem, too.
And sometimes, the wife is the breadwinner [laughter].
Yes. Really? What?
What? What a concept!
Okay. So you want to just show off for a minute, tell people how to reach you and all of the places [laughter]? Because you’ve got to brag on yourself a little bit. You haven’t done enough of it. So how do we find you? How do we reach out to you?
You can never find me because I’m too busy. No, I’m just kidding.
You’re on social media. Jasmine is taking care of it, but–
So our social media, we’re on at [Pallet Stores?] on Instagram, Facebook, and our website. You can easily find me in the store at least four days a week. I like to work our busiest days, because I get to actually see more customers, more entrepreneurs. I just get to have a lot of fun. And that won’t always be the case, so usually Friday and Saturday [laughter] I’m in the store. Sunday, I’m not. It doesn’t mean I have the day off. I’m just working another business somewhere else. Let’s see. Most people already have my cell phone number. And I have to stop giving it [laughter]. I can’t stop giving it out yes, I do but if you want to email me, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and it’ll be that way till I finally change it. The Palette 42 was the first store that I had.
Yeah because of 42nd Avenue, right?
Yes. Yep. On 42nd Avenue. Yay. And just in case you don’t know, palette– the whole meaning of palette is that it represents color and makers and creativity and originality. It’s all about that whole color scheme and just beauty. So that’s why we chose palette. And I wanted something the represented the whole and not just the one. Because that’s what we are. We’re a collective of a lot of different cultures that are just beautiful, and I hope that moving forward as a country, we start embracing culture more and not less. And people be more accepting of culture and what our culture’s about and actually want to learn about other people’s cultures and respect other people’s cultures. And really embrace them and embrace their differences. Because that’s what really makes people interesting. Not everybody walking down the street looking the same, but.
I agree. Yeah. That’s the reason, I think, a lot of retail is dying, is because it became so whitewashed and the same thing over and over and over again. And unfortunately, now we are living in this time where there seems to be a lot of people who are trying to force that on us. And we’re having all kinds of things in the political realm and in other places that are causing danger and harm to people who can’t be whitewashed because they look different and they come from another culture. And my hope is that we’ll shift out of that.
Yes. Because there’s not a day that I don’t step out of the house and I can’t be an African-American woman, a black woman. I’m that person every single day and I carry it with pride. And I think everyone should carry their ethnicity with pride. And sometimes I hear people like, “Oh, well, you know, I’m white-passing.” I’m like what does that mean? Is that a compliment? I don’t understand why people say that. It still confuses me–
I’ve never heard that term before.
I’ve heard it a few times and it’s just the same– I feel the same way about that as when people say, “I don’t see color.” It’s like you don’t see me if you don’t see color. You just made me invisible. So please know that I am a person of color and love me the way I am and not the way you think I should be, so. Don’t think telling me that I act white is a compliment [laughter]. No, no. You grow up and you learn how to act accordingly and pleasant and every person in your family is taught manners and home training and it has nothing to do with race [laughter]. It’s the way your parents want to raise you. Okay.
Yeah. The people who say they don’t see color– I always feel like they’re the same people who are like, “Don’t be that angry black woman at me.”
Right? Because that’s a thing.
Yes. It’s a thing but they confuse our passion with anger because they’re more intimidated when we are passionate about something because we want to be heard. We are tired of being looked over. We want our intelligence to be recognized and we want to know our we want you to know that we got this [laughter]. We’re capable. We’re completely capable, and sometimes we have to be very passionate to get our message across, and it is not anger. It is passion because we love what we do, and we’ve worked hard to get to where we’re at. We’ve worked extra hard. I was like, “I don’t know how many people can walk in my shoes,” but I bet half the people I know– or maybe not I know, but half the people, if they spent a day in it, they’d be like, “I’m going to check out right now [laughter].” Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’ve had some experience. I’ve been through a lot, but I just have this mechanism in my DNA that just doesn’t allow me to quit, and fortunately, I have that. And I believe that straight comes from my family line. My grandfather was very entrepreneurial. He was self-sufficient. He would work over here to supply over here and I’m like, “That’s brilliant.” And I’m so proud to come from that family line. Yeah. Yeah. And I have my grandmother’s skin. I love it [laughter].
Well, and you’re doing it, and I think that you raise the community not only by supporting makers but by being a leader too, and I appreciate that.
Thank you. And the best leaders are the ones who learn how to follow first and learn how to support and make sure they’re equipped with the right skills because the path that I’m on, I didn’t wake up here. I had to work to get here. I had to go back to school and get educated. I had to work a lot of different jobs. I had to purposefully place myself in places where I could learn and I could grow, and I have always had mentors in my life. That’s one of the most important things. My first mentor was just a businesswoman, and I would go to her house and we’d sit and talk, and she really taught me a lot about customer service. And having a business mentor is huge, someone who is accomplished, but if you are at the beginning stages, don’t get someone who’s overly accomplished. Get someone at your level that can get you to the next level, so.
Yeah, just a little bit ahead of you.
Yes. Yes, that’ll help take off the training wheels and get started and make sure [laughter] you have a good support system. Not everybody has that. You might have to go find a group for that and realize that business, you have to always be able to pivot. That first idea you have may not be the one, just like [laughter] when I opened my first boutique, I had to rebrand it because it was not the one [laughter]. And I recognized it right away and luckily for me that I did. And it wasn’t about my ego. It was about doing what was right and what was best for the community. It wasn’t about what’s best for Bobby because the pallet, it’s a movement that’s much bigger than me, and it takes much more than just myself to get it moving. So it really is not just about one person. It’s about a community. Yeah.
Oh, thank you. You’re amazing [laughter].
Thank you so much for being on the show.
Absolutely. Thank you for inviting me, Jen. Women conquer business. I love it [laughter].
Hey ladies, I know you’re working so hard to grow your business, a business that aligns with your vision, and your values, a business that supports your lifestyle. And I know it’s been a bumpy ride sometimes. I see it all the time, women overspending on shiny objects and magic pills because they’re tired of not seeing results, business decisions based on short-term gains without a critical eye toward the future. Most heartbreaking of all, women who walk away because it’s just too damn hard. The good news is you’re not alone. You have support all around you. If you’re ready to take joyful action on your biggest business goals, if you need strategy, accountability, and a path to get you exactly where you want to go, let me know because I’m here to support you as a consultant and strategist. You can fill out a quick application to work together at JenMcFarland.com/ready. I’ve opened up just a few spots over the next couple of months for clients who are ready to make a move. It just takes a few minutes at JenMcFarland.com/ready. [music]
Jen McFarland ditched her comfy C-suite tech project management job in pursuit of freedom. Jen’s goal is to help business leaders like you vet ideas, take ownership of their projects, and incorporate digital marketing from day one.
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