Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.
Karen Wilson: Welcome to the BLC Connection Podcast. I am Karen Wilson, your host for today. These small business episodes will focus on local businesses that excel in particular parts of customer care. Today’s guest is Vickie Benedict with Linen and Grace to discuss how she changed her business based upon her customers and what that experience was like. Welcome to the podcast, Vickie.
Vickie Benedict: Thank you for having me.
Karen Wilson: You’ve got a great little shop downtown. I have to say, I like to frequent there a lot myself.
Vickie Benedict: Good, I’m glad.
Karen Wilson: Yeah, so let’s start, I guess with your acquisition of the downtown business, which originally when you bought it was The Weathered Arrow. What made you decide to jump into the ring of being a small business owner?
Vickie Benedict: So the job that I had worked at, I was there about seven years. It was very demanding, very stressful. And the older I get, the more I realize the toll stress can take on your body. So I just felt like it wasn’t a good fit for me any longer. So and about the same time, my youngest child had left home for college, and so I was an empty nester. And to be honest, that was kind of hard on me. So I just tried to find something to do to keep me busy. There was a store downtown, The Weathered Arrow, and a friend of mine owned the store, and she had it set up where vendors could come in and display their stuff. So she had a lot of different vendors. Well, I was a vendor at one time, briefly, and then the store owner, she had so much on her plate. She really couldn’t give the store the attention she needed. So one day she made a joke about selling it. And so I jokingly said back to her, “Well, if you ever decide to, keep me in mind.” I never thought anything would come from it. And about a month later, she messaged me on Facebook and said that she had prayed about it. She talked to her husband about it, and she was ready to sell. And that I was the only person she really had peace about as far as buying it. So it kind of fell in my lap. I say that, but I know that the Lord knew I needed something to keep me busy. So He gave me that store, and I’ve went in wide open. I haven’t looked back, and it’s been wonderful.
Karen Wilson: Yeah, well, it is an awesome place. You continued, I guess, with that business model of kind of vendor home good type thing for a while, but that changed. Was your change kind of gradual, or did something kind of like a lightning bolt hit you and you thought, “Hmm, I’m ready to for a change in the store, change my business plan.”
Vickie Benedict: So at first I knew I wanted to do something different. Not that I didn’t like the whole vendor outfit, but I really wanted to make it my own and make it more personal. So I knew that I wanted to do something different. I just didn’t know quite what. So I just, I prayed about it a lot, and I started listening to my customers. And I started asking them questions like, “What would you like to see in here?” And over and over and over it was ladies apparel. More clothes, get more clothes, get more clothes. So I did it little by little. I didn’t do it all at once because I didn’t want to shock, you know — The Weathered Arrow had a good customer base. And so I didn’t want to do something that I was afraid the customers would not like because they loved that little store.
Karen Wilson: Yeah. I mean, if you go into a store expecting to purchase a picture frame or get a wedding gift or something, it’s disappointing, I guess if you go in there just overnight, and it’s totally different.
Vickie Benedict: Yes, for sure. So it took a while. I slowly did it probably over a year. I know the customers could see little changes taking place, but I didn’t really tell them what I was doing. I just kept trying to get more clothes. And so I think it was actually June of last year when I officially changed the name and rebranded and had a big rebrand celebration. And it has been amazing. So I really feel like it was the right thing to do because it’s been great, to say the least.
Karen Wilson: Well, it’s wonderful to hear that the community has been so supportive. Was it kind of scary thinking about changing your brand? Or what did you do, I guess if someone’s considering that, what all did you do when you rebranded?
Vickie Benedict: It’s so scary. It was so scary. Like I had a girl that was helping me at the time, Kenzi. And she’s young, and she’s wonderful and fabulous. And I feel like if it wasn’t for her, I might not have done it. She just really kept pushing me because I was so scared that the community wouldn’t welcome it. Because they loved The Weathered Arrow so much. So I was like, “Oh my gosh.” But I just finally decided I have to do this because as I branded, as I rebranded, the name really didn’t fit the store anymore. It wasn’t The Weathered Arrow anymore. People would come in asking for antiques because that was usually what you know.
Karen Wilson: Yeah. When you think of “weathered” you think of maybe something old or, you know, roughed up.
Vickie Benedict: And there was a lot of stuff like that in there when I bought the store because she had vendors. So yeah, I just I changed it completely, and it was scary. It was scary. But we just finally decided we just picked a date. I said, Kenzi, we’re just going to pick a date, and we’re just going to do it on this date, and we’re not going to look back. And that’s kind of what we did. And when we had the grand rebrand celebration, nobody knew that day, even what we were doing. I just told them I had a big surprise. So it was when they actually came to the event that they saw the new signage and the new store, and that’s when we unveiled it, and it was great.
Karen Wilson: Yeah. So you had a great event, lots of festivities going on. I’m sure they walked in to like, “Wow, this is awesome.” New bags, new brand, I guess on your Facebook page, social media, all of those kinds of things.
Vickie Benedict: Yeah, everything. You don’t realize until you do something like that what all that entails. But there was so much that had to change. And we worked into the wee night of the hours trying to get everything ready for the next morning. But it just worked out beautifully.
Karen Wilson: Okay. Well, thank you, Vickie. We’re going to take a short break, but stay with us. More tips to come on changing your business plan. And after this, the BLC marketing minute.
Karen Wilson: As a small business, advertising budgets are usually limited, so social media makes a lot of sense as a means of messaging your customers. Let’s talk about ways to make your post engaging and worthy of sharing. Number one, post at least once a day and make the posts the best possible. If you are in retail, make sure your photos are well lit. The price of lights has come down tremendously, and it is well worth it to purchase them. If you don’t have a light, utilize filters for your photos, many of which are free. This creates a look that makes your products appealing and helps develop your brand’s look. Remember, filters aren’t just for people. Number two, if you post one particular item, take the time to give a description. Think like the customer, and ask yourself what you would want to know if you were purchasing the item online. This may include dimensions and price. If you don’t have time to measure, place a familiar object beside the item to show the scale. And then there’s the price. The number one comment I see on most posts is about the price. If they like what they see and the price is right, they will come in and they may even buy something else they see. You can’t over-communicate when it comes to post and utilize free social media as one of your business tools. I’m Karen Wilson with Ben Lomand Connect, and this is your marketing minute.
Karen Wilson: We are back with Vickie Benedict, owner of Linen and Grace Boutique in downtown McMinnville, Tennessee. Vickie, let’s pick back up with advice you would give to other small businesses that might be considering changing their original business model. You said you prayed a lot. Are there other, do you do a lot of number crunching and things like that?
Vickie Benedict: Yeah, I believe that just comes along with any decision like that. I would say do your homework. Because, you know, get your customers involved. Make sure that that is something that they’re looking for as well. And then, you know, I had a boss tell me once, if you’re going to be a good leader, you got to learn to follow. And so I really thought about that. And I just followed my customers and everything they asked for, I tried to give them. You know, and when we rebranded, so it’s scary. It sure is. But, you know, I knew in my heart it was time. And I feel like if that’s something that another small business is considering, I would just go for it. I really would.
Karen Wilson: Well, you you decided to rebrand at a good time. The downtown McMinnville area is flourishing. Lots of, I guess, gaps in places to purchase clothing and things at with the closing of some of our mall businesses and things of that nature. So there was a real need out there. Not everybody likes to go out of town. Sometimes it’s fun, but most people want to just be able to pop over on their lunch hour.
Vickie Benedict: They really do. And I’m telling you, I am blown away at how much McMinnville has supported Linen and Grace. The community is amazing. I mean, at every open house I have, I feel like, okay, this one can’t be beat because it’s so good. And then the next one I have, beats it. So, I mean, I feel like I must be doing something right. But I mean, at the same time, the customers have made it what it is. And I’m so grateful.
Karen Wilson: So social media has completely changed the face of advertising. How have you used social media, and what plans do you have in 2022 to grow your presence?
Vickie Benedict: So social media is, I mean, it’s a game changer. I use Facebook every day, like you mentioned earlier on tips. You know, you have to be consistent with your posting, and what you post has to be appealing. And I do use it a lot. I use Facebook. I use Instagram. One thing that I’ve — my goal for this year is to do more Facebook Lives. Well, I guess I should say to start doing Facebook Lives. I do videos now and post them, but I really want to do Facebook Lives and be on a consistent schedule where everybody knows Linen and Grace is going to go live Tuesday nights at 7:00 or something like that. But that’s my goal for this year.
Karen Wilson: That’s a big undertaking, I would think. You got to have your stock there, probably have somebody looking at social media to see how many you’ve sold, and then that way you can say, “Hey, I’m out of this size.” It’s probably a lot to keep up with.
Vickie Benedict: Yeah, that’s been the one reason it’s been on the back burner is because it really takes more than one person. You need help and help is hard to find. So but I’ve been wanting to do it for a while, and as soon as I can find, you know, another body or two that would be willing to help me out, I’m ready to go.
Karen Wilson: Yeah, well, that sounds fun. I would look forward to those. Although, as I spoke about not long ago, I’m trying to do a low buy, no buy year. And your last spring open house totally blew that. I don’t know, with Linen and Grace in town, I may not stay on track very well.
Vickie Benedict: Oh, no.
Karen Wilson: So Linen and Grace really thrived through the global pandemic. We’ve had supply chain shortages. What is your secret for working through those challenges?
Vickie Benedict: So a lot of the things that I did during the pandemic, which I just echoed, you know, some other businesses. I tried to do local pickup, car side pickup. I would bring their order out to the car if they didn’t want to get out. It really has, it really has changed. And, you know, the pandemic made it hard on a lot of small businesses, really hard. But I did take that opportunity to launch my website, and that was a game changer. You know, it really was. And that’s something that I had been wanting to do, just put it off for a couple of years because that’s a big deal. It’s like opening a whole new store. So I took that opportunity to build my website and launch it and I think that’s probably what saved us.
Karen Wilson: Well, I think websites are still such a vital thing for businesses to utilize. Some businesses choose to utilize Facebook for their website, but I don’t love that. I want to go in and see your things, and I don’t want to have to go down an entire chain of discussions and things like that to see things posted. So I think websites are still great.
Vickie Benedict: Yeah. And, you know, a lot of people still like to just go shop. They want to feel the clothes, and I’m that person too. And today with all the different vendors you have, sizes run different, so you really don’t know what you are, what size you wear without trying it on. So I hear that a lot. A lot of people still like to get out and go shopping.
Karen Wilson: Now, have you been affected by supply chain issues? Are there problems that you’ve had getting things in?
Vickie Benedict: You know, not really. I have been so fortunate, and I have been asked that question so many times, but I’ve really not had an issue that’s affected me at all. And I’m I’m not sure why, because so many people did. But I didn’t, and I’m thankful for that.
Karen Wilson: Yeah, that can slow things down. People still want that product in the store, regardless of whether it’s a clothing store or something else. Well, thank you, Vickie, for being our guest on this business special of the BLC Connection Podcast.
Vickie Benedict: You’re so welcome. I enjoyed it.
Karen Wilson: Yeah, we learned lots of good things, lots of good tips for the small businesses. If you’re deciding or thinking about changing your business plan, give Vickie a call. She’s an excellent resource for doing that, and I will invite our listeners to tune in for future episodes and share this content with other businesses. Until next time, this is your BLC Connection.