Mobile boutiques and other mobile businesses are becoming increasingly popular. It is a cost-efficient, trendy way to reach a large customer base. Think inside the box. Outfit used trucks, trailers or cargo boxes with all the necessary tools for successful mobile boutiques.
We were able to catch up with Oklahoma’s mobile boutiques expert, Heather Parsons. She shared her experience starting her mobile boutique, Cargo Room. Cargo Room is Oklahoma City’s premiere mobile boutique. While making its first street debut on July 18, 2014, this 84 square foot trailer is decked out with all the latest fashions. And yes, it even has a dressing room! While the space may be small, Heather’s imagination certainly is not.
In between her many events, Heather shared her story, tips, and highlights from her fascinating mobile boutique journey.
Mobile Boutiques Interview – The Inspiration
TNT: What inspired you to start a mobile boutique?
Heather: Fashion has always been something I have loved since I was a little girl. I obsessed over the perfect Barbie outfits and filled notebooks with doodles of various tops and dresses. As I grew older and headed off to college that passion and love stuck with me. I decided to study fashion at the University of Central Oklahoma.
During my time at college I was presented with an opportunity to study a semester in New York’s Fashion District; undoubtedly, I packed my bags and moved to New York. I was immediately smitten! After my semester was complete, I just could not shake New York; I returned the following summer for an internship, I wasn’t done learning about what the industry was like and what I had to offer.
When summer had ended I was back to Oklahoma to finish my degree, but luckily not without an offer to come back to New York for a job with a small fashion house. Once my degree was in hand I was on a flight back to New York for my first real fashion job! Working in one of the best fashion hubs in the world, I was able to gain a great deal of understanding of how to run a successful business within this fashion realm. That’s when I caught the entrepreneurial bug! I wanted to try my hand on starting something on my own using the knowledge and skills I had acquired over the years.
I evaluated my prospects and came to the conclusion that going back to Oklahoma to pursue my new venture would be a better fit for me; so, back to Oklahoma I came. I spent the next several months meeting other business owners, advisors, realtors, and writing a business plan, but at the time nothing seemed to click. Mentality and financially it just wasn’t ready. Instead, I decided to take some time, regroup, and go get my Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship.
Through that program I was offered a fantastic opportunity to spend 6 weeks in Cape Town, South Africa working with underprivileged business doing business consulting. I worked with and saw many small businesses that were using unconventional resources to build their businesses from. Their ingenuity prompted me to really think outside of the box and see business in a completely different manner.
Once I returned to the states I started researching how to convert shipping containers into a functioning retail space and that’s when I came across the article in the Washington Post that changed my life. The article featured stories of mobile boutiques on the different coasts. I knew immediately that mobile retail was exactly what I had been searching for. I quickly copied the link, emailed it to my parents and said this is it, this is what I am meant to do!
Costs & Requirements
TNT: About how much do you estimate you have saved and are saving by doing your business mobile?
Heather: One of the obstacles I could not get past when researching my original plans of opening a storefront was how much initial inventory I would have to purchase. There is a huge difference in buying inventory to stock an 84sq ft. trailer versus a 350sq ft. store. Beyond lowering my startup capital, I was also able to save a lot of money by doing the trailer buildout in house.
Although I am able to forgo traditional storefront expenses such as utility payments and rent, I do see a large sum of money monthly that goes towards event fees.
TNT: What did you find that you needed during the renovation process?
Heather: As mentioned above, we kept majority of the buildout in house. The only outsourced project was the buildout of the shelving unit and door frame. A family friend was willing to help bring my design to fruition.
At the time my parents and I all worked full time jobs, so we completed the remaining buildout process in the evening and weekends. This process took us over 6 months to fully complete; however, it was a complete labor of love. The fact that I can look at things and have funny stories behind each little design element is completely invaluable, such as how many times it took me to actually bend the bar for the fitting room. I think everyone had a great laugh watching this hilarious feat!
TNT: Was there anything that surprised you through the process?
Heather: During the process I was surprised how creative you have to get. This isn’t a traditional buildout so you have to really generate clever alternatives in order to make things work!
TNT: In your opinion what is the best part of having mobile boutiques vs retail space?
Heather: My favorite part of having a mobile business is the fact I get to constantly meet new people. I get to travel to new areas and visit unique festivals; I love getting to interact with so many people from all over.
TNT: If someone were just starting out kind of permits would they have to get to operate mobile boutiques?
Heather: Permitting varies for each city, county, and state. My advice is to contact the city prior to your scheduled event date. Inquire what permits are mandatory in their area in order to operate.
To Sum it Up
TNT: What would be the biggest tip/warning you would give to someone starting out in this business?
Heather: Mobile boutiques take a lot more than meets the eye. Be ready to work very hard and be okay with the fact most of your work will revolve around weekend/ holidays.
TNT: What is the most rewarding part of running a mobile boutique?
Heather: The most rewarding thing to me in running my business is helping someone pick out an outfit for a special occasion. I feel so honored that they trust me in helping prepare them for their special day.
We appreciate Heather taking the time out of her busy schedule to share her mobile boutique adventure with us.
Mobile Boutiques – Find The Cargo Room at various festivals and events around Oklahoma. Fnd out where the trailer will be. Visit the “Find the Trailer” tab on their website www.shopcargoroom.com. Follow Cargo Room on Instragm, @ShopCargoRoom, for up-to-date locations and inventory.