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Small Business Spotlight, Women in Business

Small Business Owner Interview: Kelly and Kyle Taylor, Chrome Yellow

From the beginning, Kelly and Kyle Taylor had a clear vision for Chrome Yellow Trading Co. – to design a space that drew people in, welcoming them and evoking a calm, easy inspiration among a wide mix of clientele. They brought that vision to life when they opened their doors in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood in August 2015.

Named after an Aldous Huxley novel, Chrome Yellow Trading Co. is a funky, upscale combination of a coffee house and retail clothing store – the front of the house serves Stumptown Coffee and numerous incarnations of specialty offerings, while the back half of the space offers high-quality men’s and women’s clothing. We sat down with Kelly to learn more about her company and what they’ve learned during these early years in business.

Small Business Owner Interview: Chrome Yellow

“Learn your strengths and weaknesses and build your team accordingly. My husband and I divide and conquer in a lot of ways, and then we hire others who have strengths and skills that we don’t.”  – Kelly Taylor

What was your inspiration for Chrome Yellow Trading Co.?

“Part of our vision is to help support other entrepreneurs in the area. Our name is based on the novel “Crome Yellow,” which is about a place where artistic types gathered and shared ideas. That was our idea for Chrome – create an inspiring space, and draw people together.

We wanted to create a calm, simple and uncluttered vibe – the right music mix, the right lighting, we want things to be clean and esthetically-pleasing.”

Kelly had experience as a partner in a vintage clothing business before starting Chrome Yellow, and Kelly and Kyle both had a restaurant background. “When we met, we were both entrepreneurial-minded, and we’ve always wanted to start a business,” Kelly said. “The coffee idea came into the picture because retail is usually a slower-paced business and both of us missed the restaurant bar pace; we really like the camaraderie and getting people together, so we decided to create this place where people can gather and be inspired.”

How did you decide on the location of your store?

Kelly said before choosing their current location, they tested out a few different areas with pop-up operations.

“The pop-ups helped us get going and to make the move. First, while we were waiting for a permanent space, we had a chance to pop-up at a short-term location for about three months; a lot of places require three- to five-year leases, so it was a great opportunity. But, we learned very quickly that the location wasn’t right for us.”

They launched a holiday pop-up a few months later, and then another down the street from their current storefront location. “The pop-up concept really helped us learn where our clients are coming from, and it allowed us to sharpen our vision.”

You also sell clothing and gift items online – how much business do you do online versus in-store?

“Sales are mostly from our brick-and-mortar location. We like having the online store to show the type of products that we offer, but it has not been our main focus for sales. When we spend time on it posting new products, running sales, etc., it always does better. I think that will be one of the next phases for us, to look at how to increase traffic and sales online even more.

We like to keep it very simple so that one of us or an employee can easily move things around and/or post new items. We started very minimally with the site and really haven’t changed much there. Simple systems are great to start with while you’re finding a routine that you can stick with. Consistency is such a big part of keeping things running smoothly.”

Share some lessons you’ve learned from running your vintage clothing store that you applied to Chrome Yellow.

“At the vintage shop, we were mostly a resale business, so customers were bringing the clothes to us. I learned a lot about tracking sales and looking at margins on products, which is very important to running a successful business.

That was also my first business partnership, which was a very educational experience. Partners can be amazing to help you accomplish goals in business, but they are also like any relationship where people can change or get emotional or be sensitive, so it takes a lot of communicating and compromise to keep a partnership balanced and successful. There are more contracts and requirements with a partnership, which are beneficial in many ways to keep you accountable.

What are the top two recommendations you have for businesses just starting out, based on your experiences?

  1. Don’t shy away from hiring consultants or professionals. 

“Find a great commercial broker, a mentor or a friend who has been successful in a business to really help you analyze the potential numbers for your business. Be harsh and expect the worst for what your sales are going to be in the beginning. I’ve learned that, as hard as you try to predict real numbers, you just never really know until you’re there and it’s happening, but if you keep running the numbers over and over again, you should hopefully end up in the ball park or at least be scared enough to see that you need a good bit of a cushion in your account in case things don’t start out well.

You have to be realistic with how serious opening a business is. Don’t be afraid or too cheap to hire an attorney to help with starting a partnership or consulting on a lease. You have to protect yourself and your investment first and foremost, so definitely look toward consultants, attorneys and such when you find yourself in unknown territory.”

  1. Market yourself.

“The beautiful idea of “if we build it, they will come” is unfortunately not reality. Even if you’re in a visible spot and you make your storefront look really great, it takes a while for people to notice you or want to make an effort to stop by. You must be relentless in spreading the word, and once you find a method that sticks, really focus on making it better and better. For us, Instagram has been the best way to market ourselves, but I know others who like using email campaigns.”

In addition to social media and word-of-mouth, Kelly said hosting events has become important to their marketing efforts as a way to draw in customers who may not otherwise know they exist. “Events are huge – they bring in new people who like the experience, then they are hooked. We’ve had a vintage market, a ping pong tournament, a “meet the maker” event with a local denim maker and an event with Stumptown for a big coffee conference in town. It’s a great opportunity for people to have fun, too.”

What are some of the challenges you’re encountering as you scale your business?

“This can be a tough one if you’re like us and are used to doing everything on our own. But, when we opened the coffee shop, we absolutely had to have some help. The running list of opening a business can be so overwhelming – finalizing permits, licenses, creating systems to manage inventory and cash on hand. Getting the interior of the space just right with lighting, seating, painting, merchandising, etc. We just couldn’t do all of that while also making really pretty and delicious coffee drinks at the same time.

Hiring can be very challenging and you really have to take your time with it, even if you’re feeling desperate to get someone in place. “Slow to hire and quick to fire” is a quote I recently read and it’s a very good motto to go by. You have to round out the team and find balance to make sure at the end of the day everything is getting done for the business. Create a team of people who are passionate about what you’re doing, who can work together and be incredibly productive in making the business successful.”

 

Have you created a business that reflects your vision? Share your experiences with us on social media.

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Kabbage Team

Kabbage is here not only to provide access to the small business funding you need, but to also help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Is there something you'd like us to cover or want to get your small business featured on our blog? Send us a note at content@kabbage.com.