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Small Business Spotlight, Women in Business

Small Business Owner Interview: Tessa Sarvay, Otis & Omar Boutique

small business owner interview

Tessa Sarvay is the owner of Otis & Omar Boutique and two other online vintage clothing stores. Learn more about her journey in our small business owner interview below.

Small Business Owner Interview with Tessa Sarvay

Are you a Kabbage customer? How has Kabbage helped your business?

I am currently a Kabbage customer and have been since 2013. There are so many expenses to running a company and sometimes there are shortages. It helps to be able to get a small business loan when necessities run out or unforeseen costs arise. 

Can you offer specific examples of how you’ve used your business financing?

My laptop went out a few months ago and I financed a new one through Kabbage. It was one of those things that I’d limped along with for too long, using this bulky, virus-ridden thing. Technology is crucial for my company and having a laptop is important for our level of customer service. So, thanks!

Tell us a bit about your business.

I own three online vintage and upscale clothing stores all under the umbrella of Otis & Omar, LLC: Otis & Omar Boutique on eBay, Freak Show Vintage on eBay, and Otis & Omar Vintage on Etsy.

Freak Show Vintage is new and started when I separated the vintage from the modern items. You will find vintage items on all three sites, but no modern items on Freak Show or the Etsy site. 

How did you come up with your business idea?

I transferred from New River Community College to the University of Virginia as a grown-up big girl, wife and mama. Money was tight and I shopped at second-hand stores to save money. Two growing babies are expensive! Right away I was completely astounded by the high-quality items that people were donating to these second-hand stores. I thought, “Someone out there wants this stuff, and they’ll pay good money for it.” So I started picking up things when I went shopping, just one or two pieces to sell to make back the money spent.

I literally started with taking photos on an old ironing board. I don’t know how I sold anything, but eBay was a lot easier back then. It kind of snowballed from there. We moved into a larger house and I started buying racks. Then my husband lost his job, and I was already selling clothes online and making money from it, so I just decided to do it full-time instead of for fun. Later I started collecting vintage clothes, which is my real passion.

What resources were most invaluable to you when starting your business?

Being able to find quality pieces is important, but the biggest resource has been technology! None of this was possible 25 years ago. Good computers and online sales tools are crucial.

What are your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?

I struggle with time management. I’m lucky that I can work from the store and home, but I struggle with being able to lay it down and just be. My family is the MOST important thing in my life, but my business has kind of enveloped me as a person and I have a hard time separating myself from work. Everything I do, everywhere I go, the business is always there in the back of my mind.

From your perspective, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in entrepreneurial roles?

Negativity. You need to have a positive support system. It is so important to hold each other up and to encourage each other. I know this is difficult for some. I could not have done this without the positive support of my husband and friends. There are a lot of challenges and obstacles to running any business and the stress is sometimes difficult to manage. It’s important to cut out the negativity.

What would you say is the biggest thing that holds women back from taking the leap into entrepreneurship? What made you decide to take the leap?

Money. It takes money to build something from nothing. No matter what, you need time and money. I built my company piece by piece and I was lucky my husband was there to support the family infrastructure because he had a great job…until he didn’t. But by that time I was established enough to take off.

How did you let go of the things holding you back?

One thing about running a company is that it feeds you in a different way, especially if you have an entrepreneurial spirit. You learn to let things go, but you draw from new experiences. You change; there isn’t anything you can do about that.

Which of your accomplishments makes you the proudest?

Moving the business from my house to the “store” in 2011 was huge and crucial for growth.

It’s inspiring that I have sold vintage pieces to really big celebrities. It’s also a real honor to have costume and set designers buy pieces for a production. I love watching a movie and searching for the garments I’ve sold.

Watching my daughters set up little businesses makes me so proud! They know they can do it, and it’s part of their playtime. How awesome is that?

From where do you draw inspiration?

I love learning about anything new and it’s important to know your business. Knowing trends past and present, icons and iconic looks. I love going to museums. I love flipping through fashion magazines old and new. I love talking to other business owners and comparing notes. I love artists of any kind. It takes a lot of creativity to do this type of business and being around creative people is exciting.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in starting and running your own business?

It’s given me great confidence and self-assurance – I know now that I can do just about anything.

Check out Tessa Sarvay’s retail shops online: Otis & Omar Boutique on eBay, Freak Show Vintage on eBay, and Otis & Omar Vintage on Etsy.

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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.