Is it fair to say that 2013 is the year of the woman entrepreneur because I’ve met many women that are hoping to either start their own business or are already small business owners. This week just so happens to be “Small Business Owner Appreciation Week,” so, it’s only right that our “July Ambitious Woman of the Month” actually be a small business owner. Owning a business is no walk in the park and it requires a lot of strategic planning. Business owners have to be aware of market trends, location and are also responsible for hand picking employees to help with the success of their business ( to name a few responsibilities). Our July” Ambitious Woman of the Month” is a young woman entrepreneur who found her calling after working several jobs and realizing just recently where her passion lies. Although very busy as a young entrepreneur would be, she was able to squeeze our interview in during her hair appointment at a salon just across the way from her place of business and just before her next business errand that she had to run that day.
Meet Carla Cotton, 26-year-old CEO of the Spoiled Forever brand and owner of a store that she refers to as “strategically located” for her customer base. Not only are customers able to shop online at Spoiledforever.com but they’re also able to come in and shop, be styled or simply receive personal style consultations at her Woodward and Highland Park location.
“People ask me all the time ‘why is your store located in Highland Park?’ and one lady even complained about it being in an unsafe area,” Cotton says, “But it’s smart to have my business on Woodward because who doesn’t drive down Woodward?”
Cotton proudly shares that she’s from Highland Park (born and raised) and it was only right to open her first shop in her hometown.
“Whether you’re heading downtown or towards 8 mile (if you take Woodward) you’re going to have to pass through Highland Park,” Cotton says.
Not in the original plans
Originally, Cotton studied marketing in college with hopes of going into pharmaceutical sales.
“When you’re doing other things outside of what you’re studying, you realize what you’re good at,” Cotton says.
“After working at Charlotte Russe, Gadzooks and Forever 21, I realized that styling people is something that I really enjoy.”
Cotton began selling her own jewelry in the fitting rooms of one of her retail jobs, and that led to selling clothes out of her dorm room and her car in between classes and work.
“I played my cards as they were dealt,” she says.
After building her clientele through jewelry sales, she started selling purses and clothes at the request of her customers.
“The room that we’re in right now is where I opened my first shop and I was only 21,” Cotton says in regards to what is now a beauty salon.
She started bartending, while working at Sprint and going to school full-time, however, due to her busy schedule she was forced to close the shop and to stop selling clothes altogether.
Second time’s the charm
“Two years ago I discovered the Brazilian Jeans,” Cotton reveals.
“I started out ordering them for myself but pretty soon I was ordering them in bulk and selling them to my close friends and their co-workers.”
She was still working at Sprint but once again selling clothes out of the trunk of her car.
The demand for the Brazilian Jeans grew and I thought ‘ok this is really what I enjoy doing so maybe I should jump back into this full-throttle,’” Cotton says.
“I started ordering more clothes and eventually quit my job and started selling clothes full-time.”
Cotton says there came a time where she realized she was miserable working a regular job and that was the moment that she knew she had to take another chance.
“The website launched in October and the physical store opened up around February.”
She says the biggest reward is working for yourself.
“Even if I would have went into pharmaceutical sales I still would have been working for someone else.”
Things are different this time around especially because Cotton has help running the store.
With helping hands
Eleicesia Goodson, manager of the Spoiled Forever store says she’s only been managing the store for about a few weeks but she’s been present throughout the entire process of Cotton trying to get her business of the ground.
“This time I’m here to help her because I’m at the point in my life where I can do that,” Goodson says.
Goodson says her personal relationship with Cotton makes it easier to work with her.
“Carla is a brat but I know how to deal with her,” Goodson says.
“When you’ve been friends for so long you learn not to take things personal so when mood swings happen, you know to let them be.”
Goodson and Cotton have been friends since 2006 and she says this opportunity came to her at the right time.
She’s(Goodson) worked in retail before and though she enjoyed it she says she needed something with a bit more flexibility but with a set schedule attached to it.
“I wanted to be a part of a store and I love fashion but I didn’t want the full responsibility of having my name on it,” Goodson says.
“I’m helping her fulfill her dreams and she’s fulfilling mine.”
Goodson says she likes that she can come and go as she pleases but she also has a say so in how the business is ran.
What happens from here?
When I asked both women about their hopes for the Spoiled Forever brand they’re visions were similar and complimentary in nature.
“I want her (Carla) to open up a chain of stores and I act as her district manager,” Goodson says.
“I want to continue working in sales and eventually help her hire new people but ‘do I want the responsibility of owning a company?’ No.”
“In five years, I hope to see Spoiled Forever as a household name and I want to us to be in another city as well,” Cotton says.
“I definitely want to expand.”
She(Cotton) says she wants people to know Spoiled Forever as a store that offers great customer service and as a store where you don’t have to spend a million dollars to feel like a celebrity.
“At Spoiled Forever you can get styled and receive personal consultations from your very own personal shopper,” Cotton says.
Spoiled Forever offers 2 for $10 tights, pants for $25 and dresses that cost up to $110.
“It’s like everyday shopping mixed with boutique shopping,” Cotton says.
However, she admits that she hopes to set the store apart from the typical store and boutique.
“I don’t refer to Spoiled Forever as Spoiled Forever Boutique… just ‘Spoiled Forever’ because it’s a brand, not a boutique,” Cotton says.
“I like to think it’s somewhere in the middle.”
Cotton shares how those close to her are starting to take same route when it comes to their business aspirations.
“My sister now sells virgin hair and mom sells vintage items on eBay…it’s like a bug and it’s rubbed off on them.”
Cotton refers to her mom as an eBay freak and says she’s ready to quit her job and just sell on eBay.
“She’s at the point where that’s her money that she does everything else with. She doesn’t really use her money from work,” Cotton says.
“I think people are starting to see that it’s worth it to just go out and do your own thing.”
Cotton also works with her sister to help sell the virgin hair through promotion via the Spoiled Forever website and Instagram.
Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs
“Don’t be scared. It’s natural to obsess over ‘what am I going to do about this or what am I going to do about that?’ but once you get out on your own and hustle for yourself it’s going to come as easy as it would with a regular job,” Cotton says.
“I always say profits are better than wages and you’re hustling whether you’re getting up at eight in the morning for a job or working for yourself.”
Cotton encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to apply the same work ethic to their business as they would to a regular job.
“I was scared too, I cried but with time I learned that it’s OK and I’ve been networking with so many other people that are in the same position so it makes things easier.”
It’s in black and white and plain for you to see– Stay Ambitious, Stay Motivated!
She did that.