Boss Lady is a series by Social Stylate that shares personal insights from creative women in business. Recently we spoke with Suzie Gaffney, founder of Suzie Gaffney Wardrobe Consulting. After the downturn of the economy, Suzie left her finance job and ended up discovering her true passion, launching her own fashion business.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am Suzie Gaffney, owner of Suzie Gaffney Wardrobe Consulting. It took me to my late 30s but I have created my dream job. I go into other people’s homes, specifically into their closets, and help them to make their wardrobe work for them and their lifestyle. Ideally I get to build a long-term relationship with a client where we start by auditing the inventory of their wardrobe, then we edit out what doesn’t work. Next I organize their closet. From that point we can shop your own closet and put together combinations from pieces that we know work. I can also put together a shopping list so you are shopping for what you need.
My clients have raged from 10 years old to 81 years young, male and female. Each one of them is unique and so my services are tailored to fit their needs specifically. I think everyone should have the opportunity to make their outside look match their personality on the inside. A great outfit does not have to cost a lot of money, you just need to feel good in it.
I am a big proponent of shopping local and shopping small. I grew up in this area and I am beyond excited about the all the great businesses here in Kennett Square. I live just outside the town with my husband, two kids and one very lazy beagle. I also have a weekly blog where I share stories and tips relating to your wardrobe.
What prompted you to start your wardrobe consulting business and where do you see your business in five years?
I grew up being interested in clothing but I didn’t consider myself to be a creative person. I graduated with a degree in Finance and worked in mutual funds for several years. It was a good job, good money, but I didn’t LOVE what I was doing. Post 9/11 I found myself part of company wide layoffs. The silver lining was that it forced me out of my comfort zone. I took a job working in a clothing boutique. Everyday was so fun, I loved it, and I had never worked harder. I had found my passion.
When we started our family I stayed home with our kids, but I always worked part time at the boutique, even if it was just a couple Saturdays a month. As the kids got older our life got busier, it was harder for me to set a schedule at the boutique that worked with our family life. I wanted to be able to pop into my kids classroom if they have a special event. I want to be able to play in the snow with them if we have a snow day. I want to be the one that picks them up from school if they are sick. Financially and logistically there was no position out there that was going to let me have my cake and eat it too. While at the store I heard client’s saying things like “I don’t even know what I have in my closet and I need to clean it out,” or “ I need someone to come over and put outfits together for me.” I saw an opportunity for me to go to them.
So I created my own job, which required me to then create my own company, something I never thought I would have the courage to do.
Recently I have expanded my business to offer services beyond the closet. This has included organizing fashion shows, speaking engagements and working with local shops and designers. I love being the connection between a product, service or store and an excited client.
Ideally in five years I would love to have a physical location for my business. It would be so nice to have a place where clients could come in and we could meet to discuss their needs. It would also be great to have a storage space. Frequently clients will hire me to take their items to consignment and/or donation facilities for them. My dining room/home office seems to be overflowing with bins and rolling racks of clothes that are either coming or going.
What is your most successful form of marketing?
My most successful form of marketing is word-of-mouth. I have done work for many families, where it starts with the daughter, then the mother, then the husband wants his closet organized too. The support of local business has been huge. For them to hand my cards out to their customers is an honor. Second to that has been showing up. Going to events, meeting people, making the connection.
When it is a service you sell you are the face of a product. I have to continually put myself out there. Of course social media has been a great form of putting myself out there as well. I established a website when I first started so it could act as a billboard for my business. Eventually I added on the Blog section so that people could get to to know me. If you are going to invite someone into your home you have to be comfortable with the. On my blog I try and make that personal connection so readers and potential clients can see if the relationship would be a good fit.
What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
I am inspired by everyday people. My eye always goes toward the most unusual looking person in the room. Fashion is like art, it’s subjective toward your opinion. But style can be seen on so many different people in so many different walks of life. I like to see how other people put themselves together.
My creativity comes through my own clients. I try and really listen to them, to their needs. In an effort to find a solution to their needs I feel like I am constantly learning new things.
I am also a confessed Pinterest addict! It feels like an unlimited supply of quotes, pictures and ideas. I am on it several times a day, which is not good for my time management skills!
What advice do you have for those looking to start their own business?
The work/life balance is a struggle. It takes patience, working very unusual hours and the development of thicker skin, because it all feels personal when it is yours.
My very first business card was printed on a complete whim. When I thinking about this as an idea someone asked for service type donation baskets for a charity auction. I very nervously offered up my idea of cleaning out a closet. They asked if I had a card. I basically had to pretend that I had a real legitimate business. That “Fake it till you make it” quote is so true.
Listen to what your customer is saying. If you can make them happy while you are doing what you love you are on the right track. Ask for support. There were so many times that things would get slow, or I would make a mistake that I would listen to all the negatives in my head and want to just throw in the towel. My friends and family were my biggest cheerleaders and kept me going. They still do. You are going to make mistakes. Take them in stride and learn from them. Nobody is successful overnight. Don’t be afraid to talk to other business owners and ask questions.
Network, network, network. Attend different events and talk to people. I can’t believe how one small connection can lead me to the most amazing opportunities. Taking the time to take interest in someone else’s achievements often comes back in a positive way for you. Don’t forget to look back. When I feel like I am failing or find myself beating up on myself I try and look back. When I look back I can see how far I’ve come.
Just for fun…
What are three things on your lifelong bucket list?
(I have to say this is hard as I haven’t really thought of it before…I need to start making a good list!)
1. Take my daughter to Paris and eat chocolate croissants at an outside café.
2. Buy and restore and old home. My husband and I are always on the hunt. We just need the extra time and money!
3. Be hired as a writer. Maybe a book? Maybe just a column? I was surprised to discover how much I actually enjoyed writing the blog part of my website.
How would you describe your personal style in one sentence?
A little bohemian, a little glam and a little rock star and most of all comfortable.