Zoe Ryan began her business career at the intrepid age of 20 and now runs two fashion and accessories retail locations: Look Charmed in New Smyrna Beach, Florida and Southern Charm in Asheville, North Carolina. When she decided to move to Florida and open her second store (Look Charmed) while simultaneously managing her first, she realized she needed a cloud-based point of sale system to effectively run her operations. As a long-time user of PayPal, she looked to them for a recommendation — and started her journey with Vend! Read our interview with Zoe below to learn how the Vend-PayPal integration helped Zoe easily grow her business and achieve retail success.
Tell us a bit about how you got started. What drew you to this line of work, and what’s Look Charmed all about?
I feel as though I’m a classic example in the power of empowerment. At the young age of 20, I got started in owning my own business because I was fortunate enough to have people and circumstances that made me believe I could accomplish anything I dreamed of.
My high school had a program called DECA, which helped me learn (through classes and competitive events) that I excelled in customer interaction and merchandising. After high school, I took a year off to work in corporate retail and was quickly promoted into management positions. It was during this time of my life that I learned a lot about managing people and merchandising.
I decided this would be my career choice and enrolled at the local community college in business marketing and management. To pay for my classes, I worked at a large department store and was placed in the high-end women’s fashion and bridal section. My manager was a cheery, positive woman from France; I’ll never forget her encouragement.
She was blown away by the fact that I received commission on every paycheck; she had been managing the department for over ten years, and according to her, I was the first salesperson to ever earn the additional commission bonus you received once you passed a set threshold of sales. This hugely boosted my belief in my abilities.
She encouraged me to apply to a local bridal boutique that was looking for a manager. I did — and eight months later, the owner of that boutique decided to move and offered to sell me her business. During the past 28 years, I’ve changed business concepts with the seasons of my life. When I became pregnant with my daughter, I sold my bridal store and opened a children’s store; eighteen years later when I empty-nested, I decided to go back into women’s fashion and accessories. The running joke in my family is that I’ve gone from bridal to babies to bangles and that I have to stop before I get to bedpans.
To me, style is the purest expression of art. You start with a fresh canvas each day. I’ve always had a passion for the power of expressing yourself through fashion. Coco Chanel said it best: “Everyday is a fashion show and the world is the runway.” I love working with clients and helping them feel good in their clothing. Fit is key, and I’m always honest. It’s not about the sale; my focus is on making sure my clients leave the store feeling excited and comfortable with their choices.
My boutiques always have a wide selection of cozy basics that wash and wear well in addition to looking great. After setting that basic foundation, I can then add fun, trendy pieces and accessories to complete a look! I also feel that fashion should and can be affordable, and I’ve built my success on keeping my price point low (under $40) without compromising quality, boutique atmosphere, or service.
What’s your local community like?
I’m lucky to have locations in two amazing communities.
Asheville, North Carolina is nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The downtown location of my business is filled with historic architecture. In all my travels, Asheville brings me closest to how I felt during my visits to Paris. The area is brimming with talented local artists and chefs alike, making it a wonderful place to visit for its outstanding food, art, and culture.
New Smyrna Beach is located on the Space Coast of Florida. My husband and I were drawn here by its wonderful laid-back, small-town feel and its vibrant art scene. Both my boutique and my husband’s art studio are located on a historic street that leads right to the gorgeous beach and ocean. The street is filled with quaint local boutiques, surf shops, and restaurants. Even though it’s one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve encountered in my life (and is known as the surfing capital of the east coast), it’s retained that quaint old Florida charm and is reminiscent of old Key West.
What brought you to Vend? How have you found it? Would you recommend Vend to retailers like yourself?
Once I decided to fulfill my dream of living near the ocean while keeping my location in the beautiful mountains, I realized I’d need a cloud-based POS system to effectively manage multiple locations. After researching many options, I was impressed with what Vend had to offer.
I’d also learned during my research that Vend had partnered with PayPal. As a longtime PayPal customer, that assured me of Vend’s quality. I decided that if Vend was recommended by PayPal, it must be a solid company! That determination has held true — and because of the quality product, frequent additions, features improvements, and excellent customer service, I have and will continue to recommend it.
How did you find setup? What’s the specific setup like in your store? Are you using an iPad, PC, or other device?
Setup was super easy, and the support was outstanding. We had the system up and running on our iPad in less than 24 hours and proceeded to take in over $10,000 in our opening week — all while learning the ins and outs of the features. Vend is very intuitive; specific details were easy to find on videos located on the website or quickly and easily explained by contacting the 24-hour phone support team.
What advice do you wish you’d known when you started?
It hasn’t always been easy owning my own business, and there’ve been so many ups and downs. In my early days, I resisted change so much more than I do now. I wish I had someone tell me that if something isn’t working, just move on and keep persevering until you find what does work. Stay positive and determined, and don’t beat yourself up for failures. Each failure is key to learning and motivates you to grow new ideas and expand in a better direction.
What’s your best retail tale?
I’m ashamed of this story now, but I‘ve always been a real stickler for sticking by our shop store hours. I never want to be closed unexpectedly — and many years ago when my husband and I ran our children’s store together, we both had the flu and high fevers. We took turns sleeping in the back room while the other was helping customers.
Our children were raised in our family business and have unwittingly learned our strong work ethic (at many times over the years, we had to push ourselves to make sure we could pay the bills). A couple of years ago, our grown daughter had been sick for weeks and continued to go to work anyway.
One day her coworkers finally convinced her to go to the doctor because she kept having extreme dizzy spells at work. She ended up being diagnosed with whooping cough and tested low on oxygen levels. I told her that her health is her number-one priority and made her promise to take better care of herself. She of course then made me make the same promise!