Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Women in Business Profile - Diana Burrell-Shipton

Diana Burrell-Shipton has been in business for almost 15 years; beginning long before she inherited her mother's business in 2013 after her passing. Diana first started off as a hobbyist creating and hand crafting her own handmade vintage goods just for fun which she sold at craft shows and to friends. Her hobby soon changed to a a full-fledged business, when she and her husband bought her maternal grand-parents' home after the passing of her grand-mom. It was a beautiful home built in 1825 and Diana redesigned the home to accommodate her business and in 2004 open a gift shop  Diana's Gift Shop. Diana's shop is in Hubbard, Ohio. The structure of her company is very simple, she is the sole owner and manager, with the occasional help from her daughter. According to her "we are rather informal and try to accommodate the needs of our varied vendors and customers".

Diana spirit of entrepreneurship has been ignited from an early age; having grown up in a family of entrepreneurs. Her maternal grandparents were entrepreneurs — her grandmother was a "flea market and auction folks", before she was born" and her grandpa ran a used furniture store. And has noted above, her mother was also an entrepreneur, owning and managing a gift shop for many years until her passing in 2009. Today, Diana has taken over ownership of her mother's business while maintaining Diana's Gift Shop.and has incorporated her original business under one umbrella business Diana's Gift Shop. Diana carries a collection of varying vintages good and products including a 50 year old vintage jewellery collection from her mother's business.

During Diana's entrepreneurial journey she has had to change the way she do business. She points out that due to the location of her business, she had to adhere to the community's zoning restrictions which prevented her from erecting signs that indicated where her business was. This therefore made it difficult to drive customers to her business and her business was affected. As a result, she eventually closed the physical gift shop and sold online and in craft shows. 

Between, 2009 to 2013 Diana had taken up a dual task of running her own business and her mother's. Her mother was sick and undergoing chemotherapy and could not run and manage her business on her own; and Diana took it over in order to keep it open for her, but "we lost her on March 25, 2013. Today, Diana says that "I now run the gift shop for my children, Dad and me". At the moment, Diana manages the store on her own, but pointed out that occasionally she gets help from family member, especially from her 17 years old daughter who helps her after school

Ms. Burrell-Shipton, gift shop carries a blend of items including, herbs, fruits, vegetables, handmade products, crochet and embroidery items, as well as a collection of collectibles including hats, rings, necklaces, you name it everything vintage. Diana in describing her business says,"I am an organic gardener (disabled now so I cannot as much as I used to do in my gardens) who loves to use my herbs; flowers; fruits and vegetables in my from-scratch cooking and in my handmade items. The most requested are the hand-sewn neck pillows and eye mask pillows in which I put some lavender buds. I also enjoy embroidering by hand and have decorated several items with my shop information and the dots theme that I use for my shop and have used these as promotional gifts for good customers as a thank you. During the first year of having my gift shop, I realized that I needed to invite other folks to rent a table in to sell their handmade and vintage items in order to help me cover the costs. We now have 17 different vendors who bring things in to sell. They manage their own booths and I sell for them and keep track of their sales and then give them a sheet so they know how they did for their records. We now have about 1/3 handmade; 1/3 vintage and 1/3 new items in our gift shop which makes for a fun treasure hunt for our customers. 

In response to the question, what are the objectives and goals of your business? Diana says "one of the things that I work on here is making sure to have a nice mix of items for my regular customers who want to spend an hour exploring all of the nooks and crannies of the shop. We also help with a few cancer fundraisers and several school fundraisers as we believe in having a solid role in our community. I try to instill as many natural living ideas as I can. One way that I do it here at the shop is in having canvas tote bags here to give one to each regular customer and asking him/her to use it instead of plastic bags. Who are your target audience? We have customers from age 8 to almost 90. Being that my shop is at the edge of town and we have no sidewalks here, I have several kids who aren't allowed to walk or ride a bike into town, but are allowed to come here, so I keep a section for school supplies and inexpensive gifts as well as a snack section. We have items for sale from $1.00 to several hundred dollars so we truly have something for just about everyone except for those who only want the newest electronics".

This was another question that we asked Diana — what factors are responsible for you starting your business? And this was her response  "there has been many reasons given to why, she has gotten into business, from being brought up in a family of entrepreneurs and it being the natural course of her choice of vocation, to being passionate about it. Diana says, that " as a creative, I created beautiful handmade items which I gave away, but after a while it became a very expensive hobby and therefore I decided to sell the items that I created". Diana goes on to says "that after while I couldn't afford to keep giving everything away so I started to sell at craft shows and events in order to buy more supplies. I also adore vintage and antique goods and the hunt to acquire them can be addictive. I was getting quite the collection and did not have the room to keep it all or to get more. Being a buyer and a seller allows me to still experience the thrill of the chase and the beauty of the items and to pass them on to the next admirer".

Diana has not had any formal education and training in entrepreneurship but throughout the years have gleaned an understanding of entrepreneurship from her grandparents and mother, as well as in the many positions she has held in the workplace. In our interview she has pointed out that before starting her gift shop, she worked in several businesses, including several food places from Wendy's to being the head "dough-boy" at a pizza shop. Diana also worked at a chiropractor's office for one year, as well as, at several flea markets, antique malls and worked the counter at an auction house. 

In response to the question, how have you gained the knowledge and skills to start, manage and develop a business? Her response was, "well I have had the best teachers, experts in the field of entrepreneurship; her grandparents and her mother — people with years of experience. This is a sure example of inter-generational knowledge in action. Diana as a younger woman also worked side-by-side with her mother, learning as she went, just as her daughter is doing today. Shadowing and modelling as a learning strategy are two great ways to develop and hone one's knowledge and expertise. Diana, says, "I read many online articles, but mainly, I learned from the best — my family. My maternal grandparents were flea market and auction folks since before I was born and Grand-pa had his own used furniture store when he was younger. My Mom learned from them and then worked as a window dresser for a department store and sold for several companies including Sarah Coventry; House of Lloyd; and was a top sales leader for Caroline Emmons for years, until it closed. She then was the vintage jewelry lady at one of the area largest antique malls until it had a roof collapse and closed. She started this shop and I helped her here until I took it over. Now, I am still learning as I go. We must keep learning and growing in order to stay relevant. I belong to several online groups (a few on Facebook) about being a shop owner. We advise each other and tell each other about our discoveries. Of course, we do not give away all of our "secrets" as we want to stay special to our customers, but we do help each other as much as we can".

She also shares with us the many roles that a woman in business plays, not just one selling a product or services, but the other roles played out in the customer relationship. She notes that "being a shop owner is almost being a counselor to many of the regular customers as well. We begin to think of each other as friends or even family and I have spent many hours over the years consoling with or celebrating with several of them. Most of the time, it is fine and has a wonderful outcome, but sometimes it can become toxic if they are too needy. So, be mindful of boundaries starting to get crossed". 

This was another question that Women in Business posed to Diana. What are some of the challenges you have had to overcome and how have you overcome them? Her response was very holistically treated. Diana, not only shared with us the many challenges she faced but also shared the strategies she has used throughout the years to keep her business afloat. She says, "in life and in business there are challenges that we face, and how you deal with them is very important to your business growth and your personal well-being? How you respond to challenges, makes a difference. Diana says, "you learn who you can trust, or not. My Mom started this place with a friend (my cousin's girlfriend) who after 7 months (while my Mom and Dad were on vacation before she had to start chemotherapy) decided that she couldn't make it and so was closing the business. Thankfully, I was here watching my Mom's booth so I found out. I called the landlord to ask what I should do. He said let her go and that he'd give my Mom and I a free month's rent so that I could talk to her when they came back home to see if she wanted keep the shop. I kept it open for her until we lost her. So, you will find out who you can trust and who you can't".

The slow economy has also been  a challenge for Diana, as it has shown to be for so many other women entrepreneurs in the United States of America. Diana shares with us how she sees and respond to the economic downturn. She says, "the economy in our area has been bad for years so I am slowly building up our online stores to try to get extra sales". 

Has computer-based technologies played a significant role to the development of your business? If so in what ways? Computer-based technologies, as well as online technologies has been crucial to the continued success of Diana's business. As she noted above when the economic downturn began and she could no longer rely upon walk-in traffic, she launched an online store on ETSY. She did this to extend her market from local to a more global and an international audience; and this has worked for her. Her client based increased dramatically. You can also find Diana's Gift Shop where you can shop and satisfy your taste for vintage, non-used items  vintage with a wonderful design history. 

Diana also uses computer-based technology to aid her in her research, as she seeks to find new products for her business, to meet her clients needs. She says, "I ha
ve an older computer, but it serves me well in allowing me to research the vintage items that I will be listing in our online shops; to enable local folks to find my gift shop because of our online presence and to help interact with my local community and other like-minded people all over the world." 

She is also an avid user of social media, and is a part of many groups that focuses on women entrepreneurs and women empowerment in general. Some of the things that Diana looks for in a group are; "things about a group that makes me want to join are  I join groups for many reasons  not just for business. I join groups where I will fit in because of common interests, be they local groups in my area; organic gardening groups; health groups about my family's many health issues  groups about shop owners who are helping each other and business groups in general that do not allow much advertising as we see way too much spam otherwise.

Diana also uses the technology to promote and brand her business through videos creations. Diana's daughter as mentioned earlier occasionally assists her in her business, creates her videos which she post on Facebook to meet the attention of her target audience. Diana says, "my youngest daughter is a senior at a technical high school and has used the computer and camera techniques (and other skills) she is learning through her program to put together videos about me and my gift shop (among other subjects) which I have been able to post on Facebook page to show what we are all about at my little shop".

In response to our question, What business strategies have you used to grow your business? Diana says "I am adding to our online shops as fast as I have am able. Also, I post about our gift shop on several local Facebook groups. For years, I donated gift baskets to local events. This got too expensive so now I am having these groups do shopping events here and donating 10% of the sales to their cause. It's a win-win! Is their support for women owned businesses where you are located? How accessible is it? Not Really! What role, if any has computer-based technologies played in the development of your business? I use the computer to do research and to do most of my marketing". 

This is a wonderful question that Women in Business ask all our respondents for its Women in Business Profile. What are your business philosophy and personal philosophy, and how have they influenced your business? And this was Diana's response  "I wrote about this a few years ago as well. I believe in being transparent, so that folks know that I mean what I say. I am a natural living person and try to teach by example. I am also honest. I gained a life-long customer because I mistakenly gave her about a dollar less in change that I should have and chased her down in the parking lot to give it to her". 

How important is passion to you in the development and continued growth of your business? Very! Of course, it will wax and wane, but to grow and thrive you must have the drive. Is spirituality a part of your business? 

It is very important that as women entrepreneurs that we find the time to be centered so that we can at least find some degree of balance in our health, and wellbeing, mind, physical well being and spirituality  a mind, body and spirit synergy. How do you maintain a balance in your life? Therefore one of Women in Business question is, how do you find a balance as an entrepreneur? And to this Diana says, " I am still working on that, but eating healthy foods and having nice phone chats with family and friends sure helps"

Another of Women in Business question to the women who participate in this woman development program is; How was your spirit of entrepreneurship ignited? And what are some things that you do to keep it burning and to this Diana says, "I’ve always worked and helped others. It was just a natural progression".

Honesty, kindness and hard work are some of the lessons that Diana has learned in the course of her entrepreneurial journey; and that which she would also like to share with other women getting into business. What lessons have you learned along the way that you will share with other women in business, or a woman now venturing in the area of entrepreneurship, was a question that we asked Diana, and her response was  "be honest; be kind; and work hard" so simple. Something to think about.

The last question that Women in Business asks Diana was — what future goals do you have for your business venture? Where do you want to see your business in the next 5-10 years? And her response was — "I would love to have this gift shop built up enough to be able to make a living at it and then later pass it on to my kids".

To Learn more about Dana's Gift Shop and Diana read!
If you are interested in shopping for vintage, Diana's Gift Shop is a great place!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this big part of my story!
    I am working so hard to make this into something wonderful and
    I hope it can inspire other folks to follow a dream and work for it as well.
    My main online shops are on eCRATER.com, one has hundreds of pieces of my Mom's vintage jewelry collection (VintageJewelryByGramz) and the other has my handmade and vintage goods (OrganicGiftsByDiana). I only have a few items on ETSY.
    Of course, if you are in or near Hubbard, Ohio, stop by my little gift shop in person.