Gloria D’Anna seemed pretty well set in her role as a senior analyst at one of Australia’s big four banks.
However, when D’Anna was retrenched, she grasped the opportunity to leave behind her IT career to open her own lifestyle store, Coco & Chloe, last year.
She speaks to StartupSmart about how redundancy was, in hindsight, the best thing that happened to her.
Did you always want to be your own boss?
Yes. I’ve always been encouraged to look for goals and about six years ago I decided I wanted to be my own boss within the next 10 years.
When the CEO changed at my work, the good working environment went down and I started going in each day for the pay and nothing else.
On my birthday two years ago, I registered the business’ name and that was the spur I needed. By that point I knew I want to run a gift store and that I was going to do it. I knew it was a direction I’d really enjoy.
What’s been the best part of leaving employment?
I hated the politics of it. I had to jump over hurdles to get anything done. I’d have to convince everyone that it was the right idea, which wasted time and money.
When people don’t own their own business, they don’t realise how wasteful and inefficient it is.
So, what did you do first?
I opened an online store while I was working, so I could do the groundwork first, test it and build it that way.
I started my previous job as a programmer, so I knew how to set the site up and my father started his own business, so he knew what it would take. I drew up a business plan and I went for it.
What did you do about suppliers?
I did a lot of research online and as I didn’t really have anyone to talk to, I went to trade fairs to find out what was out there.
How did you pitch yourself?
I went for suppliers that complemented my business and that had the same lifestyle element to it. I promised them that I wouldn’t sell anything online when I didn’t have it in stock, which they appreciated.
I got a good number of suppliers on board, some of which were very picky about who they went with.
How is your business different from others?
I’m targeting locally made product. People are after products made in Australia, so we focus on them and it really draws people into the shop.
I also base it around what I like – the target is 35 to 55-year-old women. Men seem a bit intimidated by my store!
With the clothing, we have larger sizes, which I knew that there was a gap in the market for, being plus-sized myself. I want to be the sole person with the product I’m selling, I don’t want people to find the product somewhere else.
I asked all my suppliers if they were selling to other people and worked with those that deal with me.
How have sales been?
I found that once I opened the physical store, it gave the site more credibility, so I got a lift in sales.
Initially, sales were slow, but things have definitely picked up since opening the store.
Did this cause you any doubts?
No. I knew I’d do well because I had the drive. It took months to find the right place, which caused a bit of uncertainty, but I was glad I was doing it.
I don’t know when I would’ve made the leap to do this if I wasn’t retrenched, even though I wasn’t enjoying my job.
There was an initial shock when I was retrenched, and I did cry, but I was paid out, I left early and it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I had got into a routine and I had to break out of it.
Once I found the right location, I was open within two weeks.
What are your goals for the business?
The retail industry hasn’t been great recently, but I’ve been getting about a hundred people through the store a day.
Being my own boss is great, I trust in my own decisions and the positive feedback really helps out. I want to establish one store first, which I know can take around three years, but I will expand it after that if I need to.
For now, though, I want to keep to just myself, to keep things stress free. With the industry not in great shape, it’s not the right time to take on loads of staff, but I definitely want someone else here so I can take time off at some point.