We're all about women entrepreneurs here at the BLVD, so when we walked into Paper Doll Vintage Boutique in the adorable seaside town of Sayville, Long Island and met Dominique, its passionate owner, we just had to pick her brain.
We sat down to talk creativity in business, the unique value of vintage clothing, and what it's really like being an entrepreneur.
Tell us about your Boutique.
Paper Doll Vintage Boutique opened May 2012, as a vintage clothing shop specializing in one of a kind vintage clothing, shoes and accessories from the 1920's-1990's. In 2014, we also began to carry a few retail lines that specialize in vintage pinup styles, so we could carry classic styles in sizes XS-4X to accommodate modern sizing and lifestyles. Since opening, we have been awarded first place for Best Vintage Clothing Store by Long Island Press in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In addition to being a vintage clothing shop, we offer styling services, house monthly art openings, host several classes and have a yearly fashion show for our customers. Within the next few months, we are excited to launch our e-commerce shop!
What sparked the idea to open your own store?
I've been business minded since I've been a child, always trying to sell things. I started selling vintage online when I was 13 or 14. I used to sell on eBay, at consignment shops and on Etsy. It has been something I've hustled on the side almost my entire life. When the economy got bad and jobs were scarce, I thought I could create my own career. There are a lot of vintage shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but I didn't see much like it on Long Island, so I saw the potential of an untapped market here.
How did your love of vintage items begin?
My mother's interest in antiques got me into antiquities and vintage since I was little. My artistic and rebellious tendencies got me to really appreciate vintage clothing because it was so different from contemporary pieces and I felt I could really express my individuality. I grew up loving to read about history and understanding how things were made. Clothes now are often made to be trendy and disposable but vintage garments were made to last and be classic. I went to school for art so the unique design of vintage items and attention to detail in the construction is something I appreciate.
What have you learned in these past two years as an entrepreneur?
I learn so much every day and so much in the last, well, almost 3 years now. I rented my retail space in Feb 2012 and the place was totally gutted so my first lessons were in construction and actually building a shop! I know more about ceilings and flooring now than I ever thought I would!
I've learned that being a business owner is a lifestyle. I am at the store almost every day and I am thinking about aspects of the business all the time. I'm constantly trying to figure out what works, what doesn't work, and how to tweak things to be better. There's always something to be done. There's no standstill, no stop or start, just constantly thinking ahead to what's next. When you're the owner and things need to get done, there's no duty above or below you. But it's my own creation, my baby and I love it. I work all the time, yet never, because it's a passion.
What has been your biggest success to date?
My biggest success has been seeing the business grow. When you put so passion into something, seeing it actually work and grow is so fulfilling. Having a steady base of return customers makes me feel successful. It means we've managed to keep our customers happy! We've had some pretty high profile designers, stylists, musicians, artists, bloggers and people in the fashion industry shopping here and it's such a compliment to get their seal of approval. Of course winning the best of Long Island 3 years in a row has been amazing as well. Having a successful Kickstarter for the art shows and hosting monthly art shows has been one of our most recent successes. It's amazing that we've been getting so many artists and collectors that also see this as a serious art venue.
Figuring out new ways to grow, choosing what to spend time and money on to keep the business moving forward, and dealing with mistakes is also a challenge, but there is a lesson that can be learned from every mistake.
What advice can you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Get ready to work a lot, make your business your life and sacrifice a lot to make it work. It's more work than most people expect. It's not very glamorous, especially in the beginning. It takes a long time and a lot of dedication to develop a business. Even though I've been selling vintage for a good portion of my life and have had this shop almost 3 years, I feel like I'm just seeing the beginning of Paper Doll's full potential and have a lot more time to go before the business is more autonomous and I can step back.
Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle and it's not for everyone. However, if this type of lifestyle is for you, then there's nothing else like being a business owner. There is so much you will learn. Get ready to make mistakes, get burned, get burned out, learn lessons but don't give up! In the end, even the small milestones and successes along the way make you so happy because YOU earned it. There's nothing like seeing your dreams come true due to hard work and dedication! Also, try to eat healthy and exercise to maintain your health and sanity.
Visit Paper Doll Vintage at
23 North Main Street
Sayville, New York, 11782
Or online at www.shoppaperdollvintage.com
Interviewed by Gloria Cavallaro.