The Derby Store (Shop Owner: Get Online!)

While in Berlin in November, I spotted several boutiques that had a similar approach as Frau Zimmer and Formenreich - artists coming together that have a similar aesthetic and opening a store. One that stood out is Derby Store, a graphic design shop that features screen-printed tee shirts and accessories from some of Europe's best graphics designers.

It was at the Derby Store that I met Mike Friedrich, and the designer behind Bloody Bunny, Britta, both artists that design and sell out of Derby Store. Both were excited and pleased to be working together, along with other creative types, and mentioned that in Berlin, this was becoming more and more popular. On one wall, I spotted Mike's artwork along with his skateboard art, and in the window, was Bloody Bunny's crochet and textile accessories. Mike was working the desk and Britta stopped in primarily to meet me and show me her wares since we linked up online via Flickr before I visited Berlin. I'll be back to visit her in September, a trip I'm very excited about because I think she is a lovely person in all ways - she's authentic, like all the artists I met in Berlin and Hannover. Their passion for what they created gave them the drive to make it work no matter what.

Mike manning the desk at the Derby Store

Both Mike and Britta bubbled over with enthusiasm and the prospects that await them. Through the store, as well as online (Britta has a small etsy store, a blog, and is on flickr and Mike has several websites, including a blog), both are able to make a living doing what they love.

That's another way to make your storefront work, bring your store online by using the websites that are in place already to offer your products and services. Flickr alone can be an amazing way to connect to others, and of course sites like Etsy and eBay, as well as adding e-commerce to your own website. On days when your store is slow, you can still keep busy by networking online and running your business on the web. You are also able to reach out to a broader customer base.

From my own personal experience as an eBay shop girl for several years while I worked in the corporate world (interestingly enough, it was a business selling home decor), I can't stress this enough: go international. Often, your best customers live in another country. People want what they can't find next door, I know I do, so make sure your doors are open to everyone. You can increase your business up to 50% in some cases!

Sharing space and taking your business online, in addition to a storefront, is becoming more and more popular because the dream of sole shop ownership is quickly slipping down the tubes. Passionate business owners are thinking of alternative ways to keep their dreams (and their stores) alive. Many indie shop owners left behind a world where they felt out of control, which is why they elected to go solo and open their own business in the first place. We leave behind fat paychecks and bennies to gain our freedom. But, how much freedom do you have if you're forced to go in with several others to create your business? I imagine giving up the control you longed to have is a difficult thing to do, so I applaud those who do it, and find success this way.

It almost comes down to survival of the fittest these days, doesn't it? Are there any decor8 readers that own/rent a storefront, and if so, how hard are you finding it is to survive? Would you consider taking on partners, or leasing spaces in your store to independant artists? What are the challenges you're faced with on a daily basis?

I'd love to learn more about this so I'm inviting you to comment with your thoughts below with hopes that we can open up a discussion. You can comment by visiting the first part this series by clicking here. It seems that's where the discussion is going on...