August 14, 2018 - Episode 6

Starting a New Retail Business in St Pete with Anja Jakupovic

Starting a retail business in downtown St. Pete is no easy task. One of our early clients and fellow entrepreneurs talks about the trials and tribulations of starting a new retail business. Anja Jakupovic has practiced as an opticianry in the United States and Germany. She is currently a licensed and board-certified optician in the State of Florida. Anja owns and operates Optik! European Eyewear in the heart of downtown St. Pete at 300 Beach Drive.

Episode Transcript

Jake Braun:
Hello everyone. Welcome to Kickin' it with Kapok, a podcast about business owners' marketing struggles and solutions and other business-related topics. This is episode six, "Starting a New Retail Business in St. Pete with Anja Jakupovic." Today we'll be joined by Anja Jakupovic of Optik! European Eyewear. Anja is a licensed and board-certified Optician with experience in opticianry in both the United States and Germany. With over a decade of experience in eyewear, she is passionate about ensuring her clients receive the best custom fitted eyewear possible for their optical and cosmetic needs. Before we dig into her experience as an entrepreneur, is there anything you'd like to add Mirela?
Mirela Setkic:
Well, I have a lot of things but I guess I'll keep it short. Well, a couple of things. One, Anja's store is one of the most beautiful stores in St. Pete and I really mean this. Every time I go there I feel so terrible about our office and how ugly our office looks in comparison to her store. Second, is that she really understands glasses, sunglasses and prescription glasses and she actually looks really good in any style of eyeglasses, which is shocking. I feel like I look like a horse when I put on eyeglasses and then Anja just takes any pair and they look amazing on her. So, I think that's all I have to add.
Jake Braun:
Is there anything that Mirela or I missed Anja?
Anja Jakupovic:
No, I think you guys made me look really good. Thank you for having me on the podcast by the way, and thank you for making myself look so great, and my store. I really appreciate it.
Jake Braun:
So, what was it like to open a business in St. Pete?
Anja Jakupovic:
It was a rollercoaster. I think one of the hardest parts really about starting your own business is hands down the risk that you're taking. You're investing a lot of money into something that might be your lifelong dream, but you really have no idea how it's going to turn out. You might be digging yourself a huge financial hole at the same time.
On the other hand, of course every new startup business is a risk, and I think that if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. So, I think just taking the actual step is the hardest part about opening your business because you're leaving your cozy 9-5 job. You're leaving your benefits. You're leaving your guaranteed paycheck, your guaranteed income, and you're diving into something that will leave you working twice as hard with potentially no income at all for a long time. Or you know, at least for the beginning.
So, that was no doubt the hardest part of opening your own business. Especially when you don't come from a very super wealthy family or have it given to you. So, you're really starting from scratch. You're starting at zero. But like Mirela always says, "you have to risk it to get the biscuit." Right?
Mirela Setkic:
Oh man. I know. But risking it, when you have to risk it yourself sometimes like, oh crap. Can I do this?
Anja Jakupovic:
Yeah, no. Of course. You know, there's really a lot of good things as well. I mean, you know, on a positive note it's very rewarding to have your own business. You're free to do everything that you've always wanted to do. You can implement your own ideas, which maybe you didn't have the opportunity to do before at your previous employer. Really, from day one you've already reached a huge milestone because you did something that most people may have not thought that you could accomplish.
But I think as an entrepreneur, we always set goals that we work towards. So, owning your own business you can set your own expectations and work towards accomplishing them. So, the other thing about opening my own business in St. Pete, which is kind of very different because now you're constantly meeting new people. You're meeting new small business owners, you're networking, you're meeting new people every day whether it's your clients or other business owners. Then you learn so much along the way. Things that you didn't know before or didn't realize before, you really are learning them. So, that's an opportunity that you may have not had when you worked for somebody 'cause you just go to your job and you go home. When you're a business owner you have to do so much more outside of your job.
Jake Braun:
Yeah. I think those are some of the same risks and rewards that we had Mirela. Right? A lot of the other clients and business owners that we run into.
Mirela Setkic:
Yes. I think thinking back to when we were thinking about starting our own business and when I was thinking about doing it, I was always looking for that perfect time. I'm just going to have enough money saved and that timing is just going to feel right and those things are going to come together and I'm just going to wake up and know, this is the day. Then a year into it I realized oh, that day's never coming. The time is never going to be perfect. So, like you said, you just gotta do it.
Anja Jakupovic:
Yeah. There's definitely no right time to start your own business. You just kind of have to push yourself. If you have somebody that will help you, you know, push you to get there that's even better. In my case it was my husband. He really forced me to do this because he knew that that was always my dream and he said there's no perfect time and let's just do it. Let's just dive into it and see where it takes us.
Mirela Setkic:
Yeah. He was right. It definitely never feels like it's the perfect time.
Jake Braun:
No. So, what about location? We were talking to a real estate agent or a broker a couple weeks ago and he was saying that retail's very difficult downtown. What was it like finding your location?
Anja Jakupovic:
So, location for us was somewhat easy. I think that we just got extremely lucky. We looked at several different locations. We looked at Tampa. We looked at Hyde Park. We looked at, of course, St. Pete, but St. Pete was always on our priority list. You know, really for a lot of reasons because the city is really not a place where you come to for retirement anymore. You know, it's lively, it's walkable, there's so much happening in St. Pete. You know, it's growing constantly. So, we always knew that this was going to be it, plus it reminds us of Europe. You know? You can walk everywhere. There's cafes, restaurants. You can sit outside. You can people watch. So, that whole atmosphere that you get when you're in St. Pete just we knew that that was it. We knew this is where we wanted to open our place.
So, finding a location for us was really not that difficult. The reason I say that is because we got extremely lucky with an amazing landlord. So, when we met him we just kind of clicked right away and he was very supportive. He knew that that space was made for Optik! and we knew Optik! was made for the space. So, it was just we really got lucky.
Jake Braun:
Okay. If you had to do your business or your location over again, is there anything that you would do differently knowing all of the things that you know now?
Anja Jakupovic:
If I had to do it over again ... I hope I have to do it again for store number two in the future.
Mirela Setkic:
See, Anja's hustling.
Anja Jakupovic:
So, I hope that I have to do it again. I don't know if I'll get lucky like I did with the first one in terms of location. I think that we may have rushed into it a little bit in terms of signing our lease and everything because it was just so amazing it was almost too good to be true. Again, you know, I'll say it again. We got lucky. Maybe next time we won't get as lucky but I think next time I will just maybe take a little bit more time to compare all the options that I have. In terms of the actual business, really when we first opened I was a little bit scared to go 100% independent with our inventory. So, just to kind of give you a little background, we do primarily independent eyewear. So, independent designers from all over the world, nothing that you will find at a big box store or at a mall. In the beginning I was scared to do 100% independent because I thought people need that name recognition. So, if I have certain name brands, it might help for people to come in. But then it turns out that I really don't need those products because after having them, people come in and people do want something different.
So, it always takes some time to kind of learn your clientele. You might think you know who your clientele is going to be but you really don't until you start it. So, just doing a little bit more research and I think next time I won't be as afraid to do what my gut feeling told me to do to begin with, and then just go with the product that I love because if you have something that you love, people will love it too. You know?
Jake Braun:
That makes sense. That's kind of interesting what you said. So, do most people come into the store with a brand in mind? Or they just want glasses or sunglasses and they browse around different brands?
Anja Jakupovic:
A lot of times people come in and ask me for a certain brand specifically and when I explain to them that I don't carry it and why I don't carry it and kind of go into the detail of what makes my independent lines so much better and so much more special in terms of quality, materials and where they come from, how they're made, then people really get a better understanding. I think that they're just maybe not as educated in that field because where are they going to know? I mean, they're just ... Most people are about name recognition. So, they'll go to the mall and they just see a name brand that they're familiar with and they think it's the greatest thing. Well, in our industry that's not always the case. So, I really work on making sure that I educate all my customers when they come in about that.
Mirela Setkic:
That's actually true. I actually go to your Instagram page for your store and whenever you post a picture of a customer who just picked up their sunglasses or eyeglasses, they actually look like they were made for that persons' face.
Anja Jakupovic:
Yeah. Definitely.
Mirela Setkic:
Which is crazy.
Anja Jakupovic:
Definitely.
Mirela Setkic:
That always amazes me. I remember this one lady she had I think a red frame on and I think she wore a matching outfit or something and I thought wow, this lady looks like she went to the eyeglasses factory and they made these for her.
Anja Jakupovic:
Yeah. Well, I mean, we have our own line. We have the Optik! line, which is handmade in Germany. Each piece is a single piece, so it's really a piece of art for your face. I always say each frame is made for that one specific person. I don't care if it sits on my shelf for a year because eventually that one person will come in and I will know that it's made for them. It really happens like that. It's funny how it happens, but it does. I always tell my clients this frame is made for you because it truly is. I mean, it's custom made, nobody else will have it.
Mirela Setkic:
Yeah. It definitely looks like that in the picture you post on Instagram. I'm like, oh my god, this is crazy.
Jake Braun:
Okay. So, maybe we should talk a little bit about marketing. I think a lot of business owners aren't sure how to market their business when they get started. What kind of marketing do you do for Optik! and maybe you can tell us a little bit about that?
Anja Jakupovic:
So, marketing as you know, is a whole job for itself and I am certainly not a pro at it. It takes a lot of time, a lot of hard work. Consistency I think is really key. In the beginning we really didn't know where to go with it and we started kind of advertising and putting money into different ads in magazines that just didn't really bring us anything. They just cost a lot of money and they didn't bring us any new clients. It didn't even really bring us any phone calls or anything. So, it was really a waste of money but you learn from it. I mean, that's part of it.
So, once I realized that my SEO really needed to be optimized and needed to be better, I hired this great company called Kapok Marketing.
Mirela Setkic:
Oh man, I hope they did a good job.
Anja Jakupovic:
They did a fantastic job. So, basically they recreated a brand new website for me because we had a website, it really wasn't that great. It was very simple, very basic, and it didn't have a lot of content. So, after speaking with Jake about it he advised me that we needed to have more content on our website. That potentially a web shop would help. That we needed to write blogs consistently. So, I took all of those suggestions and they have certainly helped. I really see a big difference in traffic on my website now, especially now that we have a web shop. The whole point behind the web shop was like Jake suggested, is to have more foot traffic. To have more content and to have more traffic on the website and then in turn have more foot traffic into the store.
So, my goal is not to sell a whole lot on my website because I prefer my clients to come in and have that personalized experience but it's more so that people can go on there and see what it is that we offer and they can kind of get an idea, because I think Mirela told me once that most people when they shop, that they go online first and they do their research.
Mirela Setkic:
Yes. I think it's like higher than 85% or 80% of people who actually do their research online before they go into make a decision, or before they even make a decision online they're just kind of browsing around.
Jake Braun:
I'm doing a blog post right now and there were two stats that I just ran into, which was I think it's 30% of customers won't even go to a business if they don't have a website, and 46% of customers used the website to determine how much they trust that business. So, if they go to the website and they think this doesn't look quite right, then that actually has a negative effect on how they view the entire business, not just the website.
Anja Jakupovic:
Oh yeah, definitely. I think that having a web shop and having more content on there really helps because I am now constantly getting new clients and that say oh, I saw this frame on your website and I see that it's a single piece item. Do you still have it? So, I can tell that people are going on there and that they are doing their research. So, it really proves that point that you made.
Mirela Setkic:
That's true.
Anja Jakupovic:
It definitely is true. It kind of surprised me at first when you told me about it but I mean, it makes sense because we all do it.
Mirela Setkic:
Yeah.
Anja Jakupovic:
I do it. So, it's great to have it. Like I said, not necessarily for extra sales on the website because I really do prefer my clients to come in and do that hands on fitting and that personalized experience.
Jake Braun:
That all makes sense. Is there any other marketing things that you've learned or lessons from the store?
Anja Jakupovic:
Yeah. The other thing is, so we do social media marketing obviously, but social media marketing for us and our clients ... Our clients are not necessarily on Instagram. They might be on Facebook but they're not necessarily on Instagram. So, for us it's more so to remind the community where we are and that we exist. So, if somebody asks a friend oh, do you know if there's a good optical boutique in St. Pete, then hopefully we'll be in the back of their mind that oh yeah, there is Optik! on Beach Drive. You know, go there. So, it's more so recognition I guess. Brand recognition more so than marketing, but it is a form of marketing.
Jake Braun:
Yeah. That's actually a huge misconception that I think a lot of business owners have. They say why would I do all of this work on social media? No one buys anything from me on social media. But like you said, it gets your name out there. It's another trust too. You know, sometimes people will go to Facebook or Instagram and look for that business. Do they have a social media presence? If they don't, are they even really a business? I mean, some people think that way even if it's not necessarily true.
Anja Jakupovic:
Yeah. I mean, I try to really focus on both Instagram and Facebook as much as I can because I know people do go on there and look at it. Whether they're going to be my clients or not, I don't know, but again, it's more so the presence of being there. Another big, big thing is word of mouth and reviews. Reviews are huge. We ask all of our clients to leave us a review. You know, hopefully a good one. Hopefully a five star one, in which right now we only have five star reviews so that's great. But, you know, I really explain it to them. I say, you know, if you have some time do me a favor, go online, leave us a review. If you can, share your experience. Whatever it is, you know, share your honest opinion because it does put us in a higher ranking when people search for glasses near me or optical boutique in St. Pete. It puts us on that first page and it puts us up higher, because we can't compete with these big box places that spend millions of dollars to be number one on the Google search engine.
So, that is exactly how I explain it to my customers. I'm honest with them and then they realize oh, yeah, I'll definitely do it. So, most of them will leave their honest opinion and some of them forget and some of them write a review a couple of months later, but in either case, it really, really helps. Word of mouth is huge too. We tell our customers to tell their friends to please keep referring us and that is how we built that trust with them.
Mirela Setkic:
Yeah. I wanted to mention that Anja is really good with replying to people's reviews when they leave a review on Google and things like that. I think that's hugely important. A lot of small businesses forget to do that. She actually goes on there and responds to all of them, which is awesome. The other thing that Anja does really well is that her hustle game in passing out her business cards and telling people about her business is goals for me. I aspire to be on that level one day, so she really goes hard and works hard to help people find the perfect glasses and then also let people know where her store is and also to ask them to tell their friends, to tell their friends about her store.
Jake Braun:
Yeah. Anja always has a number of business cards with her. So, is there anything that we haven't asked you yet that you think we should've?
Anja Jakupovic:
I don't know. I think that you guys pretty much covered everything.
Jake Braun:
What about is there anything that you think you've learned after owning a business and being an employee at a business? How do those two things compare? Maybe if someone else out there is currently employed and they're thinking about starting a business, you know, what's the difference between those two things?
Anja Jakupovic:
So, you know, owning your own business versus being an employee somewhere is very different because when you own your own business obviously you have a lot more responsibility. So, it's not for everyone. So, if you're not that type of person that wants to go home and think about work, owning your own business might not be the best option. But it's very rewarding and you just have to know how to have a work life balance I think. That's really important because you have to know how to shut off when you get home and really set those boundaries. In my house, my husband really set those boundaries from the beginning. I mean, I have 30 minutes from the time I get home to share anything work related with him and then after that it's just us and life and life outside of work, because if you don't set those boundaries you just get burned out. If he didn't set those boundaries with me, I would come home and I would not stop talking about work. My brain would just keep going and I would just have all these thoughts and new ideas and you can't do that. You really have to know how to balance it correctly.
Jake Braun:
That's a really good rule. I like that 30 minute rule. I think I'm going to have to share that with other entrepreneurs.
Anja Jakupovic:
Yeah.
Mirela Setkic:
Yeah. That's true. I think we recently met someone local who owns a business and he told us how he is super full time and he says he starts I think like seven in the morning and he ends his work shift at ten at night. I thought oh my god, how does this person survive? Then I realized that many people are super full time when they start out and it's not because they don't like their personal life, it's because they haven't I guess learned how to balance work and life or they just sometimes have to be super full time. So, it definitely can get a little bit out of control.
Jake Braun:
I think it's the experiences that happen when you're not running your business that help you with your business the most sometimes too. So, I think it is important to step back and do some other stuff sometimes.
Mirela Setkic:
Yes. Yes. You have to be a human, a person who has hobbies and has a life. Business cannot be your life.
Jake Braun:
All right. So, if there are any listeners out there that are looking for glasses or sunglasses in the Tampa Bay area, how can they get in contact with you Anja? Do you have a website where they can view and shop your collection?
Anja Jakupovic:
We have the best website. Yes. Our website is OptikStPete.com, that is O-P-T-I-K-S-T-P-E-T-E.com. Where they can view everything that we have in the store and we ask them to please come in so they can really have that experience that they won't get anywhere else. They can give us a call (727) 800-5535. We are located on 300 Beach Drive on 3rd Avenue, right around the corner from Parkshore Grill.
Jake Braun:
Hopefully some people visit your website and stop in. Well, it's been a great sixth episode. If you're listening out there and also enjoyed this episode, please make sure you're subscribed to the podcast so you'll get notified when we have new episodes. If you can leave us a rating or review on iTunes or Stitcher, that'd help us greatly as well as that's how new listeners are able to find us. We'd like to again thank Anja from Optik! European Eyewear for joining us today. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or comments about anything we talked about today or marketing in general.
You can visit us on our website, KickinItWithKapok.com or on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as Kapok Marketing. This has been a great Kickin' it with Kapok brought to you by Kapok Marketing. Thanks for listening. We'll have something just as great for you next time.