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From layoff to six-figure start-up

From layoff to six-figure start-upTierra Destiny Reid was home on maternity leave in February 2009 when she turned on CNN and found out her corporate career in suburban Atlanta was ending. Her employer, one of America’s largest retailers, had just announced that they were not only downsizing but closing three entire divisions. For Tierra, a military wife and mother of now two little ones in diapers, it was a sign. Where others saw only uncertainty, she saw clarity. She could either hang her head in despair and join the ranks of the many unemployed or use the opportunity to break out on her own. After talking it over with her supportive husband, Tierra decided to start her own business. She had always dreamed of becoming her own boss. Why not now? What motivated her was the thought that never again would her family’s future be in someone else’s hands.

Looking back, it was easy to spot the hints of entrepreneurship in her past. This was the girl who persuaded her mom to buy bulk candy at Costco so she could start a candy shop after school for all the neighborhood kids. And, after reading The Baby-Sitters Club, she started her own as a teen. In college, she created and marketed gift baskets, often selling them to patrons of the nearby barbershop. A natural at buying and selling, a retail career seemed like the next logical step. And she was good at it. She brokered million-dollar deals, helped to launch several celebrity fragrances and introduced the country to successful new skincare lines for her employer. But Tierra had always wanted to own her own boutique. This was her chance.

Tierra knew that in a recession, people still needed to buy clothing. And they still craved designer handbags. They just needed to stick to a tighter budget. So she chose the consignment segment of the retail industry. She quickly enrolled in The University of Georgia’s Entrepreneur School to help her plan her new future. She found a terrific mentor in Chris Hanks from UGA’s Business MBA program. She also used her natural gift of negotiating to give her business its best head start.

There are probably thousands of ways you can get started and keep your risk low. One of Tierra’s best tips is to create a checklist of everything you can think of before spending a dime. Tierra also got very creative to find what she needed. She purchased over 3k worth of inventory in used fixtures for just $500 by shopping Craigslist instead of purchasing new racks and mannequins. Then she re-sold what she didn’t need back on Craigslist. Tierra also spent countless hours researching the best real estate location for her boutique. She consulted with realtors; then used the depressed real estate market to her advantage. She talked the listing agent into giving her free months’ rent just for filling a critical spot in his strip mall.

Tierra found people to help her on the cheap, too. She mined the talent of her former retail connections. She met with buyers and asked for merchandising tips. She partnered with laid-off graphic designers, advertising copywriters and public relations/special events experts who volunteered their services to help her launch her boutique. (For them, it was a way to keep their skills sharp while looking for a job.) She managed to find an artist (on Craigslist, naturally) who designed a wall mural for her just for the exposure. She alsostarted a college internship program with a local university and found students as hungry for success as she was to help her man the store. In all, her Stylish Consignments boutique was up and running in under six months for less than $10,000.

From layoff to six-figure start-up

Maryann Fabian

Tierra soon found that female customers were just as interested in her story as they were her merchandise. So she hosted small coffee chats and networking events to offer inspiration as well as a way to connect. She also used the events to promote other local businesses, bringing them (and her) new customers in the process. Tierra’s loyal base of customers loved these get-togethers and wanted more. Tierra added a blogtalk radio showto her busy schedule and startedSerious Startups to mentor other women who wanted to open their own businesses, too. Before you know it, a second career as a motivational speaker and retail strategy coach was born.

In 2010, Tierra was selected by Good Morning America’s Tory Johnson as a “daring doer” and was privileged to speak at one of her Spark & Hustleconferences for small business owners. She also represented the state of Georgia at the Small Business Administration’s roundtable discussion at the Washington, D.C. initiative.

As we close in on the third anniversary of her corporate layoff, Tierra is now the CEO of two successful shoestring startups and bringing home six figure sales. She would be the first to tell you that it has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but well worth all the hard work!

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