Candice Geller and Anna Bear Dallis, seniors in the School of Management, operate m.y. boutique in downtown Binghamton.
Photo by Steve Seepersaud
SOM students find challenge, opportunity in running small businessTweet
Two seniors in the School of Management are taking their classroom training a step further, learning about business first-hand by running their own retail store.
Anna Bear Dallis and Candice Geller have operated m.y. boutique at 134 Washington St., in downtown Binghamton for about 18 months. The store is one of the few in the area selling high-end women’s clothing brands, such as Sevens For All Mankind, BB Dakota, Pookie & Sebastian, Alternative and French Connection.
Dallis and Geller went into business for themselves after the store’s original owner basically abandoned the location and its full complement of merchandise. The SOM seniors run m.y. boutique in addition to studying full time, so they hired three Binghamton University students as well as a student from Binghamton High School to staff the store during its operating hours.
“It’s a huge challenge finding employees who care as much as we do about this place,” Geller said.
Getting the word out and building brand awareness have been challenging as well, said Dallis, because many students don’t know where Washington Street is – even though it’s one block away from the student hangouts on State Street. Maintaining a presence for m.y. boutique on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare has helped to bring some customers through the door, Dallis said.
To obtain the goods that will wow the customers, Dallis and Geller attend trade shows twice a year in New York and, when their schedules permit, they also visit designer showrooms in Manhattan.
“We have to miss a day of school for it, but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make,” Dallis said.
The business partners have been sharing their experiences with fellow students. Recently, they were guest lecturers in Ashwin Malshe’s retailing class, where they discussed recruiting salespersons and designing their compensation, planning the store layout, managing supplier relations and communicating with customers.
“Few people realize how difficult it is to start and expand a retail business,” said Malshe, a doctoral candidate and lecturer in marketing. “On average, around 40 percent of new retail stores go out of business within the first three years. It is highly commendable that Anna and Candice have overcome these odds in such tough economic conditions.”