Cyndii Jo Hartley, a hairdresser at Epic Total Salon, is preparing to start her own clothing boutique – one with a concept that ought to sound familiar to fans of Memphis’ food truck community.
Instead of food, though, Hartley’s mobile boutique will sell clothes and accessories from a truck that’s roughly 18 feet long by around 7 feet wide. The roving clothing boutique will be what’s known as a fashion truck – complete with a dressing room inside.
And as entrepreneurs have done with the food like tacos and sandwiches they sell out of campers and vans, Hartley will bring a smaller-scale, personalized shopping experience to her own mobile unit. She’s hoping to open the doors – or should that be, put the key in the ignition? – in late March or early April.
She recently bought her truck, and she’s been out of town over the past few days as she builds up inventory for the new venture.
“I’m really excited,” Hartley said. “I’ve been doing hair for 14 years, and for several years I’ve rented my space at the salon. I’ve considered myself self-employed, so I felt like a small-business owner already and had just been thinking what my next step is.”
For now, the plan is to split her time evenly during the week, three days at the salon and three days in her fashion truck.
The inventory will come from more than one source. In recent days, she’s been at an apparel market in Atlanta, meeting with designers and brands to get some inventory there. Some inventory also will come locally from Memphis.
She’ll mostly be selling ladies apparel and accessories as well as some jewelry and handbags. And she hopes to keep everything in the truck priced at $100 or less.
She envisions customers spanning all age groups, especially including those shoppers who love to see and touch what they buy and aren’t solely concerned with the quick convenience of buying online.
Another reason she’s excited about the venture is the range of possibilities it affords. She’ll be able, for example, to drive the truck somewhere a buyer might want to shop for clothes while on a break from work. She also talks about having a chalkboard outside for announcements and messages, and an inviting display that woos people in.
“I could take it and park in high-traffic areas that might not have lots of retail and also do private events at people’s homes,” Hartley said.
She heard about fashion trucks a little more than a year ago but didn’t seriously consider opening one herself until last April.
That’s when she had a bicycle accident and, because of the injury from it, had a long recovery before returning to work. She still works at the salon, albeit doing less than before the accident.
“That got me thinking what to do next,” she said.
She got more serious and started talking to other people about the idea, eventually connecting with the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team. The team had launched a mobile retail pilot program whereby grants were offered to applicants whose plan involved setting up a venture from something like a truck.
Through the program, Hartley got a forgivable loan administered by alt.consulting, a firm that’s been working closely with the Innovation Delivery Team.