Mark’s Local Interactions #2
Welcome to Mark’s Local Interactions, a series of blog posts highlighting local businesses. In this edition, I talk to Pamela Wheaton of Heartbreak Boutique.
I am at Heartbreak Boutique talking to the owner, Pam Wheaton.
Pam’s shop can be called many things .. eclectic, funky, retro .. even charming.
One thing it cannot be called is boring.
As she prepares her shop for opening, I take a few minutes to wander through the store, looking over the racks of dresses, t-shirts, shoes, mugs, skate accessories, jewellery, soaps, socks, art and … well, the list goes on.
As we chat, Pam has Ike and Tina on the turntable (yes, a real turntable and real vinyl).
Pam began her business almost 4 years ago in June of 2012 in a small shop on Princess Street. The rent was right, and the size was right, but she always had her eye on Germain Street, where she is now. She made the move to her current location at 94 Germain Street last May, and business is good for this Saint John Entrepreneur.
As long as she can remember, Pam knew she wanted to start her own business. When she was laid off from her job due to downsizing, she looked at it not as a setback, but as an opportunity. She set out to secure some funding and, in a much shorter time than she expected, Heartbreak Boutique was a thing.
I asked Pam how she came up with the name. With a grin, she explained that the name was a “a bit of a homage to Elvis, with Heartbreak Hotel, but also because a pretty girl, back in the day, was a heart breaker.
When asked about what she loves most about the business, she very quickly says “the customers”. There was no hiding the smile on her face as she talked about helping clients pick out the perfect dress .. a testament to her love of customer service.
I also asked Pam about her mentors. It should be no surprise that Anne McShane of the Feel Good Store was one of the first people she talked to. Anyone who knows Anne also knows that she is a giving person, and the encouragement she gave Pam in the start-up days was a huge help.
In fact, Pam has found that the entire entrepreneurial community in Saint John is very helpful and sharing. She also had a lot of help from the Saint John Community Loan Fund and the people at Enterprise Saint John.
I asked Pam how she promoted her business. As it is with most businesses these day, her shop relies on Social Media and word of mouth.
As every business owner knows, it’s always tough to “not” be working. I asked Pam about her work/life balance. She finds that it comes in ebbs and flows, but when she is working on something creative (which she loves), she can become totally consumed by it. And of course, as Pam puts it, “the way technology is now, you’re never not working. If someone emails or comments on Twitter, I’m not going to leave it until the next business day”.
I also asked Pam what kept her motivated. She loves when she has something to look forward to. One of the things she loves is planning events in her store, Her most recent event was a fashion show in her store to promote the new spring collection, complete with live music. She also recently attended a trade show in Los Vegas, which she characterized as a “really big refresher for me”. She admits that she went a little overboard but she came back “really jazzed”.
Pam absolutely loves the creative side of her business. So much so that she is very soon going to be working with a friend of hers that will help her learn how to design patterns so that she can start her own clothing line. How cool is that?
She is also part of a “Women In Business” group through the CBDC where she gets to discuss new ideas and gets a fresh set of eyes. The sessions always fire her up and and she loves that she is able to have someone to bounce ideas off.
Another thing I learned about Pam that is that she is a “really, really. really big music fan”, and travels a fair bit to see live music.
Pam was also very quick to point out that her parents heave helped her immensely. Dad is the handyman and pitches in whenever she needs something done in the shop, and mom is on the job baking all the tasty treats whenever Pam has events at the store.
I must say, the biggest thing I picked up on while chatting with Pam is how her face lit up whenever we talked about her customers. Customer service is such a big thing for Pam. You can talk about customer service as much as you want, but when the real deal comes along, you know it. I watched Pam as she looked after the customers that came into the shop, and I saw not only the pride as she helped them out, but also her sense of style and her intuitiveness of how to best serve them.
If you want a real treat, drop into see Pam. If you know her, you know how much pride she has in her business, and how much she loves her customers.
Mark Pridham is the owner of The Pridham Group, a digital agency based in Saint John, New Brunswick.
A life long resident of Saint John, Mark is passionate about supporting and promoting local businesses.