- Giselle Ruggeberg is the owner of Jade & Clover, a boutique she started six years ago.
- She hustled her way into building a business by going to trade shows and getting into wholesale.
- Here’s how she grew to two locations, as told to the writer Jamie Killin.
This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Giselle Ruggeberg, the 30-year-old founder of Jade & CloverInsider has verified her sales with documentation. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I started Jade & Clover six years ago. We made more than $ 900,000 in sales in 2021.
I didn’t go to school, and I was working in the service industry in Dallas when I went on a road trip with some girlfriends and realized I didn’t want to do what I was doing anymore.
I’d told the company I was working for that I didn’t want to wait tables anymore, so they promoted me to events and office stuff, but I still wasn’t feeling challenged. So, on that road trip, I decided I needed to do something else.
I got the idea for a pop-up shop in 2011
One of the friends I went on the road trip with and I decided to start doing pop-ups selling home decor, clothing, and statement jewelry at First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas, the world’s largest flea market. It was an easy entry. into the retail sales market.
I then got a little booth at a different flea market during the Third Monday Trade Days in McKinney, Texas, and figured out how to buy clothes wholesale by searching on Google and websites sites like FashionGo, which hosted many of the wholesale clothing vendors. I’d tell them what I wanted; they’d send me samples; we’d adjust; and I started to build my inventory of clothes and accessories.
Today we’re working on making our own products as well as private-labeling some of our merchandise, but we still plan to carry a variety of great brands blended with as many local products as possible.
We ended up getting really big because of social media
Instagram wasn’t big yet, but Facebook was huge at the time. We did one of those “offer” promotions on Facebook in 2012 and were very early to do it. It kind of went viral, and we made a lot of necklace sales after that offer.
Then, I had a girl from Southern Methodist University in Dallas reach out and ask whether I wanted to go to their holiday pop-up shop on campus. I lived really close by, so I went and it was really successful.
When I was there, I noticed there was a space in the student center that was empty. I went to the university office every day for four weeks until the dean would take a meeting with me, and I persuaded him to let me set up a temporary store. I was there for two years.
SMU was great, but there was no diversity at all, so I went down to the Deep Ellum neighborhood in Dallas. At that time it was growing, and I felt as if that’s where I should be. It was something in my gut.
I met a developer outside of a brewery, set up a meeting, and ended up becoming friends with his broker. I sat down with the broker, and he told me he believed in me. I had no credit, and my parents don’t have a lot of money, but I said I promised to make it work.
I used my savings to start the business
I was also still working at night and when I had any spare time, picking up odd jobs like bartending and delivering packages for Amazon.
The space in Deep Ellum didn’t have concrete floors, walls, or HVAC. I had to gut it. I was waiting tables at night, bartending, then waking up in the morning doing whatever I had to do to make it happen.
The contractor also did a lot in terms of pulling permits and getting subcontractors, but I did as much construction as I could myself. I’m not above anything. I will take out the trash. I will knock on someone’s door. You just have to go and do it. It’s not always glamorous.
We opened in October 2016 after 10 months of construction and did really well. We were integrated into the community. After three months, I started hiring, and six years later here we are.
We had a slow time during the pandemic, but then someone made a TikTok on us that went viral
While everyone else was struggling, we were busy every day, even without an online presence.
In early summer, people were driving from all over — as far as Houston, more than three hours away — because they saw us on TikTok. Our gross sales went from about $ 27,000 a month to $ 78,000 a month. by getting us close to our pre-pandemic sales of $ 80,000 to $ 100,000 per month.
I also still use TikTok and other social-media platforms to promote the store. My approach is to keep it super authentic and interactive to continue to develop installations that create an experimental shopping experience and make people want to share the experience online.
After my success in Texas, I thought I’d either take my business to the next level or just close up shop
We were looking to expand to Greenville, South Carolina, or Charlotte, North Carolina, but then a restaurant opened up right next door to us. It was their first location in Dallas, and one of the owners happened to come in when I was working the register. We just started talking, and she mentioned that we should come to Arizona.
I followed up with an email months later and asked whether she had a broker in Arizona. She responded and said, “You won’t believe it, but my business partner also owns a space by the original Postino restaurant.” It turned out that Scottsdale space resembled our Dallas space. It was almost identical.
I went back and told the team, “We’re moving to Arizona in five months, so get your shit together.”
So many people feel as if they have to have everything lined up to be successful, but that’s not how life works
It’s also not what makes you happy. I don’t do this for the money, because if I did it for the money, I would’ve taken the money I had in the bank, bought a house, and relaxed, but instead I have 15 employees who all make a very livable wage. If I didn’t expand, I wouldn’t be able to keep them on payroll.
Everything I do now is so I can continue to keep my employees. They care so much about the company, and so it’s my job to figure out how to grow so they can continue to make money.
On the product side, what we carry changes, and right now I feel as though it’s about to change again
What I’ve noticed is that in Dallas, it’s about volume. Our average sale is about $ 35.
What I think we need to do in Scottsdale is elevate things a little bit. Here, the average transaction is over $ 100, so it’s tripling the average sale in Dallas. But we’re also doing 10 transactions instead of 100. That’s why it’s important to look at that data and know who your customer is.
I’ve never paid for any marketing, except for public relations. Instead, I inject that money into the neighborhoods we’re in.
I hate social media, even though it’s what helped us grow, but I think it’s important for people to put their phones down.
I wanted to create a space for people to be present and build something beautiful with friends, which is what inspired our plant bar, where people can build planters and terrariums together.