It's been a while since we had our last guest! Tam Tran from Classic Loot shares her story about her boutique on wheels. I first found Classic Loot just wandering the streets of Downtown San Jose and saw her pop-up store. Now she has here own storefront in Japantown San Jose! She shares tips on starting your own business, her hurdles and her thoughts about the emerging local arts and businesses in San Jose.
The Coffeehouse Invite: Hi Tam! I'm so excited to introduce the person behind one of my favorite boutiques in the Bay! Tell us about what you do?
Tam: Hi Lani, thank you for your kind words. I own Classic Loot, a mobile boutique on wheels. I specialize in vintage, handmade and new jewelry and accessories.
The Coffeehouse Invite: Classic Loot sells the cutest and unique accessories! What are your most popular items?
Tam: Our most popular items that everyone knows us for are our handmade Twistie Wired headbands. We are also known for our original one of a kind vintage finds.
The Coffeehouse Invite: We can find your boutique at many local events from Farmer's Market to First Fridays in San Jose. Where else can we find Classic Loot?
Tam: We are venturing over into the Oakland and San Francisco, so a few events like Treasure Island Flea and Jack of all Trades but usually for the holidays, we do a pop-up at our local malls.
The Coffeehouse Invite: One of the coolest parts of your boutique is it's on wheels! What gave you the idea of creating your own boutique in a truck?
Tam: I saw the idea a few years before I started my business, it was a leisure trip to New York. Later on when I started doing booth set-ups for events I wanted to expand immediately and was super discouraged by the availability of affordable and desirable spaces for lease in San Jose. I put two and two together and decided to take the idea I saw a few years back and that’s how I started by shop on wheels.
The Coffeehouse Invite: What are your thoughts about the emerging local arts and business scene here in San Jose? What can we do to help our local scene thrive?
Tam: I believe our scene is definitely there, but it’s not as mainstream as other larger cities. We have a hidden art scene and I think the people of San Jose like the fact that it’s small and underground. What we can do is make our downtown beautiful again by telling property owners to lower their rents and let small businesses in. We would have an abundance of shops, art, and basically a downtown scene where people would love to spend their time here.
The Coffeehouse Invite: You mentioned living in San Francisco and working in Real Estate for years and then one day decided you wanted to start your own business. What is one of the biggest hurdles you've come across and how did you deal with it?
Tam: Yes, I was a graphic designer for 5 years in a commercial real estate firm. I wanted to take my creativity to another level. The biggest hurdle is getting the blessing from friends and family to take my “job” now seriously. Because I don’t have a 9-5 and a m-f job they don’t view it as a career or an adult job. As far as dealing with it, it takes time, and with anything, people have to see your commitment and the growth to take you seriously. And also sometimes I really just don't give a fuck what they think, also another way to deal with it =) lol
The Coffeehouse Invite: What are 3 tips you would give to someone who would like to start their own business?
Tam: I get lots of people that tell me they want to do what I do, and they forget that owning your business, yes you get a lot of freedom and your make your own decisions etc but again, doesn’t mean you work less, sometimes more than the norm. In other words, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid, it’s not like there’s a check that comes in every two weeks regardless if called in sick or not.
Another tip would be make sure you do a lot of research and follow through with it, and don’t give up just because you’ve had a few hurdles, hardest part of starting a business is coming with the idea.
Also, fuck what anybody else says, if you think your idea is poppin, go for it. I mean if you have the funds to start it, don’t start charging all your credit cards. =)
The Coffeehouse Invite: At CHI, we encourage others to reach out and find people to collaborate with. Are you looking for anyone to work with? If so let, our CHI community know.
Tam: Oh yes of course, I’d love to link up with any jewelry makers, any fashion designers, any artist of any form really.