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Behind the Review host and Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.
In building a small business, most owners think of expansion as a clear marker of their success. Bigger is better. More clients equals more revenue. But rapid expansion can actually hurt your small business if it’s not done properly with the right tools and resources.
That’s a lesson Korri Burton-Universe, owner of Uncommon Closet, a custom clothing and tailor resource, learned the hard way. After a slow 2020, business started to pick up in 2021 as weddings were being rescheduled.
“Then 2021 hits, and it’s like, oh, we need to take every client. We can’t turn anybody down. Oh, dear God. Now we’re drowning. It was really rough. I ended up losing some of my key employees, which was really hard. I upset a lot of people, and I will be honest about that. It was a really hard year,” Korri said.
Uncommon Closet lost several key staff members to burnout, but an assistant manager gave some great feedback in a resignation letter, and Korri took the time to really listen. That led to some changes in the hiring process as well as their business management.
Korri said, “We got it together. I got a business advisor, and we were planning, ‘What do we want?’ Really narrowed down who we needed to hire, what type of people we wanted. I’ve been learning so much in the past six, seven months of how to hire the proper staff and not just panic hire. How to better communicate what I need and understand what my staff needs and really regulate the flow of work. I’ve gotten a lot better at that.”
As a small business owner, you don’t need to have all the answers to every problem. Korri has learned to reach out when problems arise and let the employees use their own experiences to help build the business.
“I’ve created a team atmosphere here. I’m very clear about, we don’t struggle alone. When there is a hard, boss-type decision, I’ll go to my head tailor and I’ll be like, ‘Hey, what do I need to do? How do I word this properly? How do I do this?'”
Yelp reviewer Yvette C. came to Uncommon Closet in need of some alterations to a wedding dress, which is arguably one of the most important dresses a person can wear, and a proper fit is essential both for looks and comfort on the big day. That pressure can be nerve-wracking, but Yvette felt welcomed and relaxed in the shop, thanks to great service and an inviting atmosphere.
“Customer service is a big thing for me because I have my own business, so I know what’s going on, and I know that it shouldn’t be difficult to slap a smile on your face—even if it’s fake—and make that customer feel like they’ve gotten a quality experience. But it’s all genuine at Uncommon Closet,” said Yvette.
And their goal is truly to make anyone and everyone feel welcome as a proud LGBTQIA+ friendly business.
“I like being really upfront with who we are. I would much rather be very loud and intentional, about being queer, about this is a queer space. This is a safe space. That is very important to me because it shows my clients that they can be who they wanna be when they walk in the shop,” Korri said.
“It also shows people right off the bat, if we’re not gonna get along, we ain’t gonna get along. I joke that our rainbow storefront is the vibe detector check. If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably pretty okay.”
Like most small business owners, reviews are both a joy and a curse for Korri, but they take them in stride.
“I’ve learned that you can’t make everybody happy… and sometimes, it truly is our fault, and I will own up to that. But you can’t make everybody happy. You’re not always gonna get along with everybody. And sometimes things just happen where maybe we just didn’t do something the right way.”
But according to Yvette, you can’t just respond with a standard pat answer to reviews, negative or positive.
“When I write good reviews, [the response is] usually just a standard thank you. Korri actually put a little bit more in showing gratitude and appreciation, versus, ‘Thank you for your nice review. We hope that you refer someone to us.’ They took the time, and they were like, thank you for that review. It’s really gonna help us out. We can’t wait to see you. So it was nice to get a little bit more.”
These strategic business lessons have contributed to the success of Uncommon Closet, and these others might help your small business as well:
- Quick business growth brings challenges. You might need to reduce workload or hire new employees with specific skills.
- Know where you lack experience and be transparent with employees. They may be able to step in and provide advice.
- Be proud of your identity. Creating an inclusive environment will help build a customer base and provide self-affirming experiences for patrons.
- Make your responses to reviews thoughtful. Reviewers notice when you write canned responses to their reviews.
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Korri and Yvette, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.