That moment -- the one where a person decides to throw caution to the wind and go after their passion -- can be tricky. Particularly when it comes to launching a small business -- knowing it's the right thing to do is one thing, but having a vision and plan to get there is another. Simply put, starting one's own business is a full plate of hard work.
Knowing this reality didn't stop Bina Patel, principal and owner of Copper Kettles, one of Hoboken's latest Washington Street residents. We recently caught up to connect more about the story behind her success, clearly fueled by her passion. In the interview, Patel shares the story of leaving her advertising career and launching her own business, the decision behind opening its doors in Hoboken and the power of personal communities.
Laura Cococcia: What inspired you to open Copper Kettles? Was there moment when you knew you had to follow your passion and just do this?
Bina Patel: I'd always known that one day, I wanted to own my own business but I didn't know what that business would be or when I'd do it. Just... someday.
My two great passions in life are cooking and interior decorating, so I knew it would probably be something related to one or the other. Whenever my husband and I traveled (which we did, quite a bit), I was always on the lookout for unique tools and gadgets for my kitchen. Now, as any New Yorker can attest to, space is at a premium in the city so anything I bought had to be not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional.
The impetus itself was the sale of the advertising company I worked for. Burnt out and filled with dread at the possibility of moving elsewhere to do the exact same thing yet again, I thought that if I was willing to work this hard 12 hours a day, why not do it for myself?
The moment of inspiration came the third time a big name store like Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware started featuring one of my great "finds" on their shelves and I realized that I might actually have a knack for this. Things just started falling into place after that. Six months later, Copper Kettles was born and, so far, I have no regrets.
LC: What has been the most rewarding part of opening and owning your own business? The most challenging?
BP: The most rewarding part of opening Copper Kettles -- by far -- has been the reaction of my customers. They're amazing! Watching folks walk in the store and begin "ooh-ing and ahh-ing" over everything on the shelves is such a satisfying experience. The feedback is immediate and it's a direct result of my choices and efforts. It's a great feeling to have your hard work appreciated, whether that means selling a $1 million proposal or picking the right spatula.
The most challenging has been to avoid overextending myself or the business. Now that I've got a few months under my belt, I'm beginning to see the possibilities and, being a dreamer by nature, I'm tempted to expand in directions I'd never even imagined when I began. With each new suggestion or criticism, I have to keep reminding myself that I can't be all things to all people, and growth will come over time. There was a vision but it was never written in stone, so I can pick and choose what I want to do next and plan accordingly. It's a journey, not an itinerary so if I can't make it happen tomorrow, I know I can and will.
LC: What drew you open Copper Kettles in Hoboken, rather than in Manhattan or other nearby areas?
BP: Of course, rent was a key decision factor for starting my search for space outside of Manhattan. At an average of $200 per square foot for retail space in the city and the fact that I had no prior experience launching a new brick-and-mortar, New York City was too much of a risk, particularly in this economy.
So I focused my search just outside, as I knew I'd be spending a lot of time there, particularly in the beginning, and the commute couldn't be overwhelming. I was looking for a quaint little town with a great sense of community, a touch of the bohemian and of course, foot traffic.
Hoboken offered that and more.
With one of the few thriving Main Streets left in the region, Hoboken is a hub of activity throughout the year. Folks come in to walk Washington Street from all the neighboring cities and now, thanks to the success of TLC's Cake Boss television show, from across the country as well. In fact, Washington was even voted as one of the "Top 10 Great Streets in America."
Between the intentional absence of "big box" stores and a 20-minute commute to/from the city, all signs pointed to "yes" when it came to opening up a boutique in Hoboken.
LC: What advice would you offer to others looking to start their own business?
BP: Resources are all around you, if you just take the time to look -- so look.
The Internet, of course, is an obvious first stop for "how-to" in this day and age but sometimes it's a real face-to-face conversation that leads to the best -- and sometimes unexpected -- information.
As mentioned earlier, I'd had no prior experience opening a retail shop but I had access to lots of people who had so I'd plague them with questions about everything from where to buy shelves to what kind of POS system I should use. And I didn't just approach family and friends -- I'd go into other boutiques and ask to speak to the owner, I'd talk to the clerks if they weren't available and of course, grill vendors whether it was on the phone or at trade shows.
I was surprised at how patient everyone was, and by the depth of the insights they were willing to share. Even if they didn't provide any new information per se, 9 times out 10 they generated a lead that did. It's those tidbits borne from experience that proved the most useful then and still do to this day.
Another big surprise was finding out that everyone harbors a hidden talent and all they needed was the opportunity to showcase it. For me, I discovered a cousin and his buddy were wizards with hammers and a power drill -- they helped put together all of my shelving and even provided suggestions for inventory after watching cooking shows (secretly, of course!)
When word spread that I was opening a kitchen and housewares boutique, a childhood friend's husband asked if I needed help with branding -- he was trying to launch his own graphic design firm and needed case studies. The Copper Kettles logo was his first project. A former co-worker, unbeknownst to me, wanted to start her own organic soap company -- her products are now one of the top sellers in the store.
Even if they weren't ready to ditch their jobs and embark on new careers just yet, Copper Kettles gave them a chance to test the waters and I got some great expert services at little to no cost. It was a win-win situation for all of us.
536 Washington Street, Hoboken NJ 07030
Tel. (201) 850-1890
Copper Kettles is a boutique shoppe specializing in unique gifts and essentials for the kitchen. With an eye toward style that doesn't sacrifice functionality, our goal is to make cooking a truly delightful experience from pot to plate!
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