Entrepreneur Advice: How to Ditch Your Day Job


HollyHowardDear Holly,
I’m tired of my day job and I dream of opening my own boutique.  I don’t necessarily have any fashion design experience nor have I really worked in retail, but I love clothes and everyone tells me I have a great eye.  

My question for you is what are the first few steps I can take to get started?  I’d have to build this while I’m still working my day job, but I honestly don’t even know where to begin.  I’d love to be my own boss someday, but not quite sure what the first few steps should be.  


Dreaming of Design

Dear Dreaming,

I feel for you.  I was right where you were just a few short years ago and I’m sure there are many readers out there who also have the desire to quit their day job and build something of their own.  It’s a privilege to be able to be your own boss and that comes with big responsibility.

The first step I would recommend you take is to get some retail experience.  So while you still have your day job, see if you can get a part-time job in a boutique that you think would be similar to yours.  There’s no better way to learn the ins-and-outs of a business than on the job training.  I never recommend anyone start a business in an area where they have no experience.  Even six months, part-time, would give you very valuable perspective.

During that time, I would also begin to research the logistics of opening a boutique in NYC.  Spend some time on the Department for Consumer Affairs website and look at what is required of you for opening a boutique in NYC.  It’s never too early to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations of doing business.

You can also start to look around for a location for your business.  Real estate sticker prices are quite shocking these days and rents are soaring like never before.  This step is important because with rents so high, you don’t have as much wiggle room to make mistakes.  Unless you have a sizable amount of capital to start with, your business must get off to a decent start and continue to get stronger in order to cover the costs.  So, while you have the time, shop around and see what type of market you’re stepping into.  It will help you to determine what your break-even point for sales needs to be and what types of products you need to carry.

Next, consider your network.  Building a business also takes a village and you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of supportive people around you in the process.  So, take time now to map out who you know who can offer you support, whether it’s help with marketing and spreading the word, or maybe it’s to help you gain resources and financial support, or people who can recommend good staff to you.

Finally, plan ahead.  Once you’ve finished with the preliminary requirements already discussed, and you’re fully committed to moving forward, make a plan.  Whether you take a class, use a consultant, buy a book, or go it alone, plan, plan, plan.  NYC is an incredibly competitive marketplace in which to open a new business.  That doesn’t mean it can’t be done or that it shouldn’t be done.  But with soaring costs, you cannot afford to throw caution to the wind and dive in to follow our dreams.  Instead, you need to plan for the future and know how to make our vision a reality.

Best of luck!  I wish you all the best in this process!

Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.

Want valuable insights into how to grow your business? Email Holly to set up a time to talk athhoward@askhollyhow.com or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How. 

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