We have all dealt with what we perceive as a failure. Failure can be useful. We can learn from it, gain new insights, and do better next time. The right kind of failures give us new information & teach us something that gets us closer to our goals. On this week’s episode, Michelle opens up, with her trademark honesty, on what lessons she has taken away from her “failures” and how that has helped her grow both professionally and personally.
Michelle: Hey there. I'm Michelle Sherrier, and this is the retail whore podcast, The Stories and Lessons from a Life in Retail. Hello. Hello, it's Wednesday. Welcome back to the retail whore podcast. It's a brand new episode and today's episode is a solo cast. And I'm going to tell you right now, it's about to get real. I go pretty deep into some of my past, what I call failures. But to be honest with you, I don't believe anything's really a failure. I always believe failure is the best instructor. And I talk about my very young age and very stupid mistakes and go into a little bit more about Fred SIEGEL and then a concept that I helped create that I was a partner with, that I don't talk about much called Suite XO, so I dive pretty deep into that and I will take you through all of the perceived failures that actually are some of the best lessons that I've ever received in my career. So without further ado, here's today's episode. Ock failure. Now I know when everyone hears this word, everyone thinks it's a bad word. And I have always believed. Not always, but I have believed for at least the last. Probably 15 or 20 years. That failure is your best instructor. And I know most of us don't want to take risks and do certain things for fear of failure. But I can tell you right now, if you really look at some of the stuff that you've done in the past and things that you have thought you've failed at, maybe have epically failed. But if you really look at it and you really think about like the lessons you took away from that, I'm pretty sure you're able to pick out something that has helped you in some way, whether it be a guy that did you wrong during high school that taught you whatever it is. But I think that really when we all look at our failures, I really feel like that we are able to really take something away. And I, for one, that is now my new phrase. And it's not new, but it's my phrase now. And it's partly because at the end of the day, when I started looking back at some of what I thought were failures through my life, really, when I think about what the lessons that I learn from them.
I would not be where I am today without some of those failures. So I figured today what better time to talk about shit that I thought I failed on. That actually was an epic fail, but ended up being amazing lessons that I still carry with me today in my career. Starting with the first one, which is extremely embarrassing and I've never really admitted it publicly. But you know, everyone goes through these phases. It's the only way you're going to learn. I was 14. I got my first job at Buff Arms. I was a cashier. So you already know where this is going. And I started figuring out how to take $5 here, $5 there off. And obviously every night my register was shorted and obviously I was figured out. But the epic failure of being so fucking stupid and doing that and thinking you're not going to get caught was obviously a lesson that I carry with me that I will never, ever, ever in my entire life do that again, just for the sheer well, obviously for the sheer wrongness of it all. But a huge part of it is the humility of I never got arrested. They were nice enough to pull me aside and let me know that they caught on to my my shoplifting. If you call that and they have like let me they're letting me go without being arrested, thank God, because I can't even imagine what that would be like. But, you know, it's embarrassing. And honestly, like, it's one of those things that, like I said, I've never, never talked about it, but it shit you go through. It's something that you do that you who knows why you're stupid enough to do that. I think all of us have done stupid things like that, but certainly that was the dumbest thing I've ever done and I will never do it again. Again, the humility of all of that is too much to bear, and not to mention how wrong it is. But you know, you have lessons that you learn and you learn lessons that you go through and you realize that the. Probably won't do that again probably wasn't the smartest thing so that I'm going to start off with that was being number one and you know, as growing up and going through things like I, you know, I, I jumped from job to job.
I'd worked after being escorted out of bathrooms. I went on to working for Haagen-Dazs, which was the funniest job on earth. All the cute boys came and got ice cream samples and your cute shirts was I still, to be honest with you, I have to wonder if there are vintage Haagen-Dazs T-shirts out, because they were always like the cutest and they were colored. Like, I think Chocolate Coffee, Chocolate Chip was a coffee colored t shirt with black writing. And they were just, I mean, really, to be honest, way ahead of their time with how cute they were. And I have to wonder if they are still in existence somewhere out there in eBay land or in vintage shops. But I did that for a bit and then I went off to model in Japan and then came back to work retail for a bit and ended up at Fred Segal. And for those of you who have heard the story already, I put in an application to become, you know, temporary help to help the Fred Segal sale and in this iconic environment. And I was hired on the spot and I was a sale girl. It was supposed to be temporary and I was put on to and Daisy Duke shorts put on to like this big denim bar where I sat there and slung denim for weeks of this Fred Segal sale. And because my then boss, Michael Campbell, thought it was hilarious because who wears fucking Daisy Dukes to, you know, your first day of work? But the dress code was denim and you wore your Fred Segal shirts. So that's apparently what I felt was appropriate and I paid for it dearly. Maybe that should be one of the lessons, but I was at Fred's for a long time. I was there for, I think seven years. I ended up having my own stores. I went through the ranks of being an employee and then a manager and learning how to run a Fred Segal store, learning how to work with the customers. That's still where I say my my passion for customer service and good customer service comes from my days at Fred's. I learned everything from how to hem a pair of pants, not physically have it, but how to mark a pair of pants, how to build a clientele list, how to interact very intimately with celebrities, and the power of acting like you have no idea who they are until you have that trust.
And then you can kind of act like you know who they are. But I still to this day, celebrities that I do know, I still act like I have no idea who they are. It's just it's just, I guess, embedded in me. But, you know, I was at Fred's. I had I was able to end up acquiring stores. I had first one was comfort for comfort one, and it was doing amazing. And then I opened a smaller space next to it for its Eagle Comfort two, and that was women's divisions of what we sold in Comfort, which was basically surf and skate wear. And then an opportunity came up to take on. The store for its legal environment. That's why I turn it into. But it was, I think, a Terra Verde store which is out of New York. It was all ego. It was so beyond so far ahead of its time. That store, it was ego wasn't even a word. And Fred's whole thing was re reuse, renew, re something. That's how far it goes back. But, you know, it was an eco store and it was way before anyone even talked about eco and I because I was. Because I was ego driven at that age. I was 27 and the opportunity came in to take over this terrible store that was going out. A lot of times when stores went out of business, you were able to work a deal with Fred where you walked into the existing inventory and fixtures and whatnot and you basically assumed ownership and then and then it was yours.
And so I worked out a deal that may have been good, may not have been bad. Good, I don't know. But I was so hell bent on opening the store and having the store because it was like, Oh my God, it'll be amazing. I'll be home. And then I'll have a men's store and a women's store, and this home store will be everything I want to carry as far as home lines and tabletop and bedding and blah, blah, blah. Let's put it this way the building itself puts the goal for a better environment, better ecology. At 420, Broadway was 14,000 square feet. I assumed this other square footage that then ultimately ended up having 7000 square feet of a 14,000 square foot building. Now, when I say that and I say I'm 27 years old, I'm going to tell you that was probably one of the stupidest things I've done. But I've always believed in just jumping. I say that here all the time and then was no different. Unfortunately then was much more driven out of ego than anything. And and the desire to say look at me and look what I did so against everybody, including my grandfathers and my attorney's advice, I still did it. And it was really good. I'm not going to lie. I mean, it is amazing home lines. And we had bed linens and we had beautiful, big, beautiful trees. I mean, it was a massive space. And because Terra Verde put a ton of money into the buildout, the fixtures were beautiful. It was just amazing. Well, to fill that amount of space, you have to put like the inventory I assumed was like Terra Verde was basically a eco grocery store in New York. And so I assumed things inventory wise. I assumed like toilet paper. I took over paper towels. There were some lines, there were some very, very expensive, beautiful bed linens that I took over as well. But by far and large, the inventory that I assumed was not enough A to fill the store and B, it was certainly not enough to be able to sell in order to make your rent. And I don't even for the life of me remember what my rent was then at that point, which is probably for the best, but, you know, in order to fill it so it looks full and this is, mind you, back in the nineties.
So a retail at that point in the nineties was like the phrase was stack at high and watch a fly. That was no joke. I mean, your stores were fucking packed and they were packed to the guilt of like amazing products that people had to have because you had the clientele to support it. So I put a ton of my money from two stores for comfort and comfort too, that we're doing so well. I took a ton of credit that they had built and I dumped it into Fred Segal environment and I had amazing lines and it was beautiful and it was full and they were doing okay up until the Northridge earthquake and then pretty much everything that was paid on terms needed to be paid still, whether it was gone or not broken, which a lot of it was still how to pay your bills. There was no such thing as as earthquake insurance. Well, there was, but no one had it. But it literally all the credit I had taken from the two stores had and sunk it into this massive store was gone. And still now when I think about it, like if I had not done that, to be honest, I would have probably been at Fred Segal til the dying day. I mean, I really the two stores on their own were doing phenomenal. They weren't massive. They weren't so big that it was out of control. And a lot of you know, a lot of the lessons and a lot of the things I tell retailers now still are part of that failure lesson. But at the end of the day, I ended up losing not just environment comfort and comfort to my attorneys and my accountants pulled me aside and said, we're pulling the plug. Like your credit is so stretched beyond the beyond and there's no way you're ever going to make it out of here. And so I went through the process of bankruptcy. And, you know, I've said it, if you've listened to the first episode, going through bankruptcy in a very public space, being Fred Segal and being only 27 years old was horrifying. Because, you know, back in that day, you were all that in a Big Mac, or at least you thought you were.
You had stores of Fred Segal. You dealt with celebrities. You drove a brand new car. You had a Gucci bag. I mean, I was like the fucking poster child for overextended. And, you know, unfortunately, that's I was 27. That's kind of what you go through. You really you know, you don't go through. But that's kind of what I went through. And it was gross. I was gross. And I've said it before, like, humility is the best lesson. And let me tell you, that was a humiliating experience. And the people that you are an asshole to climbing the ranks of something like Fred Segal and you treat them like garbage and you act like you are all that and then you lose everything and you go downhill. Believe me, those people are so fucking happy to see you go down. They're like, waving at you. Bye bye, Felicia. Like, it was. It was ugly. But, you know, I mean, at the end of the day, after losing everything, you know, some of my friends, I'm still grateful that I'm friends with the Fred Segal world that, you know, I was I you know, I have the the award for being the only person that went through bankruptcy. I believe publicly. I went through bankruptcy at Fred Segal. Other people closed their stores and went there. I think I went down with such a fucking crash that was like flames and skyrocketing fireworks were coming off me. I went down so well. But that. Lesson. The lesson of humility, the lessons of what not to do, I still say, were the best lessons I've ever had. And I. I still say and I can't believe I say it, that I am glad I went through that experience. And I'm really lucky I went through that experience not only for the education and being able to have that, that experience of having a store at Fred Segal but going through the experience of a. Not to treat people like an asshole and don't get all high on your horse because you're just a shop girl at the end of the day. You sell clothing. You sell jewelry.
So there is no need or reason to be an asshole. That's a big lesson. But the biggest was bigger is not better. And I have I have several accounts. And this story will come up again with another failure lesson coming down the road here. But I tell people all the time, you know, right now the malls are doing huge t ideals and people are starting to get a little crazy like I. We're going to open two more stores, you know. The malls are giving T deals. And I the first thing I say is. Is our operationally, are we sound inventory wise or are we sound? Does your store look like it's half full because you haven't put them up in money in the inventory, in it? Are your fixtures where you want them to be before we take the money and put it into a new. Property. Let's get site A and B tight. Let's get them. So good inventories spot on. Fixtures were supposed to be let's not take a half assed door and open another half store. And and because all you're doing is taking Peter to pay for Paul. Now, what you could have done with store A and B, now you've already taken that and you're now off down the running track and opening something else and bigger is not better. Same thing as square footage. There are some stores like I mean, Rock Paradise can fill that store. They have 5500 square feet. They are wholesalers and they go and get the stones themselves. That place can hold the inventory. Not a lot of people can do that. And I know there's people that look at that and go, Oh, we can do that. It's like, not really. I mean, I'll be honest, like the amount of money and the amount that it takes to bring in crystals like that. I mean, we're talking containers from Brazil. Not a lot of people can do that. And there's a lot of people that want to have these big giant stores. And it's like you have to realize the inventory you have to put into that in order to like it look full and abundant and not like we're half in or half out.
We look kind of like we're out of business. We have empty shelves or very lean shelves. Like unless you're Calvin Klein lean shelves, do not do you any favors. They actually work against you and you know smaller is better. Pack it full make it like a jewel box. There's a store called Doreen. Our guest from a few back. Jessica used to be their merchandiser. That store is like a jewel bar. It started very small. She's kind of expanded, but it started very, very small. And it is packed with the most amazing gifts and the most amazing items. And it's like this jewel box and I still go by. Bigger is not better. You know, the jewel box thing is like you can still pack out sales like that and it's like have a tiny footprint and not have to have as much payroll, not to have as much rent, not to have as much insurance. And not I mean, it's just there's so many pluses, but everyone kind of gets stuck in that ego thing. So the failure is your best instructor in the world of Fred Segal. That honestly was the best lesson I could have ever. I mean, it's life lesson and I will never regret any of the decisions I made. I do regret how I treated people and how I acted. But I will never regret the lessons that I learned from that because they are priceless. So fast forward to and I've never really talked about this project. I purposely I kind of touched on it when we had Damon von Schweikert interview. But fast forward to a project that I was referred to. You know, for those of you don't know, 99.9% of my business has been referrals where I've worked with somebody, they referred me or a rep has seen what I do. They refer me. I'm very lucky in that sense and I'm very grateful that it's always referral. So I got referred to a project for a store that was opening in Lancaster, California, and they are. They work with the Housing Department. They were part of the development, the redevelopment of Lancaster City of Hiccups, redevelopment of Lancaster.
And they took a three lane highway and they turned it into basically a Thursday prominent. And Scott, I'm going to use this first name. Scott is brilliant at consulting properties. I mean, he can draw something on a napkin and take it to his architects and with some inspiration pictures and they fucking pump it out. It's crazy. I mean, he is literally a brilliant, brilliant designer with no designing background whatsoever. So he is they are a section housing. Company that has been brought on by the city of Lancaster to create this shopping street. And it is when I say it's amazing. It's amazing. I mean, they have a store. They they basically created a downtown. So they have an ice cream store. And the outside of it looks like the Ralph Lauren Age sign for the ice cream person. And then they have a separate little store next door, which is candy. And then I was brought in to head up a three story. Three story retail space and the guys had no retail retail background whatsoever. So I was brought in basically as the retail consultant and to turn this three storey building into a retail space. And it was like when I talk about like these dream jobs, this was kind of a dream job. It was taking three story building. They had a little bit bought a little bit. They had zero fixtures and they had zero idea what they're going to do with it. And it was like one of those dream projects where you get to create something. So I came up with we basically turned it into an Urban Outfitters. I mean, it was men's women's kids. It was we had food. Scotts wanted a hot shoppe, a hot spot, a hot sauce bar. So we had this one space that was like all kinds of hot sauces, like all kinds of heats. And then he he wanted a bath bomb, basalt area. So we had this one big bath section, had vats of bath salts, and you basically poured it yourself and weighed it, and that's how it was paid for. But the rest of it I got to create and it was one of those dreamy jobs where, you know, first floor's women's and there's apparel mixed in like we do at Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters.
There are tabletops, there are kids departments there. I mean, everything from the fixtures to the wall decor to the lighting fixtures that we sold to every single item I got to pick. And it was such a kickass job. So I'm there on that project for a year. I do the buying, we do the the fixture designs, we get the fixture, we get the store laid out, we get it open. I'm there on board with them for I signed on for a year going back and forth to Lancaster and my poor now husband, we had just started dating and it was like, okay, I'm going to Lancaster for two weeks, but you're running on this crazy high because it's like this, this design dreamy job that you have full control over. So you're running very much on a high. So I was just like, I didn't care if I were 14 or 16 hours a day. I was so stoked to be part of this project. So I stayed on for a year and it was working with the now manager, getting her up to speed with buying because, you know, not a lot of buyers can just walk in out from the out and start buying men's apparel, women's apparel, kids apparel, table top gift. I mean, there's a lot of departments and if you've never done it and now you're managing a store and you now are assuming the role of a buyer, it's a lot of training. So I came on, I stayed on for a year. We took them through, I think, two Christmases. And then it was like, Och, it's, it's time to pass the torch. And it's kind of what I'm doing with Burt's Pharmacy right now. It's kind of interesting. And that project, thank you very much. See you later. Bye. I'd come up and visit every now and then, just for the sake of visiting to see where the store was at. And I got a call from the partners and they were opening a they were talking about opening a space in Agoura and Hills, California, and they wanted to take aspects of what they created in Lancaster and turn it into a single store experience. And it was.
It's going to be frozen yogurt, candy, gifts and apparel. So basically everything that we did in the Lancaster Store and the other candy in the yogurt part of it, because they all did phenomenal. So they've rented a space off of CONAN and it's a strip mall. It's like when you talk about real estate, there's a sites, B side C sites. It's definitely a C real estate. It's in a strip mall. It's not fancy. But they had the vision that it's going to become a destination. And again, I had this dreamy job of Scott designed the fixtures, but we designed he wanted the yogurt bar, the toppings bar to be like I think he said he wanted to be like the Ritz Carlton buffet sundae buffet. Like everything you want, every single kind of gummy candy nut, chewy, salty, sweet, you name it, that was going to be on. So we built this candy and topping bar. We did it with I did it with Dovetail Furniture that we put sneeze guards on. So it had this amazing found object look that you went all the way around and the yogurt was self serve. And then the candy element, the fixtures that they designed that were like the wall fixtures that were self-standing, the top half shelves shelving unit were gifts and the bottom three rows were three rows of candy bins and this was the entire store. So if you wanted chocolate mothballs, you had to go to one part of the store and if you wanted gummies, there was a whole gummy section. You had to physically walk to the store. And if you think about how Cracker Barrel's brilliance is of, to get to your table, Cracker Barrel, you have to walk through the gift store. What does that mean? That means ultimately, you're going to end up buying something. Same thing as sweet exhale. The brilliance of having the candy disperse through the entire space was fucking brilliant. I still think it's brilliant and. I did all the gifts, the apparel, I did the rest of the fixturing, and we did this beautiful cross merchandising thing. And I had a chance to really kind of hone in how I do concepts.
Now, this is where I kind of started, and it was curating glyph collections, so we did this great. For those of you who bought my pie, if you remember the mud pie initial bag, the mud pie, initial bag mixed with Roseanna, initial mugs mixed with candy, that was initials. And we did this whole big black and white initial group and we mixed in black and white candies. I mean, it was it was the funnest project to work on because of the element of the candy and the sweet and it and, you know, there's every color candy that's available. And if you think about boxed candy and like all of the art on it and mixing all these colors and the art and all of it flowed so seamlessly. This store was a fucking nutty hit from the beginning, not only because the candy and yogurt thing, but just because no one's ever seen anything like it. It was phenomenal. And not just because I was part of the creation of it. It really was just the brilliance of the candy and the yogurt part and having gifts mixed in. It was brilliant and it was from the first day it opened, it was this crazy hit to the point that malls were coming to see the store and shop the store. And the malls started putting out offers to have us go into malls and. From my experience of Fred's, I'm not big on overexpansion. We didn't have operations really set. We had very young managers. The manager we started with, I still my friends with. I adore her. Anna, and it was amazing. Anna did not stay that long, so it ended up being Anna's replacement. Ended up being, Hey, you're the next one in line. Here's your keys, which is not. If you listen to Damon's in my interview, not the smartest way you hire management, you interview them. They need to be retail management. They need to have some experiencing, managing a business and managing people. It's not, unfortunately, how this went. And there we operationally, we didn't even have a guidebook. It was literally by the seat of the pants of the kids running it in.
And I was in the stores every day, almost every day, merchandising, selling, working with them. I was like the only adult on the floor. The rest of it was kids. The owners were kind of role in, Hey, what's up? You know, whatever. But really, they were not working owners. I was there every day, so I ended up being kind of the owner manager. I wasn't even an owner then, but I was a manager, but I was the buyer. So I made sure I was not going down that road of management. I've been there, I've done it, I know it. I'd step in if I saw something wrong, but I really did not want to be considered, quote, a manager. So this store, the store's doing phenomenal. Even without any kind of operations going, the store is doing phenomenal. The store starts getting offers to open up in the malls and the powers that be. The guys decide that. We're going to open for more. Now, I'm going to tell you right now we haven't even been open a year. And they're talking about opening four more locations. We don't have operations together and they're talking about opening four more locations. We are we're not even a year old. And we're talking about opening former locations. And when I say I was like, absolutely not like people. There is a reason why stores don't open that many stores when they're that young. Like it's just spend two years perfecting the product, perfecting the concept, perfecting operations like just that alone. But there is there's something I always say that gets involved and it's ego. And ego has a very big hand on what you decide you're going to do when it comes to people recognizing the name and the store was Suite XO and Suite XO had a name and the powers that be got a little crazy and decided we're opening for more. Think about it. And I still remember the quote was because we had a meeting, it was myself on the partners and a couple of the team members and it was, like I said, there's a reason why stores and operations don't do this. Well, we do it because we can we can do it.
And it's like, okay, if that's not the most ego driven statement I've ever heard, I don't know what it is. But, you know, I've always said I'm up for a challenge. I'm always said that I love what I do. And this was an this is a chance to open four more locations, create four more amazing spaces, and do something I love. So I was like, all right, I'm in. And at that point they made me a partner. I had to step away. I was still, even though I was doing that, I was still working for I was still doing speaking handicraft. I was still I think I was doing a little bit for Stephen Young, but at that point, I had to say goodbye to the people that I work for and I was going to commit 100% to Sweet XO. So I left everybody and I started down the path of creating four more locations that were going to open pretty much simultaneously. And when I say this was fun, oh my God, it was amazing. I mean, buying for one store is one thing being thrown into the fire and buying for five and learning it as you go, but being able to create anything you come up with in your imagination, I mean, it was the sky's the limit. Like whatever you want to do, Michelle, like, let's do it. And it was all met. The ego part of it kind of got to me too, because it just the thought of being able to create something like this on this scale, we're, to be quite honest, cost was not an issue. Cost was not even a thing. It was just do it, just do whatever is going to make this place amazing. And I did. And it's like I've always said, you know. I will run and go and go and go and go. Go and tell someone says stop. But I will literally just I will fucking run as fast as I can as far as I can, as long as I can. And that's pretty much what I did. And it was we got all four new locations open. We hired an operations manager, thank God, that created policy and procedure that we never had before.
That was the voice of reason. That was an adult that was going to be working with the stores and the employees and making sure that everybody was on target because that nothing is scarier than having this many stores out in the open and having no operation operations going on, no structure, no policy and procedure, nothing is scarier than that. So thank God that they did have the sound of mind to bring in an operations person, because I can't even imagine how much scary that would be. So we get the stores open. We have great fanfare. I will tell you one of the lessons that I still take away from this that had nothing to do with me, but after watching it as a fly on the wall is with all the malls that are doing these deals, please do your due diligence and see who is the demographic for that mall. Because one of the malls we went into was Santa Anita. Amazing Mall. It's a 90% Chinese shopped mall. China promotes this mall for Chinese to come and visit because it's very Chinese friendly. I mean, it is a beautiful mall, but it is built on Chinese consumers. And Chinese consumers don't buy frivolous, stupid things like. Gummies and little wax lips and little tchotchkes. They buy luxury goods. Michael Kors bags always had a line out it. Louis Vuitton always had a sweet XO with all the cute little kitsch. Things that did phenomenally in every single location did not do that well there. So that was a major panic. It was Michel in the middle of the night laying there, thinking about all the inventory that's sitting there, that date after day, getting the sales reports and not very much inventory is sold on the gift end of it. It was like having to rebuild a car or rebuild a plane mid-flight is pulling everything out and transferring it to other locations and bringing in other products and hoping you're bringing in the right thing and then only finding out later that demographically we should have never been in that mall. So that's a little tip there on the side. But the other stores were doing phenomenal. We had El Segundo, we had 1000 Oaks, we had Agoura, the original, we had Huntington Beach and a brand new complex, which was hard because we were one of the first stores there, but we still ended up having people come and then Santa Anita and all of them minus Anita, were doing phenomenal.
And the teams, the demons recruiting these team members was so phenomenal. And some of the talent that we had was just so great, which made this next. Wave of change so hard. I will never forget I was at magic and I'm there for spring, I think. And I get a text from Scott. Don't buy anything. And actually, it was calling me and I'm like, excuse me? And he's like, Don't buy anything. I'm like, I'm here for spring goods. We have things like, don't buy anything. I'll tell you about it when you get back, but don't buy anything. So. So you're telling me as I'm standing in the middle of a show floor at Magic that I'm not supposed to buy anything? So what am I doing in Vegas? Just take a vacation, enjoy it. And, you know, that was my first. Like, what is going on? Like, what's texting Damon asking him what's going on? He's like, I'm not sure everyone's acting really weird or whatever. So I get back and we all sit down and. The partners that be who mind you are not in the store day to day. Who are the money guys? Who are the guys behind part of the creative? But they're not the ones who are in the store. They're not the ones training the employees. They're not the ones. They're the ego part. That said, let's open for stores. Sitting in a meeting with them. We just got Manhattan Beach Open. That was the fifth and final store. I think it was four months after Manhattan Beach was open. And we're also going to and they decide the main guy. I'm closing the stores. This isn't fun anymore. And I still never forget. Like my mouth dropped to the floor. It was like, excuse me, you're not having fun anymore like this. The real work has just begun. Like the fun part was the designing of the store part. Absolutely. But now the real work starts. And now you're telling me you want to close the stores? Like, what does that mean? I'm just not having fun anymore.
Okay. Well, I'm going to tell you right now. When you open a store, the funnest part is the designing part. The funnest part is the buying part. The shitty part is the day in, day out, shitty parties. The invoices. The shitty part is when things go awry and you don't have somebody working the floor. That's the shitty part. But guess what? You open the store and that's the commitment you made to both the mall, to the employees, to everyone that you work with, that you're opening a store. And because we were going to be successful, this was what it was. I could not believe I'm hearing. I'm just not having fun anymore. We're going to close it. And at that point, what do you do? I had no control over it. I think I left relatively dumbfounded and within, I want to say, four months, all the stores are closed. I was let go in December. I was given the company car that I had, which I promptly sold right away because I was like, Fuck you, Swede. So but that car, I will say thank you very much. That car paid for my car. But when you think about failures and you think about something you created with so much passion and so many hours, and it's like the employees that you worked with day in and day out, and the poise that I trained and developed and worked with side by side. The idea that they are now having to they're now losing their jobs, that some of them left very like one guy left Lush. He was really had a career at Lush, left Lush because he believed in Sweet XO and like this brand that was brand new and it was going to go somewhere. And the heartbreak of that is still gut wrenching. And the hours that I put into it, not just me, all of us put into it, it was gut wrenching. And the idea and this is where ego comes in because it's like everyone in my mind, everyone attaches you to, Oh, you're the person known sweet XO, oh, you're your sweet XO. And you go to shows much like Fred SIEGEL, you go to shows and people are like, 0600 Fred SIEGEL.
So the ego part of it is also hard. I mean, I'm not going to lie. I have reps that I still see, not that I'm friendly with because I unfortunately don't forget, but I still vividly remember showing up at I think it was Vegas or Atlanta and a rep. That was my friend when I was with Fred, when I was with XO, who knew I was fired, you know, I mean, they had to let me go. So knew I was fired and I was showing up at the show to walk the show. And I had clients that I was meeting because I immediately literally drove away from the day I was fired and I got on the phone and started calling my old clients again. It's like, Do you want me back? I'm I'm available now. And I rented an office that same afternoon. My husband still laughs. He's like, You're the only person I know that gets fired and then gets in the car, gets in the car and calls the LA Mart and gets an office right away. But I you know, you kind of go into panic mode. But I'll still never forget showing up at the show that year and that one rep. Looking at me and actually looking at my badge. And then you look at looks at my face and she looks at my badge again and then she's like, What are you doing here? Like, I'm here to look at I'm just here to look at the line. I'm taking clients here tomorrow, blah, blah. But ego wise, I should have just been like, Whatever, who cares? But ego wise, it's one of those things. It's like, Man, you never know what somebody is going through, and you certainly don't know what people are thinking. But man, you go through something like that and it's amazing. You really realize who your friends are as far as reps. And I have reps that I, you know, who knew me then and who know me now, who I absolutely adore and the job that I had and the job and whatever who I was buying for has nothing to do with our friendship other than they're my friends.
But the failure part of this lesson, the what I perceived at that moment and cried endlessly about the failure that I thought was happening was again, this one was my second biggest gift ever, the gift of learning how to swim and being put in a sink or swim situation and literally dropped in. And. Learning on the fly how to buy for five stores. Did I make mistakes? Absolutely did. And I still make mistakes. But did I make mistakes? Yes. Did I overbuy in some things? Hell yes. Did I buy wrong merchandise for wrong. Ill. Ill fitted demographically. Demographic stores. Absolutely. But I can tell you right now, learning how to on the fly open, not one but four brand new stores while having one that's already currently open and successful that you are the only merchandiser and learning how to every single day balance my time going to a store a day and re merchandising their space and training the team on how to maintain the the the display and how to maintain, you know, taking an inventory and putting it into their store. All these lessons are things that I do now and I honestly like. I am so incredibly grateful for the crazy lesson because I, I learned so much and I took so much away. And while I do not talk about this project very often, because at the end of the day it's gone, it's closed. So it's not really like a big feather in my cap. It's a feather in my cap in the sense of what I learned from it and that that part of it I will never regret and I'm super grateful for. I don't talk about it because yeah, it closed. It was open for I want to say it was open for with Agora, possibly three or four years. I mean, it's like stupid short when you think about the amount of time money, I mean, I can't even imagine the money, but I digress. It just when I think of failures now and I look back on stuff like that at the time of the lesson, I may not have liked it, but I will be totally honest when I look at it now and I look at how I utilize these lessons in my everyday business, I am super grateful.
So when you think about some of your failures, where you think are failures, really think about some of the lessons that you learn from them. Because hidden, buried in there in the heartbreak or the frustration or the anger hidden, there is some. Gem. Some gem that you will use and you will refer to and you will share with other people so they don't either make them make the same mistake or they learn or something you took away. Failure is your best instructor, and I will say that till the day I die. And I hope that I remain open minded for when I hit other failures because you know you're going to have them. I hope that I remain open minded, and I hope that I continue to think the same way I do now because it's truly they were all a gift. And thank you, Scott. Thank you, sweet XO. Thank you, Fred. Siegel Comfort. Comfort to you and Fred SIEGEL environment. Because without all of you, I would not be sitting here doing a podcast, working with several retailers, working with several wholesalers. So thank you. So with that, that is the end of today's lesson. I hope you enjoyed this little story and if you have any questions, send me a DM. But keep in mind, failure is your best instructor. And that is a wrap. Thank you all so much for joining me on today's episode. I really appreciate it. And be sure to tune in every Wednesday for more stories and lessons from a life in retail. And don't forget to follow us on Instagram at the retail whore podcast, and you can find us online at the retailwhorepodcast.com