Creative Soul - Tova Jones
Tova Jones is originally from Flint, MI. Moving to Grand Rapids, MI 10 years ago to attend Grand Valley State University and earn a professional background in non-profit. She has been married for about two and half years to her husband and business partner Sam. The ironic thing about their career paths, is that Sam's background is in business, which he now works in non-profit and she is now in business. Tova currently has an e-commerce retail shop called Luv Jones Plus Size Boutique and her newest venture The Pop Shop GR.
Most entrepreneurship starts with a problem that needs to be solved. Tova knows this and when she got tired of shopping at the same places, she felt compelled to start an online shop for plus size women, that featured fashionable wears at affordable prices. Luv Jones was born, but Tova found it was hard to get traffic to her site. She started to seek out vendor opportunities or pop-up shops. It just so happened that Tova's god-sister has a shop called Serenity Boutique located at 413 Hall ST. SE, where Tova was able to sell her Luv Jones collection, gain foot traffic, and traffic to her site as well!
The Luv Jones business led Tova to take interest in helping other e-commerce entrepreneurs, artist, musician, and creative types. The grand opening of The Pop Up Shop GR just a few months ago (which I was happy to be apart of) is the space for e-commerce business to enjoy the "Brick and Mortar Feel without the Bill."
How does creativity play a role?
I view Tova’s pop-up shop as an open space in which people can use as a blank canvas to be creative, convey their message, and sell their product to the consumer. Tova says, she wants the shop to be "the hub" for creatives to come and utilize the space as well as showcase their product/services. Tova's message for the consumer is, "on any given day, any point, you can find local artists, musicians, and e-commerce business owners that are selling products that you can not find at a major retailer."
The Pop Up Shop's location at 315 S. Division (Heartside District) does serve well, Tova and her business neighbor, have been coming up with ways to bring people down the south end of Division. A concert held a couple weeks ago featured a new record label, who held their concert first then sold product after the show. The options for renting space is very open and almost limitless.
Tova had experienced a decline of sales with Luv Jones clothing when she left the Hall St. location. Customers were no longer able to experience the merchandise first hand. Inspiration for the pop-up shop came to Tova from her knowing the hustle and struggle of starting a business, especially an online business. She discussed how, from a consumer stand point, often a brick & mortar store "solidifies" a business and offers a sense of trust. Knowing all of these aspects, Tova wanted to provide that vendor-customer trust for other business owners. In fact, she feels that other business owners themselves are her inspiration. Her friends & other e-commerce owners she has met (that have been in business for years without having a significant public following) have been the inspiration to open The Pop Up Shop GR.
The overall mission for The Pop Up Shop GR, which Luv Jones Plus Size Boutique will be apart of, is to provide the "Brick and mortar feel, without the bill." What that means is, you can rent the space for a set amount of time and for considerably less amount of money than actually leasing a building with a long term commitment. Not to mention, expanding brand awareness of e-commerce business owners, artist, and musicians in Grand Rapids as well as throughout the Midwest.
Tova mentioned how blessed she feels that people are starting to take notice. In February, the shop will host a Detroit business and even though her focus is on Grand Rapids, she welcomes owners and artist from all over. Tova says, she wants "To put the Midwest on the map!” Pop up shops are very popular in bigger cities such as New York and California. She encourages anyone who wants to start a business to come to Grand Rapids and try it out at The Pop Up Shop GR!
What’s happening in 2017?
The Pop Up Shop GR is providing the space to work solo or collaboratively with other businesses and artist (which is encouraged), to always have a fresh look for consumers. Every time the customer visits they will have a new experience with a variety of vendors. In addition to working collaboratively, Tova also encourages vendors to have reoccurring dates, so customers know where they can find their favorite online business.
One challenge has been finding mentor, as Tova explained, "There has been nobody in this space or vein." So finding someone who knew how much to charge and at what capacity was almost impossible. It was difficult to find people to lead or guide her. There was nobody to let her know if what she was doing was right or wrong.
She did attend the GROW program, where she did get a great amount of sound advice. Through the program she did gain mentorship and made many valuable connections. Another challenge is getting business owners to understand the concept of what a pop-up shop is. Tova often tells people to come and experience it and she is perfecting her "elevator pitch."
For those of you looking to start an online shop, Tova feels you should spend money on a website with proper SEO and analytic tools. Make sure to find a designer or service that knows how to get traffic to your site. She says, "You could be sadly disappointed, if you don't get traffic to your beautiful site and don't get discouraged. One day you may have no sales and the next day you could get 10-15!" Another excellent tip that we discussed was the fact that you have to do as much marketing if not more for your online business than a brick and mortar store. As Tova put it, "Have a legit marketing plan."
If you do want a brick & mortar business think about collaborations. Tova explains that you see this type of model in the Asian and African communities when it comes to business and selling multiple products/services in one space. This way, if a customer comes in for a particular item/vendor, they will be introduced to several other vendors which becomes a potential sale for you and vice versa! Collaborations also cut own on any overhead expenses such as rent and utilities. She does emphasize, "Collaboration is key,” and you do have to trust the people your are in business with. Again have a legit business plan on how everything will be split.” As we all have heard before two heads are better than one. If there is a point when you are ready to branch off by yourself then do so!
Please click for more information on The Pop Up Shop GR. I'd like to thank Tova Jones for this interview and to congratulate her again on opening doors for e-commerce. As always, BE ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS and check out Loveword's event page for upcoming events!