Michele Riggs is the owner of Downtown Knits, a beautiful yarn and fabric shop nestled in the charming downtown area of Apex, North Carolina. Michele has been married for 31 years to her childhood sweetheart, is a mom to two amazing kids, and has three pint sized dogs, Emmy, Fez, and Ditto. In addition to sewing, knitting, and consuming coffee, Michele loves to check out new restaurants and micro-breweries. You can also find her playing basketball, drinking a nice smooth Porter, or bouncing down the street on her pogo stick...just not all at the same time.
I met Michele during my senior year of design school at N.C. State. She quickly became a mentor to me as I navigated my way through internships, fashion shows, and classes. Today, Michele will share with us what it is like to be a creative and successful business owner. I am so thankful to have her as a business partner and know that you will enjoy hearing her story and advice!
What does a typical day for Michele Riggs look like?
Interesting question Morgan... there are no normal days when you own a business ;-) Typically, I’m up with the sun. My mind is already on different ideas for the shop. I have a note pad at my night stand for when I wake in the middle of the night (which is very often), just in case I want to jot something brilliant down ;-)
First things first COFFEE... its my fuel... then on to emails, sort out paper work (invoices, banking, payroll etc). Then straighten out the house, take out my little friends Emmy, Fez and Ditto. Then I head back to catching up on social media, shower, dress and off to the shop (840 steps away). I love my short walk to work... Watching all the shops open their doors, stopping for a minute to chat about the weather, what’s new and what not... What a great town we have...
What was your vision or dream for your shop, Downtown Knits?
I had thought about opening a yarn shop for at least five years prior to leaving my career at IBM of 26 years. I belonged to the local knitting guild and there were not a lot of places available for us to go to meet as a group and the variety of yarns were small.
We were lacking a space that offered a community atmosphere. A place for people to gather, socialize, make friends and create together. This was one of the main goals of what I wanted to do. Prior to opening, I traveled to the northeast to visit local yarn shops to gain an understanding of what was out there and what I thought needed to be changed. I spent months talking to friends (fellow knitters) and other shop owners and began to craft a business plan. We opened May 2010 with very little inventory. I wanted to build my business around “what the customer wanted,” not what I thought they did. I asked each one of them when they came in to tell me their needs and that’s how it grew and continues to grow... To date, I’d say it’s exceeded my expectations...
What is the most rewarding part of owning your own business? The most challenging?
Most rewarding, that’s easy... The amazing friends I’ve made at the shop. Also, watching people come in, grab a seat on the couch and strike up a conversation with each other then to see their friendship blossom into something special. There have been so many countless friendships established at Downtown Knits... this is what makes me the most proud!
Challenging – Simply put TIME. Owning a business consumes your every minute no matter where you are or what you are doing. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. Besides coffee, it’s what fuels me...
Do you have any advice to give to small biz owners/entrepreneurs?
- Do a business plan and look at it often, change it when needed. It will help you stay on task and focused. Mine is five years old now and I still look at it every three months to ensure I’m doing what I set out to do.
- Get a good CPA and Bookkeeper, they will become your best friends in business.
- LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMER, notice what they’re talking about, ask them for advice, get them involved.
- When you’re ready hire a really good hard working team and make sure they are a reflection of you & your brand! Involve and listen to them, delegate... this is how you create loyalty.
- Have FUN... it you don’t enjoy it, it will reflect on to your customers.
- Last but not least... Sleep... it’s sometimes over rated, but sleep when you can... you need all your energy!