VM WORKS' STORY
The "Aha!" moment:
The concept for VM Works was born in 2013 when founder Rose Balderian was shopping at her local farmers' market. She came upon a cozy white tent where people were sitting on wooden benches drinking Ethiopian coffee and sipping tea out of dainty glass cups. Rose learned that the business owner was planning to expand and open a small coffee shop in the neighborhood and she was recruited to give him some visual merchandising advice. Sharing tips with the owner and then seeing the results appear in their coffee shop a short while later was a novel experience. After years of working with large retail corporations, Rose found it extremely gratifying to teach a small business how to compete against the big green coffee giant across the street. This feeling and desire to support the small business community is what sparked and what continues to fuel VM Works!
The "Uh Oh!" moment:
Trying to figure out the best way to show small business owners how they can improve their sales through visual merchandising has not been super easy. Initially VM Works was created as a workshop to teach independent retailers how to make their space more enticing to their customers. Rose quickly learned that most business owners simply do not have that much time to spend outside of their stores and sit in a classroom. Uh oh! As a result, VM Works had to recalibrate the services to align with small business owners' limited resources.
The "Tada!" moment:
Today VM Works offers workshops, consultations, and installations that are designed to fit the needs of independent retailers. Are you in the planning stages of opening a store? Do you have a booth at the farmers' market? Are you the sole employee in your small shop? Is your store expanding? Are you offering a new product category? Have you signed the lease on a second location? Do you have a team of employees that you want to develop? Tada! No matter which stage of the game you're in, VM Works can help! It is never too early or too late to apply visual merchandising to your small business.
ROSE BALDERIAN'S STORY
WHO's behind VM Works?
Hi! I'm Rose! That's me above creating a video tutorial, speaking at an event, and adding fake arms to a bust form. As you've probably guessed, VM Works is a one-woman operation. Like many small business owners, I wear lots of different hats: founder, marketer, bookkeeper, product developer, graphic and web designer, instructor, and of course visual merchandiser.
WHAT do you know?
Years of retail management and visual merchandising experience have culminated in a lot of knowledge, specifically VM knowledge. I can't tell you much about computational genomics (I'll leave that to my husband) but I can explain how branding, an attractive storefront, proper fixture placement, graphics, lighting, and a focus on the customer experience can increase sales! I know that any changes in visual merchandising will also affect store operations and human resources and that all three departments must work cohesively in order for the shop to succeed.
WHEN did you get started?
I officially began my visual merchandising career at The Gap in 2001 but I unofficially began back when I was 12 years old. My mom had just bought a home and for the first time in my life I had my very own room with my very own closet! At the time I didn’t think there was anything odd about spending hours color blocking my clothes and organizing shirts by sleeve-length, but looking back now I realize that I was probably the only kid on my block who cared about displaying her toys and art projects in grouped categories.
WHERE did you learn this?
I attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco where they encouraged students to work in the industry while taking classes. I learned the basics of visual merchandising while working at companies like the Gap, Forever 21, and The Container Store. I opened new locations, set up floor fixtures, and witnessed stores being built from the ground up. After graduating with a degree in Visual Communications, I joined the Club Monaco team where I gained business acumen and learned about store operations and retail management. In 2007 I joined DFS Galleria (a subsidiary of LVMH group) as a North America Visual Manager overseeing 27 stores and departments at the San Francisco and San Jose locations, managing multiple renovations and store openings, and assisting with projects at the New York, Los Angeles, and Honolulu locations.
WHY would you leave a nice, stable job where you get to work with luxury retail brands (and travel to Hawaii)?
I will be forever grateful for all of the experiences and opportunities that I encountered while working for large retail corporations. I was lucky to have a job where I could apply my creativity and not have to worry about where the next paycheck was coming from. My mom thought I was crazy for quitting but there is something extremely gratifying about adjusting my career so that it can help the local economy and also serve people in my community.
HOW can you help my small business if I don't have a big budget?
I often say that having a minimal budget often leads to more creative results. You have a few different options depending on what you need, you can: