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When trying to start a business, it can be difficult to keep going when everything seems to be against you.  Emilia Dlugolecka, the owner of Mr. and Mrs. DIGZ designer consignment shop in Chicago relates to this in more ways than one. Overall, with the many struggles and changes she has faced, her story is one of transition and inspiration.

Personal Struggles

A story that begins on a rather sour note, 2009 had its challenges. Dlugolecka recalls the economy was in a rough spot with half the country getting laid off. She felt the effects personally, as she was laid off from her own corporate job in January. She would have never willingly left her corporate job that gave steady pay and health benefits. However, being forced out, she needed a different plan.

Ultimately, the experience of being laid-off left her feeling jaded. When thinking about her options, she found herself against getting another corporate job. It was at this point that she got the idea to open her own business.

Getting Started

It makes sense why she chose to open a business relating to fashion. First of all, she had an interest in fashion and shopping since she was little. Dlugolecka also had a sense of creativity, making dresses and knitting scarves, for example. Although coming up with a business idea came easy, putting it into action was a different story.

This is where she began to experience different business struggles. While she was set on the idea, there were those that did not take her seriously. She remembers people doubted her ability because she is a woman. Also, they seemed to see her idea as childish, as any female would love to own a fashion store. However, this was not the only reason why people seemed doubtful of her success. They also thought she would fail easily because she was going on this venture alone.

The feelings of others resulted in difficulty such as when making business deals. Despite the struggles and the doubts of others, she did not let this change her course. Her strength in this difficult time can be an inspiration to both current and potential business owners.

Opening The Doors

Later in 2009,  she successfully opened her shop at 5668 North Clark Street. In the beginning, it mainly showcased the work of local designers. There were 54 designers showcased in total as well as her own inventory.

Dlugolecka had plans that the shop would have items for both men and women. Therefore, when choosing a name, she kept this in mind. This led to including Mr. and Mrs. in the business name. DIGZ became a part of the name for a few different reasons. First of all, she wanted something positive and upbeat in the title. She also thought about how people compliment another’s clothes. For example, she says if people like your shirt, they would say “That’s a nice shirt, I dig it.” She shares there is often confusion in that people often think DIGZ is her last name. However, she puts a positive spin on this hoping that it will spread the word about the shop.

Despite the fact that she had opened her business, she found her struggles were still not over. In fact, she saw street traffic was becoming a thing of the past. While people did visit the shop, she wasn’t making much of a profit. This was because people were browsing, not buying. Due to this, she decided to move the store to a new location, where it is today. Dlugolecka likes this location much better for several reasons. First of all, the rent is way less. Also, she finds this location to be more secure and private. The shop will be at the current location for two years in February of 2018.

 Setting The Business Apart

Her strength has paid off as she has seen positive reactions with the shop receiving five-star ratings on Google and Yelp. In the last year, eight consignment shops closed in the local area. Seeing similar shops close, she has wondered what has made her store an exception. However, there are factors that shed light on her success.

First of all, Dlugolecka thinks about how shoppers may feel. For example, she understands people may believe clothing sold at consignment or thrift stores are dirty. She puts a lot of care into what she does and standing out against those beliefs. Therefore, she only accepts items in new or perfect condition. Additionally, she does not allow any items on the sales floor until they are washed. This makes customers feel comfortable shopping at the business.

Secondly, Dlugolecka’s working hours aren’t determined by the business hours on the shop website. She provides complimentary pickup if clients cannot come to the shop. This is because she understands that if she doesn’t pick the items up, someone else will. If the shop is too far away, consigners can drop by her house with items. She says it doesn’t matter if it’s 8 in the morning or at night. Dlugolecka knows that if you don’t answer calls from consigners or customers, they will easily go somewhere else.

The Business Today

Due to change in popularity, the store has changed to selling more designer consignment than local designer clothes. There are items from brands such as Jimmy Choo, Prada and Gucci to name just a few.

Although she would have not willingly left her corporate job, she loves owning her own business. Even though she felt she didn’t know what she was doing, she said other things fell into place. Despite the struggles, she says eight years later, opening her own shop was the best thing for her.  Dlugolecka says every day is different. One of her favorite things is she never knows who or what will be coming through the doors. She feels it has been both fun and interesting being in business this long.

 Advice for Others

With the struggles she has faced, she has learned many lessons. Ultimately, she feels owning a business is something you need to go through and learn to understand. However, she has shared a few helpful tips.

1) Be Realistic

It can be easy to get ahead of yourself when getting started. For example, you think big and expect money to come quickly. However, it is important to not make decisions based on this feeling. When choosing to open a storefront, be sure you can afford it. Also, be sure that items are reasonably priced. If people cannot afford your prices, you will struggle to pay your bills.

2) An Online Presence is Necessary

As mentioned above, Dlugolecka has seen street traffic become less and less of a thing. She feels with having an online presence, everything is no longer about location. She mentions the struggle to compete with Amazon, big box stores and other online resale websites.

3) Time Changes Things

One of the things she has realized is seasons and timing affects sale plans and success. For example, you may see better sales in the beginning of the month as opposed to the end. This is because if people get paid on the first so they are out and spending money. Near the middle of the month, they have not been paid so they are not spending money. Similarly, if you are going to have a sale, have it on the second and fourth week of the month. This is most profitable because everyone is spending money anyway.

You can shop at Mr. and Mrs. DIGZ online or in person at 1770 West Berteau Avenue in Suite 205.

 

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1 Comments

  1. Dorothy Rossi - October 30, 2017

    What an inspiring story. I absolutely love reading personal stories with happy endings. It takes a lot of courage and determination to be and stay successful. I have been in Emilia’s beautiful shop several times and have seen the wonderful items she has available. She was extremely helpful in making my decision with my purchase. I will for sure be back as her store is never the same. It’s a wonder every time you walk in as her inventory moves quickly. Congratulation to Emilia. Keep up the wonderful work.

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