Mary Daugherty turned her natural business savvy and hunger for success into profitable small businesses in the fashion space. First, as a successful retail wholesaler and later the owner and operator of Nicole Miller, Philadelphia.

The name Nicole Miller may be familiar to you, as the queen of the little black dress. This fashion label has been loved and worn across the globe since 1982. Having made a name for herself in the male dominated industry of wholesale fashion, Mary Daugherty was recruited by Nicole Miller early on to become a retailer. Mary’s unique experience and perspective are her secret weapons, allowing her to make shrewd decisions that earned her the credit of becoming a quote “overnight success.”

Angela Giovine,  Owner of Happenings Media and host of Extra/Ordinary Small Business podcast, sat down with Mary to ask about how she became a top independent retailer in a city like Philadelphia.

Below is the episode transcript from Angela’s 2019 interview with Mary Dougherty. To listen to the interview, click HERE. It is Episode #5. 

You can also subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts:

Mary Dougherty 0:00
Everybody thought I ended up being this retail genius that just came out of nowhere. And, really what it was was 15 years of traveling six to 10 states representing multiple designers and… learning what not to do.

Angela Giovine 0:18
Pop culture has become obsessed with entrepreneurship stories from Silicon Valley, and big startup. But the backbone of our economy is made of small local businesses. Every day, millions of small business owners deliver quality products and services, support the local economy, employ their neighbors and follow their passion. We think their stories are worth telling. I’m Angela Giovine. Welcome to the extra ordinary small business podcast. Today on the show, how Mary Daugherty turned her natural business savvy and hunger for success into profitable small businesses in the fashion space. First, as a successful retail wholesaler and later the owner and operator of Nicole Miller, Philadelphia.

The name Nicole Miller may be familiar to you, as the queen of the little black dress. This fashion label has been loved and worn across the globe since 1982. Having made a name for herself in the male dominated industry of wholesale fashion, Mary Daugherty was recruited by Nicole Miller early on to become a retailer. Mary’s unique experience and perspective are her secret weapons, allowing her to make shrewd decisions that earned her the credit of becoming a quote overnight success. Mary sat down with us to recount her story and share with us how she became a top independent retailer in a city like Philadelphia.

Angela Giovine 1:50
You are the owner of Nicole Miller Philadelphia, and you have been in retail your entire career. Starting with early childhood, I’ve read that you were a natural born saleswoman, sales girl from 14 years old. What brought you into the fashion and retail industry?

Mary Dougherty 2:14
I was trying to think how far back does one really go? Where does the the threads start, literally. I did really love to sell from an early age, there was some kind of thrill and excitement about being able to… get somebody as enthusiastic as you are about something. And… I actually was a burpee seed salesperson at like five or six years.

Angela Giovine 2:37

Mary Dougherty 2:38
Yeah, I saw an ad in a magazine that said you could earn 5 dollars if you bought the box, the seeds then you sold it to your friends and whatever. So I got my mom to buy a box of burpee seeds for me and I went to the neighbor’s door. Mrs. Yost, it’s your local burpee seed representative, and she didn’t answer the door, and I was persistent. I wouldn’t leave, finally she did, she bought the whole box to get rid of me. I think that was something that I never forgot. And then just the thrill and the excitement that I’m the youngest of eight kids and I have five sisters. And there were not a whole lot of new clothing in the budget. So, for me the clothing was such an expression of individuality, which I didn’t have an opportunity for my own until I started working at a farmers market when I was 13 or 14. And I worked for somebody who sold samples. And I never knew what a wholesale rep was or..

Angela Giovine 3:32

Mary Dougherty 3:33
I wasn’t familiar with the industry, and uh… that’s when I started collecting clothing and really getting into it and excited and continued from there.

Angela Giovine 3:42
So you started at a farmers market, but the move from farmers market to Nicole Miller, that’s a big jump. So how did you find your way into Nicole Miller?

Mary Dougherty 3:50
I think everything in your life prepares you for where you end up. So I ended up at the farmers market, which was my first introduction.

Angela Giovine 3:58
and your far- the farmers market was here in New Jersey?

Mary Dougherty 4:01
In Downingtown. Actually, it was in Downingtown Pennsylvania. Yeah, yeah, it was the Downingtown Farmers Market. And from there, I… started modeling for trade shows for wholesale reps because the person who owned, owned the concession in the farmers market was a wholesale rep that I started to work for a retail clothing store that was an upscale clothing store in Westchester, called the Berry Bush. And I worked during high school as a salesperson, and continue to model through high school and then when I graduated, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. So, I ended up going to work for somebody as a wholesale rep and I represented a line called St. Michel. And it was an- a girl that just got out of FIT and her name was Shelly Segal. And Shelly Segal went on to be a famous designer and design laundry

Angela Giovine 4:47

Mary Dougherty 4:48
and you know, a lot of other things. And then from there, you know, I ended up being a rep and I started my own company, and I represented yet another unknown kind of up and coming designer Nicole Miller.

Angela Giovine 4:59
So your first business was… on the wholesale side actually

Mary Dougherty 5:03

Angela Giovine 5:03
before retail you- you really studied the back end of it and really learn the ins and outs that way.

Mary Dougherty 5:08
Exactly. And what’s interesting is everybody thought I ended up being this retail genius that just came out of nowhere. And really what it was was 15 years of traveling six to 10 states representing multiple designers, and learning what not to do, you know, and watch people over buy, under buy, not treat their staff well treat them too well, you know, not have consistent hours, be on sale all the time, you know, not have a good sale where it made people feel like you know, more as a thank you. We have a sale twice a year and I for 24 years, I never broke the model because I think you devalue your brand when you start discounting and I rather give it to charity. So hence since we started doing a lot of charitable philanthropy through our stores, which is really in a win win. So the wholesale business to go full circle back to that was, a- you know, before… there were no women. It was all men. So when I would go into a store, they’d look at me like who are you? And, they were used to the whole, you know, Willy Loman salesman that was schlepping the garments.

Angela Giovine 6:13
Even for women’s fashion, men were doing it.

Mary Dougherty 6:16
Absolutely. There were very few women. I didn’t know of any when I started. There were no navigation systems,

Angela Giovine 6:22

Mary Dougherty 6:22
There were no cell phones.

Angela Giovine 6:23
Right? You had to figure it out with a big old… map mapless.

Mary Dougherty 6:24
A big old map.Yeah, absolutely. But no one knows how to read a map, today.

Angela Giovine 6:32
You’re right.

Mary Dougherty 6:32
And they’re spoiled…

Angela Giovine 6:33

Mary Dougherty 6:34
with your phones. But that was what it was. But I felt like I had found a groove. I felt like I was great at it. I was fearless. I didn’t mind traveling by myself. And, I really saw that there was potential for for my personality and for my skills. I ended up doing extraordinary, live well, uh loved the business and never wanted to be in retail. And I used to swear they always look stressed. They were always you know having to work 25 hats. And I was like, no, I-I don’t want to be in retail

Angela Giovine 7:04
And that was even before e commerce.

Mary Dougherty 7:06
Oh, please. Yeah, it was before…. It was before everything.

Angela Giovine 7:11
Yeah, yeah.

Mary Dougherty 7:11
But small business is a challenge and what I loved about when you called to reach out about being on the podcast, was you know people don’t understand there’s so many you know stories of entrepreneurs that have really blazed the trail they hire the the kid of the school, they, you know have to wear the the marketer that PR their uh…

Angela Giovine 7:33

Mary Dougherty 7:33
The plumber, the janitor,

Angela Giovine 7:36

Mary Dougherty 7:36
You know all these different hats that you wear and you know, for the right person. It’s amazing. For the wrong person, It’s like a nightmare. They don’t want to do all that stuff.

Angela Giovine 7:45
Right, right.

Mary Dougherty 7:45
It’s small business, I think is the backbone of our country. So…

Angela Giovine 7:49
I agree.

Mary Dougherty 7:49

Angela Giovine 7:49
In my opinion, I think you’re really lucky because… for a lot of people, finding the thing to be passionate about is one of the hardest parts. Building the business around it, you can find people to give you some guidance there. But having that passion at a young age around not only fashion and retail, but also knowing you loved sales. You sort of had a true north from the beginning – did you ever second guess it?

Mary Dougherty 8:17
Hah! I still do… I still do. But I think what I knew more was that, I learned at an early age to run with the things that came more natural. And that although I never walked away from a conflict, or I never backed down if something was important. I really felt like it was such a natural groove where some other things were more challenging. I did not go to college and went one semester. It was very difficult for me to, to focus and to learn was was a challenge. So I tried this thinking I would always go back to school, but then when I really started seeing immediate success,

Angela Giovine 8:56
Right. You were making money from teenage years.

Mary Dougherty 8:59
Absolutely. And I was making more money than all my counterparts that did go to school. So, I thought when education played a role in the success of my company or my business, then I would make sure that I educated myself, or found ways to be more educated in it.

Angela Giovine 9:14

Mary Dougherty 9:15
So, you know, I’ve done all the marketing with my team, I’ve taught them how to do PR, events, the philanthropy piece, the buying, the merchandising, the displays. All the different moving parts that have come natural to me, and then I have excelled at, you know, I’ve sought out ways to make sure that I was very proficient in those areas. And then I also was able to teach my staff so I don’t think it was one aha moment. It was just several times in my life and along the way that I felt it was right. And I’d run with it and if it wasn’t, when I didn’t trust my instincts, it totally would get me and when I did trust my instincts, it always led me to the right path.

Angela Giovine 9:57
And instinctually, you are confident enough to know that what you didn’t know you could learn.

Mary Dougherty 10:02

Angela Giovine 10:03
That’s something that I think a lot of people, may be a little bit hesitant on the.. . I can’t can’t roll up my sleeves and figure it out.

Mary Dougherty 10:11
Oh, yeah, no, I’m – I’m not afraid of anything. Because you have to be.

Angela Giovine 10:15

Mary Dougherty 10:15
I couldn’t hire the 750 dollar an hour accountant.

Angela Giovine 10:20

Mary Dougherty 10:20
So although I certainly had, and was fortunate to have good financial people along the way to help advise me, I also then dug in and really tried to learn as much as I could about financing, you know, never go to your banker when you need them,

Angela Giovine 11:36

Mary Dougherty 11:36
you know, go to them when you don’t need them.

Angela Giovine 11:37

Mary Dougherty 11:37
Because then when you do, then you have a relationship with them. I just learned a lot of, you know, smart

Angela Giovine 11:42

Mary Dougherty 11:42
skills and things along those lines. I also found early on to find people that you could go to for different things. I had my mentor Board of Directors, I had a friend of mine who was a lawyer, and if I had a challenge that I thought legally was going to be bigger than what I can handle I would go to him. And then consequently I find a legal counseling. Banking, uhm business. I have about, you know, a dozen people that I could pick up the phone and have over the course…

Angela Giovine 11:12
That you just met through networking.

Mary Dougherty 11:14
Yeah, absolutely. Every once in a while, somebody would come up to me and say, I want you to be my mentor. And sometimes I’ve done it, sometimes I’ve not. And I’ve been really very upfront with them, that I don’t think it really is a good fit.

Angela Giovine 11:26

Mary Dougherty 11:27
But don’t stop looking. Because it is important to have somebody

Angela Giovine 11:30

Mary Dougherty 11:31
That you can call for advice in areas that aren’t your areas of expertise.

Angela Giovine 11:35
And you just mentioned having your own mentors and the mentors you talked about were tactical. So you are a sole business owner, you don’t have a partner, right?

Mary Dougherty 11:45
Oh, my husband is my life partner.

Angela Giovine 11:47

Mary Dougherty 11:47
Not my business partner.

Angela Giovine 11:48

Mary Dougherty 11:49
But certainly my advisor.

Angela Giovine 11:50
Right. And that’s sort of what I was alluding to, is that yes, while uh you do you need the tactical advisors. There are a lot of mental roadblocks that come up in the world of small business in terms of just getting out of your own head and, you know having down days having up days, who are those types of people in your life in terms of… turning to for ad-advice?

Mary Dougherty 12:10
You know, some of the the people that I was talking about, certainly, you know, women in particular for me, because there weren’t that many women that had children,

Angela Giovine 12:18

Mary Dougherty 12:18
who was successful. I’ll be 58 in December, and I, have three boys that are 2320 and 17. And… I remember going to a women’s conference in New York, and, there were breakout sessions and most of the women that were speaking or in the breakout sessions weren’t married.

Angela Giovine 12:36

Mary Dougherty 12:36
and if they were, didn’t have children, and they were wearing suits that made him look like a guy.

Angela Giovine 12:40
Right. So it was a lot of non exemplary stuff for you – there was no exact role model or…

Mary Dougherty 12:47
Absolutely, you know, so that challenge alone. I was looking for women that I could emulate.

Angela Giovine 12:54
They weren’t there.

Mary Dougherty 12:54
But they weren’t there.

Angela Giovine 12:55

Mary Dougherty 12:56
So am..

Angela Giovine 12:56
Na how to have cast doubt in your mind? Like is this something I’m making up or did it, did it? Were you always sure of that vision?

Mary Dougherty 13:04
Yes, I was always sure that I wanted more. And I did not want to ever have to rely on anyone else, although I’ve been blessed with my husband as a life partner, father my children and he is my advisor he talks to me all through

Angela Giovine 13:18

Mary Dougherty 13:18
the ledge

Angela Giovine 13:19

Mary Dougherty 13:19
whenever I need it.

Angela Giovine 13:21

Mary Dougherty 13:21
but also will give it to me straight where if I’m making a mistake, or I have made a poor judgment on something. He calls me out on it.

Angela Giovine 13:30

Mary Dougherty 13:30
You know in a, in a loving way. But you know, he doesn’t pull any punches when he knows that I need to clean up a mess that I may have…

Angela Giovine 13:37

Mary Dougherty 13:38

Angela Giovine 13:38

Mary Dougherty 13:39
But other women along the way have been very helpful that we’re we’re struggling with some of the same question.

Angela Giovine 13:45

Mary Dougherty 13:45
Being the first woman that sat on a board, in a business area where my one store, Manayunk, I was the only woman on the Executive Board of Directors.

Angela Giovine 13:54

Mary Dougherty 13:55
And you know, I remember being pregnant, and sitting there at the table with these really great guys. But they were all older. And, every time I would open my mouth, I could see the oh, it’s Mary.

Angela Giovine 14:07
Right. We’ll we’ll give…

Mary Dougherty 14:08
Yeah, we’ll give her a minute.

Angela Giovine 14:10
Yeah. Yeah

Mary Dougherty 14:11
But they, I know, they respected me because, you know, I was at the table.

Angela Giovine 14:15
Right. So they weren’t just humoring you.

Mary Dougherty 14:18
They’ve just sometimes.

Angela Giovine 14:19

Mary Dougherty 14:19
Yeah, absolutely.

Angela Giovine 14:20
You fought for it.

Mary Dougherty 14:21
I did. I fought for it. I remember wanting to switch banks at one time and am.. banker asked me to have my husband come in to cosign for my business loan. And I said, gosh, I-I don’t remember the last time he called me to go cosign for his business loan. And he just looked at me and I was like, you know, I don’t want your bank. Like, I don’t want, I don’t want you to have my business.

Angela Giovine 14:44

Mary Dougherty 14:45
Because, I work too hard for this. And although, you know, he is definitely my you know, my husband, my life partner. He has a business partner, he and his business partner, you know, they do their things. They don’t consult with me.

Angela Giovine 14:58

Mary Dougherty 14:58
There’s been small… and big hurdles, along the way that I just as I said, I don’t

Angela Giovine 15:04

Mary Dougherty 15:04
I don’t back down from them

Angela Giovine 15:06

Mary Dougherty 15:06
I jump over them doesn’t mean they haven’t taken me,

Angela Giovine 15:09

Mary Dougherty 15:09
You know, taken my breath out, on occasion.

Angela Giovine 15:11
So you’re in wholesale, you, get the amazing opportunity to work with some of these amazing legendary designers that have gone on but you, when you met them they were in their very early stages and one of them is Nicole Miller. At that point you continue to sell wholesale for her.

Mary Dougherty 15:28
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And, I had a 22 foot RV, but it’s a showroom on wheels.

Angela Giovine 15:33
Is that the way it was, always done?

Mary Dougherty 15:35
No, no-no

Angela Giovine 15:35

Mary Dougherty 15:37
No and physically, it was really daunting. And I think that’s also why there weren’t a lot of women in the industry because the garment bags were the size of me and so you would have somebody to collection.

Angela Giovine 15:47
You would flap the… samples around eventually.

Mary Dougherty 15:49
Right, with the rolling rack.

Angela Giovine 15:51

Mary Dougherty 15:51
So, the everything would go on my trunk or the backseat or both. And then I’d get to a store I have to physically take everything out of my car, bring it into the store. It was always wrinkled or you know, whatever. And… I’d have to condense the line because I couldn’t carry every piece on that collection.

Angela Giovine 16:07

Mary Dougherty 16:08
Because physically It was almost impossible. So the first couple years were really, you know, a challenge. But, you know, I’d work two to three appointments a day, four or five days a week, drive to Pittsburgh, drive to DC, and trying to get around DC

Angela Giovine 16:24

Mary Dougherty 16:24
when you’re a kid at that time with all that clothing in my car, and finally, I hired a cab, gave him the address and followed them to the appointment and then started trying to figure out how-

Angela Giovine 16:35
Right. because like you said, No, Google map,

Mary Dougherty 16:37
No, no, nothing like that. So you know, there’s just I can tell you that confidently that I can get around just about every city and uh was my territory. So

Angela Giovine 16:45
And how big was your territory?

Mary Dougherty 16:49
It was six states at one point, Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and then we added West Virginia, North and South Carolina. And then by being in wholesale, I knew… you know what was hot in Charlottesville.

Angela Giovine 17:04

Mary Dougherty 17:05
What was hot in Pittsburgh on Walnut Street. I worked with most of the higher end stores that gave me again that education, the hands on visual of what to do and what not to do. So when we did open our doors, everybody thought I was a genius. One because Manayunk was not what it is today.

Angela Giovine 17:25

Mary Dougherty 17:25
And at first they said it was crazy. And then afterwards, I was a visionary. A year later. But what I would do is I would, we open the doors, we’d have weekends, we’re crazy then because Center City, Philadelphia, there was nothing. You couldn’t get brunch on a Sunday and in Philly, so everybody would come to Manayunk.

Angela Giovine 17:44

Mary Dougherty 17:45
And, we would sell you know 20 dresses and Monday morning I would call all my wholesale accounts and I’d say we sold 20 of this dress you have to have it. So then I would spend the whole morning selling everything we sold on the weekend – in my retail store, to my wholesale customers.

Angela Giovine 18:02
So essentially, your first retail store, which what what year did that open?

Mary Dougherty 18:07
1994, March 10th.

Angela Giovine 18:08
1994, you decide to add retail to the wholesale business.

Mary Dougherty 18:13
Oh yeah.

Angela Giovine 18:13
And you essentially use, your Manayunk store as the incubator essentially.

Mary Dougherty 18:18

Angela Giovine 18:18
And you’re figuring out because there’s no such thing as what’s trending on social media, you’re using this as the testing ground to then launch that into the other pipelines of of wholesale?

Mary Dougherty 18:30

Angela Giovine 18:31
That’s. Wer-were there other people doing that at the time?

Mary Dougherty 18:35
No. And for me, what was exciting was I had wholesale sometimes I would work with a store and they would order 2 of something and they would never want to reorder or do more than two pieces, coz they’d say,

Angela Giovine 18:47
Too risky.

Mary Dougherty 18:48
You know, it’s too risky. I don’t want to lose the money. Our customers don’t want to see themselves coming and going. And then what I would find is that if you have traffic you have more than two customers and if something’s hot, you know, and it’s a dress that’s affordable, or it’s a jacket that’s affordable, you can really sell a lot of units of something. And I did not see that correlation in wholesale, as I started to see very clearly in retail. So it made me a better advisor,

Angela Giovine 19:16

Mary Dougherty 19:17
Um some things that I loved ended up not selling, which also then, you know, was very humbling, coz,

Angela Giovine 19:22

Mary Dougherty 19:23
You know, when you’re standing on your floor, and you own it, and I own it, we are a licensee, not a franchise. So, they don’t take things back.

Angela Giovine 19:30

Mary Dougherty 19:30
They don’t you know, we order everything for stores. It really is humbling, and, and it’s stressful.

Angela Giovine 19:37

Mary Dougherty 19:37
You know, it’s exciting when it works. And it’s stressful when it doesn’t .

Angela Giovine 19:40
Of course. of course,

Mary Dougherty 19:41
But it really was a great catalyst for a much stronger wholesale business.

Angela Giovine 19:45
So, what made you want to add retail to the wholesale business in 94?

Mary Dougherty 19:51
It ended up where Nicole and Bud, they’re business partners that own Nicole Miller and they still privately own it and it’s not public, they had kept on saying you would be great at retail. And I’d be like, Uh! No, I don’t want to be in retail.

Angela Giovine 20:03
And how many wholesalers did she have at this point? Am like you?

Mary Dougherty 20:06
She had… a quite a few that would cover the United States,

Angela Giovine 20:10

Mary Dougherty 20:10
Will be in different territories.

Angela Giovine 20:12
None of you were employees of her. You each had your own wholesale. So you’re working basically as contractor. Contract agreement.

Mary Dougherty 20:19
Yeah, yeah, we were all subcontractors. We were not employees.

Angela Giovine 20:22
And among them, she said, I think you should have retail and she was kind of influencing you there.

Mary Dougherty 20:26
Absolutely. We always had a close relationship, again, with the wholesale. It really was, you know, you were involved in everything.

Angela Giovine 20:33

Mary Dougherty 20:34
So unlike retail, where you’re not quite as involved, I would do all the trade shows.

Angela Giovine 20:39

Mary Dougherty 20:39
So I did the In The Metro show in New York. I did the Coterie show. I would again, see buyers from all around the world. I’d see trends, you know, you walk into one of those shows and everybody’s wearing jeans. You know denim’s hot.

Angela Giovine 20:33
Right. Right.

Mary Dougherty 20:51
Then you see everything is pink, you know, you know the pink you got to have it in your store. So you know, there were just so many things about wholesale and the relationship I have with them that helped parlay into the retail really being successful. And at first they did not want me to open in Manayunk they wanted me to open in Center City. And I kept on saying Center City at that time. You know, Edwin Dell had just been become mayor, I think the year before. And it was really a dark… It was a dark place.

Angela Giovine 21:19

Mary Dougherty 21:19
I mean, it wasn’t really the vibrant, amazing city it is now.

Angela Giovine 21:22
People weren’t really going back as young 20 somethings to live downtown

Mary Dougherty 21:27

Angela Giovine 21:27
at that point.

Mary Dougherty 21:28
No. And there wasn’t, there were three restaurants when Nicole came to town.

Angela Giovine 21:31
It was, it was…

Mary Dougherty 21:32
To take or three.

Angela Giovine 21:33
co live in the suburbs. That was the goal.

Mary Dougherty 21:35

Angela Giovine 21:36
And Manayunk is an interesting cross section because it’s technically part of Philadelphia.

Mary Dougherty 21:42
It is,yes.

Angela Giovine 21:43
but it’s on the very far outskirts and has its own vibe.

Mary Dougherty 21:47
Yeah, it’s we would always refer to it as the Soho of Philly. And the downtown was really kind of the Madison Avenue.

Angela Giovine 21:54

Mary Dougherty 21:55
But when we were opening, one thing I saw on my wholesale business, that really was an indicator for success of retail, was food. And if you feed them they’ll come. And what I saw was we would go into Center City and look around and then, we would go to Manayunk and hang out at Sonoma, which was a restaurant at the time. Right next to another high end state place that had opened called Kansas City Prime. And then I, we were looking out the window and a new shoe store had opened and said, you don’t have to go to New York anymore. And, I went there the next day, it was like every hot shoe you can imagine

Angela Giovine 21:31

Mary Dougherty 21:31
under the sun in Manayunk on Main Street next to like a broken down…Old

Angela Giovine 21:36

Mary Dougherty 21:36
building. Then I did some research. And I found out that there was a guy who had bought a lot of properties that owned was partners in Kansas City Prime, partners in Mainly Choose, partners in Sonoma.

Angela Giovine 22:47
He is developing.

Mary Dougherty 22:48
And the other thing I learned over the years was – it was money. He was certainly was a smart business person, but it also was about legacy. He was taking his money and he was investing in the area and he was putting his money where his mouth was. He was on the board of directors. He was a part of the vision, of Manayunk. And, I thought, well, if I’m going to open, I’d rather open here, because my money is on somebody that’s hands on. And so again, going back to, you know, I brought Nicole and but in, and I took them to Kansas City Prime. And they’d looked at the spot we were going to open and it was like, no way!.

Angela Giovine 23:22

Mary Dougherty 23:23
There was abandoned building across the street, there was nothing where we were down. And I sat him facing the window, in a window seat and where the valet was. And… after about 20 minutes, he started laughing. He goes, now I get it. It was mercedes, mercedes, Jaguar, BMW, pulling up valet-ying at the restaurant. And he said, I get it.

Angela Giovine 23:47
You picked up on a trend before the rest of the world picked up on the trend. You’re looking for signs.

Mary Dougherty 23:52
Signs. And I figured, again, it goes back to you know, when I talk to younger kids, and they’re talking about you know, they don’t like where they’re at, or they don’t like the job that they’re in, or they don’t like certain things. I’m like, you know, bring joy to it. You know,

Angela Giovine 23:57

Mary Dougherty 24:07
have- have fun because you have no idea what it’s doing in helping prepare you, for when you do get something that you really love.

Angela Giovine 24:13

Mary Dougherty 24:14
And you do, you know, you draw on all these life experiences. You know, I saw from my wholesale business that food was always a turning point, a tipping point for a shopping area, because what would people do when they can’t get in to the restaurant? They want to shop. Yeah.

Angela Giovine 24:29
Or vice versa. There they make a day of it. They go shopping, and then they want to go to lunch?

Mary Dougherty 24:33
Absolutely. Absolutely. Or dinner.

Angela Giovine 24:35

Mary Dougherty 24:36
So you know, all those things in my years of being on the road, being in wholesale, working jobs, modeling, retail, customer service, you know, which really all really helps me

Angela Giovine 24:48
It all came together .

Mary Dougherty 24:49
All came together.

Angela Giovine 24:50
Wow. So, I really think that’s so interesting that you found this gentleman who is developing Manayunk. And you said this guy’s got skin in the game and so this is a clue for me, but at the same time retail is a capital intensive business now you had already had whatever investment you had for yourself and your wholesale business. How do you go about standing up next to someone with that kind of money developing an entire street like that to finance yourself and and get yourself a store and all the expenses that are required of launching something like that?

Mary Dougherty 25:22
And also the ones that you don’t realize are required until you get your hands.

Angela Giovine 25:26
Right. Right. Your insurance and

Mary Dougherty 25:28
Yeah, yeah. All that kind of fun stuff.

Angela Giovine 25:30
Legal fees.

Mary Dougherty 25:31
Yeah. Again, you know, the journey took me there. And I had bought an apartment house when I was in my mid 20s. Because I found out you could get something for 5% down. So it was $100,000 it’s three units. I lived in one. I rented out the other two it paid my mortgage. And. I learned how to, you know do all the kinds of repairs and whatever when we went to Manayunk, and then I went to the the gentleman I was talking about to rent, he wanted to charge me more than downtown Philly, no build up money, in a not so great location. So I looked to see if I could buy something. And it ended up buildings were going for sixty, eighty thousand dollars.

Angela Giovine 26:14

Mary Dougherty 26:15
They were really, really inexpensive. It was cheaper for us to buy a building and to gut it, than it was to rent from him. My joke with him as we became friendly over the years was, you know, I still owe him, you know, the biggest gratitude because if he didn’t try to charge me so much, I would have never bought my building.

Angela Giovine 26:31
Right. So you had that real estate from you know, business aside, there’s the real estate end of it.

Mary Dougherty 26:37
There’s a real estate end of it. So again, you know, it wasn’t a large amount and we had taken everything we had saved and put it into buying the building. And then once we bought it, we didn’t count for a lot of the things that we needed to do. So we really pushed ourselves to the wire. And…

Angela Giovine 26:53
So you’re a bootstrapped company you were never

Mary Dougherty 26:55

Angela Giovine 26:55
someone who had investors or backing.

Mary Dougherty 26:58
I have never had an investor. I have never had backing. I have never…

Angela Giovine 27:03
By choice or…

Mary Dougherty 27:05
By choice. I don’t necessarily know times have changed. I look at these companies and they raise this, you know, insane amount of capital and then they lose money. It just…

Angela Giovine 27:07
I know, it seems like monopoly money.

Mary Dougherty 27:18
It’s monopoly money, I- I almost say, I do think it would be so much fun to…

Angela Giovine 27:22
just spend somebody else’s money. [crosstalking]

Mary Dougherty 27:26
And I have been doing a lot of research on what that looks like, and how do you scale something.

Angela Giovine 27:31

Mary Dougherty 27:31
To be able to, you know, to find the funding to come up with a concept and to scale it

Angela Giovine 27:37

Mary Dougherty 27:38
in a way that, you know, that kind of capital allows you. You know, I always have my eyes open. I’m always looking around, but for right now, I ended up giving up my wholesale business a year and a half, almost 3 years..

Angela Giovine 27:48
Oh not that long ago.

Mary Dougherty 27:49
No, there was a girl who worked for me, she was really great. I didn’t see the potential for me to ever go back on the road, and also for growth. And you really to-to make a lot of money at wholesale you need to represent multiple people. And unfortunately, there’s a million designers out there, there’s maybe you know, 1% that are actually making money. In my mind.

Angela Giovine 28:09

Mary Dougherty 28:10
The internet’s been a game changer because anybody can, you know, hang the sign out.

Angela Giovine 28:14
Anywhere in the world, quite frankly.

Mary Dougherty 28:15
Anywhere in the world, and they can make it in their living room. So, you know.

Angela Giovine 28:19
Or in any factory.

Mary Dougherty 28:20

Angela Giovine 28:21

Mary Dougherty 28:21
So, you know, to do it, right. You need extra amount of money and to do with the team, you know, you have to be able to scale it up and so worked out great. And I had a PR marketing and event business for a couple years. And I got out of that, and I just have been focusing on retail and my kids the past couple years.

Angela Giovine 28:39
Yeah. Honing in on, on what’s most important.

Mary Dougherty 28:42
Right. Right. And I do still think there’s potential for growth in retail.

Angela Giovine 28:45

Mary Dougherty 28:45
Like there is in all industries, but it has to be very personal. It has to be an experience. And you need to have the bricks and mortar. You also need to have the online presence, the social media.

Angela Giovine 28:56

Mary Dougherty 28:56
And then just again, the the personal experience.

Angela Giovine 28:59
Right. So you launched in 94. How quickly, are you sure that your store there is successful? How how long are you holding your breath?

Mary Dougherty 29:09
We were very lucky. But we held our breath for the first couple months. No, it wasn’t bad. I mean, we never went on sale. The first year, we opened up March 10th. Until that following January 15th. That was our first sale. And because of being able to fill in quickly, and reorder on a Monday, I’d have things back in the store by Wednesday. We’d have a you know, killer weekend, and then we would be replenishing every Monday.

Angela Giovine 29:34
Hmm. And many years at this point is Nicole Miller’s brand, a household name, so to speak, when she’s big before you launch the store itself because you’re already doing the wholesale? Is that accurate?

Mary Dougherty 29:45
Yeah. Oh, yeah. I think there were a lot of things that have played into her longevity. She became the queen of little black dress.

Angela Giovine 29:52

Mary Dougherty 29:52
And you know, every time you got an invitation, you people would walk into our store with an invitation Bar Mitzvah, wedding, bachelor party, bachelorette party, a first job interview. All the different things that are driven so it would drive people in our door. Which she then, when she started designing the ties, kind of a as a fluke for her business partner, we sold hundreds of thousands of ties to men.

Angela Giovine 30:16

Mary Dougherty 30:17
So when you think about the numbers game of how many men who never heard of Nicole Miller,

Angela Giovine 30:21
Two men or two women four men?

Mary Dougherty 30:23
We-we used to sell probably half of them, more than half to women. And we call it the Gil present. She would by herself.

Angela Giovine 30:32
I should get him something too.

Mary Dougherty 30:34
Yes, she’d come home with the conversational time there were doctors and lawyers and

Angela Giovine 30:40

Mary Dougherty 30:40
astronauts and and actually I just donated a collection, my archives to Drexel University.

Angela Giovine 30:47
Oh! How cool. Like an exhibit?

Mary Dougherty 30:49
Housed in the Museum.

Angela Giovine 30:49
Oh very cool.

Mary Dougherty 30:49
Well, they have what’s really fabulous about them is that it’s hands on for the students.

Angela Giovine 30:53

Mary Dougherty 30:54
So they’ll be able to, you know, touch and feel it. I had saved I think she designed 16 hundred different prints.

Angela Giovine 31:01

Mary Dougherty 31:02
I had 900.

Angela Giovine 31:03
Wow, wow.

Mary Dougherty 31:04
I think we have about 700 scarves. So the the collection is everything from evening gowns to golf bag that she designed for a fundraiser.

Angela Giovine 31:12

Mary Dougherty 31:13
Barbie dolls and everything. Our events, our philanthropy. I’ve kept every chronicle

Angela Giovine 31:19

Mary Dougherty 31:19
of everything.

Angela Giovine 31:20

Mary Dougherty 31:21
But the exciting thing is that it’s very difficult to get that kind of depth and breadth of a living designer.

Angela Giovine 31:28

Mary Dougherty 31:28
Random woman from the United States.

Angela Giovine 31:30
Time capsule.

Mary Dougherty 31:31
It’s it’s really exciting. So they’re going to, the plan is, the spring of 2019. They’re opening a new museum on the campus.

Angela Giovine 31:39
Oh, that’ll be great.

Mary Dougherty 31:40
Yeah. So we’re hoping that that will be and we’ll bring in Nicole and and have some…

Angela Giovine 31:45
That’s awesome.

Mary Dougherty 31:46

Angela Giovine 31:46
So now you are a company of three retail locations.

Mary Dougherty 31:49
Just two.

Angela Giovine 31:50
Just two locations. Two retail locations. When did you decide to expand beyond one store?

Mary Dougherty 31:55
I got a call from this really fabulous woman who was the diva of Bridal. Her name is Sookie Roseanne and I knew her because of wholesale, and she said, Mary, I… don’t want to be at the Bellevue anymore.

Angela Giovine 32:07
And the Bellevue is a luxury hotel in downtown Philadelphia.

Mary Dougherty 32:11

Angela Giovine 32:12
The plaza of Philadelphia. You would say?

Mary Dougherty 32:13
Yeah, absolutely. It’s actually the only one like it where they have just a hotel. They have retail, they have offices. They have the safest parking in the city. They have a food court. They have a hair salon, but it’s all in this one complex owned by the Reubens and she had asked me, she said I don’t want to be there anymore. But I want you to meet George. He’s this nice man. And, I think you would do great there and I was like Suki, I’m I don’t want to be at the Bellevue. And I love you. And I really respect… She said Mary… and if it wasn’t for her, she’s the one

Angela Giovine 32:49
Pushed you.

Mary Dougherty 32:49
to said I think you would do great.

Angela Giovine 32:51
Time for you to be downtown.

Mary Dougherty 32:52

Angela Giovine 32:54
And what year was that?

Mary Dougherty 32:55
That was in 1997.

Angela Giovine 32:57
So just a few years and things started to change because of the mayor in Philadelphia, people started being downtown.

Mary Dougherty 33:03
Absolutely. When we opened March 10th, we threw a party and actually, that’s what put us on the map was I knew how to throw a party.

Angela Giovine 33:10

Mary Dougherty 33:10
It ended up a girl who had come to work for me to help offset some of the the load from wholesale. She had worked as a hostess at the Saloon.

Angela Giovine 33:20

Mary Dougherty 33:20
So the Saloon has been like, a great Philly restaurant forever. And… when we went to open, I didn’t know anybody downtown. So she opened her book, and we hired all the waitresses from the Saloon.

Angela Giovine 33:34

Mary Dougherty 33:35
So the waitresses from the Saloon, we’re thrilled. And, then when we went to have our party, they knew everybody. So they opened their books and invited everybody that they knew.

Angela Giovine 33:44

Mary Dougherty 33:44
And then I sat with one of the girls and we wrote hand invitations and asked Nicole if it was okay to say it was from her. And we signed hope you can make it, Nicole.

Angela Giovine 33:54
Oh cool.

Mary Dougherty 33:55
And we send one to the mayor and Ed Rendell came, Roy Campbell, who was the fashion editor for The Enquirer at the time came, sports personalities, we had Eagles, we had Phillies,

Angela Giovine 33:58

Mary Dougherty 34:04
we had Howard Deskin, we had the biggest hottest party. And at that time, people weren’t throwing parties like that.

Angela Giovine 34:13

Mary Dougherty 34:13
We had limos lined up in front of our store. And that was a part of the tipping point. And so we opened March 10th, the end of April, we threw the biggest party in town. And then that put us on the map.

Angela Giovine 34:25
And you mentioned you had an events consulting company or an events company. So you believe in, in events, experiential,

Mary Dougherty 34:33

Angela Giovine 34:34
live experiences for driving growth driving business?

Mary Dougherty 34:39
Absolutely. And I think the proof to me has always been measurable. Because I could put an ad in in a magazine or a newspaper. And I can’t necessarily always measure

Angela Giovine 34:53

Mary Dougherty 34:53
unless somebody you know, sometimes people do come in with it. And they’ll say uh

Angela Giovine 34:56
Once in a while, yeah.

Mary Dougherty 34:57
And it’s like, oh, yeah, that’s great. But when you have an event. And you line up everything in a way where, you know it’s real. There has to be an authenticity of the event, like a real call to action.

Angela Giovine 35:09

Mary Dougherty 35:10
And then you invite people. You make it feel very personal. You just don’t send an email or you don’t say you send and you call and you invite them.

Angela Giovine 35:17

Mary Dougherty 35:18
And then people have fun.

Angela Giovine 35:19
When they think of you they are remembering the fun that they had.

Mary Dougherty 35:22
Right? And they shop at these events.

Angela Giovine 35:24

Mary Dougherty 35:24
You’d be shocked how many people like to shop, as many people that don’t do. The reason why we did end up doing the event business was every time somebody would come to an event or fashion show or we would have an ad or whatever we did. They’d say, who does your fashion shows? And I’d say well, we do but you know call so and so. Who does your PR marketing? Well, we do but call so and so. And so I did that for 15 years, or how many of years…

Angela Giovine 35:50
Giving people referrals and going why am I throwing the money out the door

Mary Dougherty 35:52
I know. It’s a tough business.

Angela Giovine 35:54

Mary Dougherty 35:55
I’m a perfectionist. So…

Angela Giovine 35:57
Well that’s supposed your focus.

Mary Dougherty 35:58
And part of my problem is that, you know, you could pay me $100 and I’m gonna give you 200.

Angela Giovine 36:04
Yup. Yeah.

Mary Dougherty 36:04
Worth the time, I can’t I can’t do it.

Angela Giovine 36:07
I get it.

Mary Dougherty 36:07
So I decided that since I didn’t have anyone working with me that could help manage that, am…

Angela Giovine 36:15
Can’t clone yourself.

Mary Dougherty 36:16
No, I just really, you know, self awareness

Angela Giovine 36:21

Mary Dougherty 36:21
is very important. And I became very self aware that it just really was not

Angela Giovine 36:26

Mary Dougherty 36:26
gonna be what it needed to be.

Angela Giovine 36:28

Mary Dougherty 36:28
And I should put my focus where I was…

Angela Giovine 36:31
Helping the most.

Mary Dougherty 36:31
Yeah, absolutely.

Angela Giovine 36:32
Sure, sure. How long were you working on the sales floor in the retail locations?

Mary Dougherty 36:38
I’m whatever is needed. You know, when we first open, I was literally on the road during the week and then I would get to the store Friday afternoon and my husband and I lived apart for seven years which is a whole nother story.

Angela Giovine 36:51

Mary Dougherty 36:52
But he would come in, he lived in Manhattan. So he would come in on Friday night. We had a pull out couch on the third floor. We had our bikes in the basement

Angela Giovine 37:00

Mary Dougherty 37:00
And we would work until the store hours for 11 to 11. Monday through Saturday and 12 to five on Sunday.

Angela Giovine 37:08
And you mentioned he’s a small business owner too.

Mary Dougherty 37:10

Angela Giovine 37:10
So he kind of got it. He got what you needed in terms of, just having to be in the trenches.

Mary Dougherty 37:15
Absolutely. We both really came from humble beginnings.

Angela Giovine 37:19

Mary Dougherty 37:19
And we know what startup looks like.

Angela Giovine 37:21

Mary Dougherty 37:21
So he started his business. Absolutely. And I supported him. I started mine, he supported me. And we started this and you know, he was he was there.

Angela Giovine 37:31

Mary Dougherty 37:31
So Friday nights, 11 o’clock, we were done. We’d get up in the morning, go biking, or running and then we would open the store to 11. And we were there till 11 Saturday night, Sunday, and then he’d head back to New York, either

Angela Giovine 37:44

Mary Dougherty 37:44
Sunday night or Monday morning.

Angela Giovine 37:45
The type of product that you sell, it does… help to have experienced sales people on floor, people who can help coach or or

Mary Dougherty 37:56

Angela Giovine 37:56
or to vast style people through the experience, and we’ve talked about what a natural born sales woman you are. So how did you cultivate that? Were you able to teach people, your methods? Or did you look for people who had a certain instinct to become sales representatives in your retail locations?

Mary Dougherty 38:15
And that’s a good question, because I think that’s probably the biggest challenge I’ve had over the years is, to make sure that they’re the right fit. And there’s no team in the world that wants everybody the same.

Angela Giovine 38:27

Mary Dougherty 38:27
You know, you have a quarterback, you have a, you know, wide receiver, you have a kicker. And so, with our team or sales team, I never hired the strongest salesperson per say. Because sometimes what happens in that case, you have somebody who’s so strong, you end up getting a lot of things back.

Angela Giovine 38:46

Mary Dougherty 38:46
And so…

Angela Giovine 38:47
They’re selling for sales fee.

Mary Dougherty 38:48
Right. And that was never my goal. My goal was always to make sure that people felt good when they left and if they felt good when they left then they would come back.

Angela Giovine 38:56

Mary Dougherty 38:57
So, I was always looking more for customer service, friendly, stylish, uh we are stylist.

Angela Giovine 39:05

Mary Dougherty 39:05
And so… you know, when somebody comes into our store, the reason they’re not going online to get something is they want to know what to wear to the academy ball.

Angela Giovine 39:12
They want the opinion.

Mary Dougherty 39:13
They want the opinion. They want it honest, because if you don’t look good, I mean I could say to somebody, you know what I think we can do better. And then it’s not saying you don’t look good in it. It’s just saying no what I think we can do better.

Angela Giovine 39:24

Mary Dougherty 39:24
And it’s really important for women to feel good about themselves. And men. But I think you know, clothing is such a integral part

Angela Giovine 39:32

Mary Dougherty 39:33
of how you feel. You know, your confidence and your your presentation

Angela Giovine 39:37

Mary Dougherty 39:37
and your presence of who you are. So if you you’re not comfortable in your outfit, you know, you’re not going to present yourself in the best light.

Angela Giovine 39:44
And I think people are sometimes scared to give that not negative criticism, but that we think we can do better because you know, they might lose the sale but actually it’s probably creating more of a bond between you and the person, the buyer because they know you’re honest.

Mary Dougherty 40:00

Angela Giovine 40:01
You’re saying something against something that you’re selling so so that’s honest.

Mary Dougherty 40:05
In a lot of cases the people that have worked with me over the years, are more visual learners so I could give them you know, how to swim in the sharks, I can give them all these books that you know are classic sales techniques but really, watching us and observing and jumping in and just helping people.

Angela Giovine 40:24

Mary Dougherty 40:24
But our our motto really is to lose a sale. If they really look bad, unless they beg you or they make you ring it off for them, to I’d rather them lose a sale than to sell something that doesn’t look good on somebody.

Angela Giovine 40:36
Because they’ll never be customer again.

Mary Dougherty 40:38
No! They’ll never be customer and also you look at somebody and like who dressed them?

Angela Giovine 40:41

Mary Dougherty 40:42
How could they let them

Angela Giovine 40:42

Mary Dougherty 40:24
you know walk out the door with that?

Angela Giovine 40:44

Mary Dougherty 40:45
Or you know women that are in really important positions you know everybody’s not good at everthing.

Angela Giovine 40:50

Mary Dougherty 40:50
And they’ll come in with a really short skirt, and they’re in their fifties. Like you can’t do a presentation in front of people

Angela Giovine 40:55

Mary Dougherty 40:55
without them kind of giving you a little bit of a look if you don’t look the part. So you know we we used to say dress the part you want not what you have. Who do you want to be?

Angela Giovine 41:05

Mary Dougherty 41:05
Who do you want to present? In some cases you can wear, things like that, and in some cases you really shouldn’t.

Angela Giovine 41:11

Mary Dougherty 41:11
It’s a balance but uh we do work with everybody and we have all ages, and we have all styles so that you know somebody comes in and like somebody to really talk them into something. And there are people like that. You know we have somebody that’s perfect for that. You know we have someone who’s just kinda- you know real okay. And basically we’ll just help you but you know won’t pile it on and you know our job is to do that, and then it’s the person’s job to decide what they want to buy

Angela Giovine 41:36

Mary Dougherty 41:36
and what they don’t.

Angela Giovine 41:37
Right. We touched on the events but what other type of tactics have really gotten your name out there and grown your brand in Philadelphia, I mean we’ve just talked about the fact that people are probably finding out from you from well-dressed women at events

Mary Dougherty 41:53

Angela Giovine 41:53
saying who styled you? Oh Nicole Miller Philadelphia and that’s great because that’s earned

Mary Dougherty 41:58

Angela Giovine 41:58
and it’s and it’s free. Were there other tactics that you used to grow your name?

Mary Dougherty 42:03
Yes. I think it’s really important, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be out there in the community. And if you think that you’re gonna start a business and sit there and wait for people to come find you, you will not succeed. I knew from my observations of other businesses over the years, who was successful and who wasn’t was that they intrench themselves in the community in a way that you know they were always connecting with new people,

Angela Giovine 42:30

Mary Dougherty 42:31
they were involved and for us, Philanthropy was important because as I prayed before doors open and said please God, if we successful, I’m gonna give something back. It ended out where it turned into a catalyst for people, let’s say to me, I was go nicking of pressure but I got off of the exit because when I come to just store coz you gave an auction IM for…

Angela Giovine 42:53

Mary Dougherty 42:53
JDURF or they film the movie at the store and… it was a independent film which of course means they have no money.

Angela Giovine 43:00

Mary Dougherty 43:00
And I negotiated that they give a donation to North Light Community Center, which is in our backyard

Angela Giovine 43:06

Mary Dougherty 43:06
in Manayunk. And so, and we got a credit in their movie at the end.

Angela Giovine 43:09
That’s awesome.

Mary Dougherty 43:10
So there were ways and things that I did that I was authentic about because I didn’t get involve with charities or things that didn’t speak to me.

Angela Giovine 43:17

Mary Dougherty 43:17
Or I didn’t feel that the money wasn’t going to the right place.

Angela Giovine 43:21

Mary Dougherty 43:21
I did get involved. I I was on the board of directors of a couple different things that, you know at one point then everything was too much. Like I was doing so much that I had to start backing off of it. But initially, I, you know would go to events that were important to my customers.

Angela Giovine 43:38

Mary Dougherty 43:39
I would donate to their charitities. I would… host events in our stores that would bring people and we’ve hosted artists. We’ve hosted musicians. We’ve hosted birthday parties,

Angela Giovine 43:50

Mary Dougherty 43:50
bachelorette parties, bridal showers. We try to use the stores as a gathering place, for people to have fun and have good memories, as well as being you know kinda homie, and hang out.

Angela Giovine 44:03
And it really telegraphed the message to the community like hey, we’re not a flash in the pan.

Mary Dougherty 44:07

Angela Giovine 44:08
Were here, we’re part of the community, and you know we’re her for the long haul.

Mary Dougherty 44:11
Absolutely. And to come and just hang out.

Angela Giovine 44:14

Mary Dougherty 44:14
And we have customers that’ll come and

Angela Giovine 44:15
Don’t feel like were just here to take your money.

Mary Dougherty 44:17
No. Not at all

Angela Giovine 44:17
We’re here because it’s a back and forth…

Mary Dougherty 44:20
hmmmm…People get it. They can see through you.

Angela Giovine 44:23

Mary Dougherty 44:24
Absolutely, and when you go somewhere and they’re faking it,

Angela Giovine 44:28

Mary Dougherty 44:30
You know were there, you know they really don’t care.

Angela Giovine 44:31

Mary Dougherty 44:31
And we do care.

Angela Giovine 44:32

Mary Dougherty 44:33
We do, we know how important it is for people to feel great about it and know that you know, I I say to people all the time now and I make a point of it to say we would not still be here if it wasn’t for you. For people like you, that come and support our business and enable us to be able to do things in the community. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.

Angela Giovine 44:54

Mary Dougherty 44:54
And thank you and they’re always like Oh! Thank you.

Angela Giovine 44:57

Mary Dougherty 44:57
And I’m like No! [laughing]

Angela Giovine 44:59
Thank you.

Mary Dougherty 44:59
I’m thanking you!

Angela Giovine 45:01

Mary Dougherty 45:01
Because it’s true. I mean they can get everything online and…

Angela Giovine 45:05
But they chose to come to you.

Mary Dougherty 45:06

Angela Giovine 45:07
Support a small business, a local business.

Mary Dougherty 45:09
A small, local business that is doing good things in the community.

Angela Giovine 45:13

Mary Dougherty 45:13
And I think it’s important you know for businesses also to give back to the communities.

Angela Giovine 45:18
And I imagine in your particular situation there’s a double edge sword right, because… someone who may not know you or know your story might think Oh! Nicole Miller just has a corporate store,

Mary Dougherty 45:29
All the time.

Angela Giovine 45:29
in Philadelphia and they don’t think about the fact that it is owned locally and operated locally.

Mary Dougherty 45:35
Absolutely. It is frustrating there was a article, I forget where it was but it was last year of the top boutiques in the Philly and we weren’t on it. Of course I get on the phone and I, call the power cb and I’m like how could you not have us on there and she said well you’re not a boutique you’re a corporate store. And I said, you know you’ve known me for twenty some years, you know that

Angela Giovine 45:58
That’s not true.

Mary Dougherty 45:58
I privately own and operate this stores.

Angela Giovine 46:01

Mary Dougherty 46:01
It is not true. She’s like well, your corporate name, I said no it’s what the business does in the community.

Angela Giovine 46:08

Mary Dougherty 46:08
What am I? I’m a boutique.

Angela Giovine 46:10

Mary Dougherty 46:10
and we are not a big box store and so there is confusion sometimes with people you know they’ll say oh, I’ll just go online. Why, I have nothing to do with online.

Angela Giovine 46:21

Mary Dougherty 46:21
You can do that, which of course you know,

Angela Giovine 46:23

Mary Dougherty 46:23
in the greater good, you know that’s fine but every dollar

Angela Giovine 46:27
You’re not interacting with my business any longer.

Mary Dougherty 46:29
Absolutely. There’s no interaction and there’s no compensation for us.

Angela Giovine 46:34

Mary Dougherty 46:34
when someonething’s purchased online.

Angela Giovine 46:36
Right.And now must be a challenge in today’s environment because when you launched these stores as retail, social media didn’t exist and e commerce barely existed at all. So there wasn’t a thought in mind to well, corporate can come in to my teritory and cannibalize my sales, so to speak. But now, you’re actually competing amongst each other. How has social media helped and or hurt you as you’ve grown. I’m sure it’s helped in the PR way but…

Mary Dougherty 47:03
A lot of people are grappling with that, how how much does it hurt and help and… I think that in some ways, everyone is your competition now,

Angela Giovine 46:13

Mary Dougherty 47:13
because before you used to worry about who is down the street. Now you worry about the thousands online, that have the potential to compete with you, so I go back to how I compete is what I know how to do and I know how to make people feel good.

Angela Giovine 47:28

Mary Dougherty 47:29
So I try not to get caught up in that, because as soon as you start freaking out about everybody else, you’re not focusing on you,

Angela Giovine 47:36
Or the customer.

Mary Dougherty 47:37
Or the customer and the company so we focus on what we do well. And then social media I think you can’t not be out there.

Angela Giovine 47:44

Mary Dougherty 47:44
So we do have a presence and I do think it reminds people that we’re there, and I do think it it can push out in a positive way our brand and brand image. So I think that there’s a lot of good that comes out of that exposure especially for the generation that, you know, they’re not picking up a magazine.

Angela Giovine 48:03

Mary Dougherty 48:04
You know they’re not their entire information and world revolves around their computer and their phone. You know you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. And I think it’s really important. It’s just balancing out because some people never have thought especially the last 10 years that the website is gonna be the answer and so I know a store that dumped about forty fifty grand trying to develop a web presence and a website that she could do e commerce from. It ended up where it basically almost put her out of business because she didn’t count on the return ratio. She didn’t count on some of the other things that she was gonna be dealing with and uh SEO and all the back of the house stuff that was really important, the shipping, the whatever. So you there isn’t a silver bullet out there, but going back to the conversation about how you know I do think that you need to have a I think they’re referring to it as like an omni circle where you know you have to break some mortar, you have the presence online.

Angela Giovine 49:01

Mary Dougherty 49:01
You have the web. We do not have a website, eventually we’ll probably have something but under

Angela Giovine 49:07
You mean you don’t have an e commerce website?

Mary Dougherty 49:09
We don’t have an e commerce website because we’re Nicole Miller Philadelphia and Nicole has a website.

Angela Giovine 49:13
Sure. It could be confusing.

Mary Dougherty 49:15
Eh yeah! You know we’re working on maybe developing something that we can spin off so that we da we do have a presence.

Angela Giovine 49:21

Mary Dougherty 49:21
But I would really only want it more for our customers that can’t get to us. I don’t want ship to somebody and you know wherever jibap.

Angela Giovine 49:29

Mary Dougherty 49:29
I really want it for my girl friends in Princeton, that can’t get to the store that I deliver stuff to.

Angela Giovine 49:34

Mary Dougherty 49:35
So, you know just as a base camp for existing customers.

Angela Giovine 49:40
Got it. Now you’ve been on the business for decades now and you can’t open up a newspaper or an article online these days without seeing end of times type of articles related to you know, local businesses dying, small businesses dying. Do you think that’s true? Do you believe that we are in trouble, in local or is it just the change?

Mary Dougherty 50:01
I think that change is good. And in my career, you know there have been things that have scared me. That have threatened the existence of my businesses

Angela Giovine 50:10

Mary Dougherty 50:10
And I think you either embrace change and try to figure out how it is applicable to you, or you get out. It’s sad to see a lot of small businesses go, but people get out of business for a lot of reasons. You know the rent might have been doubled, they uh might have gotten tired of the game. Just alot of different reasons, but I I do think it’s very complicated and it’s expensive, to have break some mortar and the real estate companies are not making it any easier. From my understanding they’ve have a lot of money invested in these properties. They they have to hold at a certain rent, and people can’t afford a rent.

Angela Giovine 50:44

Mary Dougherty 50:45
At some of the places you know they’re half vacant.

Angela Giovine 50:48
Right, they’d rather be vacant.

Mary Dougherty 50:45
Right. Or they financially can’t run it lower because of the banks, you know they’ve given a rent roll to them and if they go under that, they’re not renting what they said they were gonna be renting it for.

Angela Giovine 50:59

Mary Dougherty 51:01
So I think it’s expensive, I think it’s difficult, I think the workforce is vey challenging. It’s hard to find people that want to be in retail. People go to school to be a lawyer, you go to be an engineer,

Angela Giovine 51:11

Mary Dougherty 51:12
You go, for eveything there’s a degree, but until recently, Penn, The Wharton school started a degree in retail.

Angela Giovine 51:18
Oh really?

Mary Dougherty 51:19
Yeah, and I think Drexel and Phil U are contemplating when there’s something in their curriculum that’s gonna start to. There’s a lot a jobs for retail because it’s not just about folding a garment. It’s about merchandising, display, marketing, PR, events. It could be, a great career for a lot of people, but when you’re paying fifty seven, sixty thousand dollars a year for an education, and you’re going to make about forty grand when you get out, parents, including myself,

Angela Giovine 51:49

Mary Dougherty 51:50
You know it’s a little challenging. So you have a work force issue of getting confidant and people don’t want to stay in the industry and then you have, you have just a lot of different challenges. So the big box stores are in trouble. Because they’re competing with online and the consumers still gonna and they’ve educated people for deals and disounts.

Angela Giovine 52:11

Mary Dougherty 52:11
Beyond anything that’s really you know.

Angela Giovine 52:14

Mary Dougherty 52:15
Some of the mercy tone business.

Angela Giovine 52:16

Mary Dougherty 52:17
An and there’s no experience there.

Angela Giovine 52:18
Sure. There’s no person that you trust on the other end?

Mary Dougherty 52:21
No. Not at all. And if you can find somebody.

Angela Giovine 52:24
Right. Right. It’s not a robot and or self check out or whatever.

Mary Dougherty 52:29
Right. Right.

Angela Giovine 52:29
Or someone who’s barely trained.

Mary Dougherty 52:32
Absolutely. So it’s uh that’s you know that’s a whole another separate conversation. But for the smaller businesses, in some ways, there is tinier oppotunities, but you really have to be savvy and you really have to be on your game.

Angela Giovine 52:46

Mary Dougherty 52:46
And you can’t afford to make too many mistakes unless you have your own personal funding or you have

Angela Giovine 52:51
Right. Cushion?

Mary Dougherty 52:53
Yeah, you have a cushion or you have backers or whatever.

Angela Giovine 52:54
Right. So you’ve been involed in the community for so many years, I imagine you’ve known many people that have gone out of the business. Is there a theme, is there one or two reasons that you see, top reasons why a local business doesn’t make it?

Mary Dougherty 53:07
What I’ve seen is inexperience, not realizing what they’ve gotten into, over-buying or under-buying, which can equally.

Angela Giovine 53:16

Mary Dougherty 53:07
Hmmm… because if you go in somewhere, and it’s so packed and crazy you can even see anything,and you don’t have the right sale self you’re gonna walk out.

Angela Giovine 53:25

Mary Dougherty 53:26
If you go in somewhere, and there’s no sizes and no selection and the person’s great but you can’t find anything to try on or you can’t find

Angela Giovine 53:34

Mary Dougherty 53:35
You’re gonna leave too. Again there’s balancing act and then the community involvement.

Angela Giovine 53:39

Mary Dougherty 53:39
That you have to get out there. People have to have to know who you are. and want to support your business, and then that’s you know that’s PR, that’s partnerships with different events, with different you know charities, with different women’s groups, with different organizations that support you business. And then of course you know, making a bad deal, you know you sign a lease, I mean you owe it whether you made a mistake or you didn’t realize that net net met something else. Like you have to really know what you’re dealing. Yeah absolutely. cause I get calls everytime to open up in different places and one I almost did, and I sent a copy of the lease too people that are my mentors, that I was talking about and… they both came back and said do not sign that. You know they have basically put in there that you’re gonna have to pay, they can move you any time they want, It’s 10% of your sales,It’s It’s extraodinary amount of rent, they’re not giving you build up money, they’re making it look like they’re going to, but they’re not and they send out the other and I went back and said hey! I told you to put the best deal on the table. Like what is this? and the guy was why? you know you shouldn’t have had anybody read it and I’m like why wouldn’t I? am you know there’s no way.

Angela Giovine 54:55

Mary Dougherty 54:55
So we ended up not going forward with that. And some deals have been great!

Angela Giovine 54:59

Mary Dougherty 55:00
but the locations were not.

Angela Giovine 55:01
And now is inexperience that you had years into it.

Mary Dougherty 55:05
Oh yeah.

Angela Giovine 55:05
Of experience. If you had been fresh out starting a business you might have made that mistake.

Mary Dougherty 55:11
Right. And I think also, the the experience that I had with my apartment house like again, everything along the way helped me.

Angela Giovine 55:19

Mary Dougherty 55:19
make better decisions. When it was really imperative and there was more on the line. And you know, so I, I was fortunate.

Angela Giovine 55:28
You’re able to learn from ealier lessons, earlier mistakes

Mary Dougherty 55:31

Angela Giovine 55:28
carry that for to not make the same mistake again.

Mary Dougherty 55:34
I made different ones.

Angela Giovine 55:35
Right. Of course we’re always making mistakes. yes.

Mary Dougherty 55:39
Yeah and that doesn’t end either.

Angela Giovine 55:40

Mary Dougherty 55:40
You know there’s always a new one around the corner. To humble you.

Angela Giovine 53:45
Which mistake, do you think was the most challenging that where you learned the most from?

Mary Dougherty 55:54
Hmmmm…. There’s so many. Uhm that’s a tough question because a few I can’t say.

Angela Giovine 56:02

Mary Dougherty 56:03
But I was telling my one son recently said you know, I wish you a happy, and not complicated life, but unfortunatley, my best lessons were the ones that really weren’t fun, and were very stingy you know and prickly but they certainly help me become the person that I am.

Angela Giovine 56:23

Mary Dougherty 56:23
So, as much as I don’t want you to have strife and trauma and drama in your life, it’s gonna happen but hopefully, you have the resilience

Angela Giovine 56:30

Mary Dougherty 56:30
and you have the mindset to understand that that’s just part of the process.

Angela Giovine 56:33
Sure. So, I’m going to ask you these two questions that I ask everybody at the end of my interviews. Finish this sentence. I would not be standing here today if not for blank.

Mary Dougherty 56:45
My husband and sense of humour.

Angela Giovine 56:48
Equally, right?

Mary Dougherty 56:49

Angela Giovine 56:51
You do need bot- thy sense of humour don’t you?

Mary Dougherty 56:53
Oh Yes.

Angela Giovine 56:55
And what’s one piece of advise that you wish you could go back and tell your 18 year old self?

Mary Dougherty 57:01
She wouldn’t have listened.

Angela Giovine 57:02
She wouldn’t have listened anyway?

Mary Dougherty 57:04
Nothing, I knew everything when I was 18. It took me to almost 58 to realize I know nothing. Trust in yourself. Believe in yourself and never doubt it.

Angela Giovine 57:13
Trust your gut.

Mary Dougherty 57:14
Trust your gut. Because, instinctively, if it doesn’t look great and it doesn’t smell right and it doesn’t feel right, It’s not right.

Angela Giovine 57:22
There were times when you didn’t trust your gut and you learned?

Mary Dougherty 57:24
No,no I didn’t because I was young and I think in a lot of cases young people might have the answer but they’ll doubt themselves because

Angela Giovine 57:33
Of their youth.

Mary Dougherty 57:34
Of their youth.I would rather errand the side of trusting my instincts and making a mistake than not trusting my instincts.

Angela Giovine 57:41
Well thank you, thank you so much Mary for the for the time.

Mary Dougherty 57:45
I appreciate it.

What you’ve read here is a transcript from Extra/Ordinary Small Business Podcast.

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