Patrick Hicks likes footwear− a lot.
In fact, three years ago he began collecting pictures of shoes he admired and posting them on a corkboard that was supposed to be used for work purposes.
“From there, I realized I had the building blocks to begin Repertoire,” he says. “From the brands I was interested in to the concept of the brand… Everything went on that board.”
Repertoire is the Columbus-based online shoe boutique he’s founded. And its reach is growing.
Just a couple weeks ago, Short North retailer Brigade began carrying select Repertoire merchandise at the front of its High Street store.
“Brigade has a clothing collection that compliments my shoe selection very well and vice versa,” Hicks says. “I am pretty good friends with the whole Brigade team, so it made it easy.”
Read our interview with the self proclaimed “shoe head,” to learn who gave him the best feedback about his business plan, why he has yet to open a standalone store, and how he suggests entrepreneurs manage startup expenses.
Melanie McIntyre: The concept for your business is offering men and women shoes that will give them a complete repertoire of footwear, correct?
Patrick Hicks: Partially. It is more about building your personal repertoire− from clothes to accessories to even the toothpaste you use. I just put the perfect footwear into your existing repertoire to make it complete.
MM: You call your operation at Brigade a pop-up store. Pop-ups typically are temporary operations. How long do you plan to sell merchandise at Brigade?
PH: Indefinitely. The relationship I have with the guys at Brigade is pretty awesome and I know the Columbus market is thirsty for something new as far as footwear. As I mentioned to Columbus Underground, my plan is to grow both the online model and the pop-up shop concept in different cities, like Chicago, LA, and even Oxford, Ohio− it’s my alma mater.
MM: You considered opening a standalone Repertoire store. Why did you abandon that idea? Were you unable to find a suitable space? Were you concerned a store wouldn’t do well in this economy?
PH: All of the above really played into my decision. I looked a my business model and how it evolved over the last year-and-a-half, and I saw where my vision for the online portion of the store is and the pop-up shop concept, and decided that a fixed storefront would not be the best choice. I am not ruling it out, but right now it’s not for Repertoire.
MM: What resources did you use to get up and running?
PH: Friends, family, and the Small Business Administration office. I remember my first pitch of the business plan I did for my parents and they laughed. And then probably gave me some of my best feedback. You would be surprised how much your friends and family mold your concept into something big. Mike Loffa at the SBA office helped me take my plan from a 5 to a 10. He is a gold mine, and has a wealth of information and practical experience.
MM: Did you have any local advisers, role models, or mentors you relied on for advice and input?
PH: Absolutely! A close family friend who is a successful entrepreneur really broke down my business plan to the nuts and bolts, and helped me stay grounded on the business side of things. I also looked to my mentor from college, Chris Joseph, who really knows me professionally and personally, and knows that I am full of ideas. So he kept me grounded as well on this one. Moreover, the retail community in the Short North has been the most influential. The support I got −from my friends who own boutiques in the neighborhood to people I just met− really gave me that push to make it happen.
MM: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a business owner and how did you overcome it?
PH: Good question and I’ll have a better answer in probably a year. First thought, though, would be managing startup expenses. My advice: make your budget and inflate it by 30 percent. It’s like home renovations− something always comes up. If you do this, you’ll thank yourself and your bank account.
MM: What advice do you have for someone looking to start their own business?
PH: Just do it, like Nike said! Don’t wait for the perfect moment because it will never come. You just have to bet on yourself and go all in! That’s for free!
For more information about Repertoire, visit ShoeRepertoire.com.
All photography by Adam Slane.