Do you love retail shopping?
During this week’s episode of Do The Damn Thing, Laura Foy has a chat with Jeanel Alvarado, a very successful entrepreneur who’s made retail her life’s work.
Jeanel explains how she’s created Retail Boss, a thriving all-in-one platform that connects the retail industry with a global community.
But how did Jeanel get started and grow her amazing empire?
Be sure to watch our video now to find out how she did the damn thing!
Read the script:
Laura: Hello, everybody! Welcome to another episode of Do The Damn Thing, HipCat Society’s weekly show where we talk to entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, anyone out there doing it, and people who have done the damn thing so they can share their wisdom and knowledge with us.
Today I am very excited to speak to our guest. There’s something a little bit different this week – which I hope our audience will enjoy – we are talking with Jeanel Alvarado. Hi Jeanel!
Laura: How are you?
Jeanel: I’m doing great, Laura. How are you doing?
Laura: I’m doing well. Thank you so much for joining us. Now, I found you now on Instagram… opens in a new window to Retail Boss Instagram page…. I’m sure many people do. And I was just captivated by your beautiful profile, your feed, and then all of the great messaging and content that you put out there. So I said, “I gotta meet this girl. I have to find out what she does and find out how she does the damn thing. So, let’s start by telling people what you do.
Jeanel: Yeah, for sure. So my name is Jeanel Alvarado. Thank you so much for the introduction. I run an online community called Retail Boss… opens in a new window to Retail Boss website…. And what we do is provide educational resources to startups in the retail field. So that could be anybody within fashion, beauty, food, and beverage. Really anything related to selling a product to a consumer successfully. So we help bridge that gap in teaching people how to retail the right way so that they can make sales online.
Laura: So, is this for companies, or is it for people like me? Like: “Hey, I want to sell my t-shirts,” or is it more like I’m going to wholesale someone else’s t-shirts and sell them at a marked-up price? I know nothing about it.
Jeanel: Really, it’s for anybody within the retail space. There are so many different distribution channels within retail. There’s direct to consumer, which is where you have your own product. And then, there are also boutiques that typically go the wholesale route. They’re looking for wholesalers that they can buy products from and sell to their boutique. And then, we also have fashion designers who are trying to do more collections – who want to get into retailers.
So, it really is for anybody figuring out how to actually fit within the space and, also, select where they should be in that space. Many people want to start something like a t-shirt line, but it may be a better idea for them to go the wholesale route. Or, it may even be even better for them to provide that service for other people.
So, we help them navigate and see all the different options available. It definitely is for people just like you. Also, it’s for people who have small businesses, and maybe they want to add a retail component to their business.
Laura: Wow. This is so interesting because it’s a totally new space for me. As I do the show, week after week, and talk to all these different entrepreneurs, it blows my mind how much I don’t know. I never would’ve known there were so many different layers, avenues, and paths to retail. So, I guess you really must get into it to find out what you know and what you don’t.
I want to talk about you for a little bit. And, by the way, we are live. So, if anyone out there who is watching has questions for Jeanel or questions about retail, feel free to throw those in the chat, and I will get to them in just a little bit.
But let’s talk about you. Clearly, you’re a fashionista. I can tell that just by going through your feed and looking at you here. But, how does it get started? How did you become an expert? How did you become the CEO of Retail Boss?
Jeanel: Well, it started with humble beginnings, of course. I, actually, was born and raised here in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. So I’m Canadian. Many people think I’m from Toronto when I travel because I feel that most people in the States only know about Toronto or Quebec. But here, it’s more of a smaller city. It is more oil-based. Most people here are in trade, so either they’re going into oil, they’re becoming nurses, or they’re doing more of the trade occupations. So here, there isn’t really a fashion hub or retailing hub, so to speak.
What actually got me into it was that I was always looking online. And that’s why I always have a global perspective because I didn’t get any of my fashion influence from my city. I really like European fashion, and I was obsessed with men’s fashion and also men’s tailoring. So I really liked blazers and professional wear.
Seeing all of that content online is really what pushed me into the industry. I ended up going to fashion school right after high school. I later pivoted from doing fashion merchandising to actually doing a bachelor’s of commerce degree in marketing but still focusing on the retailing sector.
And then, within that, I also took courses in real estate so that I could get the whole picture. Retail is very much tied to real estate. A lot of investment in real estate has to do with retailing.
So, if you’ve seen that movie called The Founder… opens in a new window to Wikipedia The Founder web page… – it’s on Netflix – it’s about McDonald’s. So, McDonald’s is in the retail industry. They have a product that they sell to consumers. Anything along the lines of selling is a retail transaction. There’s a science behind how you go about making sure you have the value proposition, the product that people want, the right pricing at the right time with the right service level. All of that is retailing.
When we look at McDonald’s, we see that most of their financial portfolio and the way they generate assets is actually owning those properties because they’re in franchises.
So, that’s how we got started. First, I had an interest in fashion. And then, by taking fashion courses, I saw that I was more interested in the retailing components. Fashion is more about looking at trends and developing new products. Whereas retailing is trying to figure out how a product that already exists or is coming to market – how to get that in the hands of the right people and generate sales. And also, how to create assets from your products in other means such as real estate.
Laura: Wow. I would never have considered real estate to be retail. So, you’re clearly educated, and you have a long history of building up your knowledge around these areas. How do you then transition from just a woman with lots going on in her brain to a woman with lots going on in her wallet? How does this turn into a business?
Jeanel: There are many people who ask me that. People ask me all the time, “What is it that you do?” And, for the longest time, I didn’t really know. I would tell people that I’m a market researcher because I used to do a lot of consulting.
What pushed me into getting my experience was that I was working at the School of Retailing at the University of Alberta, where I graduated and got my bachelor’s of commerce degree. I actually got hired at the university to oversee the center, doing consulting work. And we worked with a lot of companies like Victoria’s Secret. Also, many real estate companies that own malls figure out what new brands should be in what stores, traffic patterns, and figuring out their marketing campaigns. Also, where they should open up another outlet.
You’d be surprised that even airports have a huge retail component. When you go through an airport, you can see how many retail shops there are.
Laura: Oh my God. I will spend $45 for a pair of gloves in the airport versus $15 gloves. I waste so much money in retail in the airport cause you’re bored and want to shop. It’s genius.
Jeanel: Exactly! So, you’d be so surprised to hear that they hire people like me to help manage that or figure out what to do with those retail places. And again, that’s real estate because those retailers have to fight for those spots. They have to pay certain leases. A lot of businesses may have stores in certain areas.
If we think about, for example, a place like Times Square. All those spots generate money, but that money kind of breaks even with how expensive it is to actually have that real estate there in Times Square. For those brands, it’s about the branding. If you have a store in Times Square, then that keeps you top-of-mind. And if you want everybody to know your brand, what better place to position it than at Times Square?
Laura: You’re not going to see a mom-and-pop store in times square.
I own an art studio, and my rent is always my most significant bill every month. I’m constantly asking, “How can I get rid of this brick-and-mortar spot and just go virtual?” That’s a huge downside to having a physical store. But I see what you’re saying about the location being prime.
Let’s talk about malls real quick. Are they dying? What going on?
Jeanel: I am a firm believer in the belief that things go through cycles. Everything is trend-based. We’re going through a cycle. E-commerce came. We’re trying to normalize and figure things out still. E-commerce is still relatively new. The “.com” era is still relatively new. So now this is something that the younger generation is growing up with. It is changing demographics. The generation under us is now the biggest generation.
So retailers and malls are changing their models to focus on what Gen Z wants because they’re now the biggest demographic, and they’re starting to have the biggest spending power.
I don’t think most are dying. They’re just changing, and I believe that malls will be so much cooler than even it was for us. What did we have, the food court? I feel like malls now will have to do something really cool and innovative. I know they’re focusing more on food, entertainment, and trying to get people into the malls. But I think there’s a huge opportunity as long as they can bridge that gap on social media and e-commerce and also bring that experience in-store. I think it would be a hit.
Laura: Well, I hope so because I love a good mall.
Let’s talk about Retail Boss. So you help educate people who are interested in entering this space in all of the many different channels and facets of the retail space. So do you offer eBooks or seminars? What does it look like to work with you?
Jeanel: I used to do everything pretty much just on my own. I used to get so many emails where people were asking me the same questions repeatedly. And I’m like, “Oh my goodness, everybody has the same questions. I just answered this yesterday for somebody else.”
If you were to go to retailboss.co… opens in a new window to Retail Boss website…, we now have a whole bunch of free resources to help people. So we have sections for retail marketing, branding, funding, and anything else that you’re looking for. We also have an online directory of wholesalers, manufacturers, pattern makers, and packaging companies that all work with small businesses. We are really focused on entrepreneurs and small businesses. We have all those resources available right now.
I do also provide one-on-one coaching. But I would prefer people to go through educating themselves, finding some partners, and seeing what works. Most people are just in the stage of figuring out where they should fit in in the entire Distribution model. They don’t really know where they fit.
And it also comes down to your interests. Just like I said before, I was first interested in fashion design. Then I realized that I’m not that interested in keeping up with the latest trends and trying to create something for that. I’m more interested in things that are already existing and how to get them in the hands of the right people. The more you educate, the better you’ll be at creating a business that you’ll actually like. I have people on there who are ready to partner with you, so you can really get going. Then contact me if you’re having troubles along the way.
Laura: Is it sort of a community as well? Do you connect the right people with the right people?
Jeanel: Absolutely! We also have our own mighty network. We have over 1,700 people inside of our existing mighty network, which is an app you have on your phone. You can talk to everybody, connect, and DM with other entrepreneurs just like you.
On our website, you can create your own public profile. That helps connect you with businesses, partners, and agencies who want to help your business succeed. The website is more for connecting you with B2B businesses. So, that could be graphic designers, photographers, and models. We have pattern makers to create your first patterns and then connect you with a manufacturer who can actually produce them overseas.
We also have other people. I’m not the only expert on there. I have several people who are experts. So, if you want to have your own sustainable brand, I have all these different ladies who are there to help you specifically. It’s such a broad industry that you need to pick the right people who will fit that model. I might not always be the right person, but I will connect you with the right one.
Laura: Very cool. Now, how long has Retail Boss been around?
Jeanel: It’s been around since 2011. It really started with just me putting out content. Since I was in university, I had been doing some expert commentary for many of our news publications. I would give my opinion. I was always blogging about what was happening in retail.
When I was studying retail and getting into it, this was before e-commerce was a huge thing. This was when it was becoming a thing. I remember getting my first domain, and I was so excited.
Laura: Let’s talk about how you gain clients. I found you on Instagram… opens in a new window to Retail Boss Instagram page…. I’m gonna take a look at your account right now. Is social media a big part of your business plan?
Jeanel: No, but I’m trying to make it more a part of my business plan now that we have such a huge community. People ask me all the time, “How do you grow your Instagram?”
I don’t believe that Instagram grew our community. It’s the people within our community who grew our page. Everything that we have is organic. I don’t pay for any ads on Instagram or Facebook. Everything is organic, and it’s everybody in our community and industry who is referring us. That’s how we have grown.
Also, we have many articles. I put out original content. For anybody who’s trying to grow a community or they have the expertise, then you should be commenting. You should stay something. You should be putting information out there. And then, what you give, you get back.
That’s what kind of work for me. For mainly getting clients, I would say LinkedIn… opens in a new window to Retail Boss LinkedIn company page… has helped me the most and Twitter… opens in a new window to Retail Boss Twitter account…. The majority of my bigger contracts come from those two sources. Usually, it’s just people who have found me in an article or have gone to my website, seen something, or been referred by somebody else. They really are just looking at my social sites just to verify if they’re going to go with me or not.
Laura: Some of the mottoes that we live and die by at HipCat Society are the same as yours. We’re all about generosity. Marketing with Love is our tagline. You really hit on some of those pillars there. So, a lot of your content is available for free?
Jeanel: Yes. We have so many news articles. Even just today, we got approved for Google News… opens in a new window to Google News Retail Boss page…. So now people can follow us. And we’re going to be promoting a lot of small businesses. So we’re super excited about that.
Laura: Now, it would be amiss if I didn’t touch on the title of the show, which is Do The Damn Thing. And as I said earlier, our goal is to help inspire people. We come in contact on a daily basis with entrepreneurs. They’ve got great ideas. They have a service or a product, and they want to start a retail line. They don’t know what they want to do, but they want to do something, but something’s blocking them.
So, what advice would you have for those just starting out, whether they want to be in the retail industry or maybe in the education industry, just like you?
Jeanel: Anybody who wants to become an entrepreneur needs to understand that it’s not going to be any easier than having a job. You’re still going to have all the frustrations of having a job. And I think that’s a big misconception because people think, “Okay, well, I’ll be able to run it on my own time, and do this, and do that.”
But there are so many other major headaches. You have to have a backbone, and you have to be able to roll with the punches. I have talked to some entrepreneurs, and they want to get into it because they think they’ll be able to run it better and run things better. However, it’s going to be a lot more stressful. Having a job is less stressful than having your own business. So, if you’re trying to minimize stress, don’t leave your company.
You may have a passion business or a hobby business, but we all have to be realistic about how many hours or resources we have to dedicate to this? A hobby business isn’t going to sustain you enough to be able to leave your job again.
I always encourage people to keep their job. Build a business on the side. Figure out which business can generate money today. Many people have a lot of different ideas. You need to figure out what can generate money today with the time and resources that you have. Maybe you have a lot of money, but you don’t have a lot of time. So if you have all these ideas, pick the one that fits right now.
To be an educator, you need a lot of time. You don’t need money to put out content. Right. But you need a lot of time. So, to be an educator it’s not easy to do if you have a full-time job. But if you have something else still in that realm, focus on that. It could be something like doing an ebook. Maybe videos would be too much for you to take on right now.
Laura: In fact, it’s funny you say that because we actually have a question from Melissa out there. She says, “You must be so busy. How do you make time for yourself to unwind? And what do you do?”
Jeanel: I really love all the businesses that I have. My businesses are just an extension of me. I’m the type of person who is always trying to help people out. I feel like even though it might seem like I’m doing a lot, it’s still making me more productive. So, with anything you’re doing, you should figure out if it’s making your life more productive? And if it is, then great.
In life, you’re not going to get more time. There’s only so much time in a day. But you can change how you spend that time and make sure it’s more enjoyable. So that’s what I always tell people who work with me. How can we figure out a model where you’re spending eight hours a day enjoying what you do?
Let’s change some things up. If you’re running your own business, you need those hours. I still have so much time for all my friends. I see all my friends every week. I travel all the time.
Laura: Wow! You are amazing. I wish you the best of success.
We are just about out of time. But, before we go, I wanted to give you an opportunity to help others find out how they can reach you and where they can go to contact you. We’ll put all of this information down below.
Jeanel: Just go to retailboss.co… opens in a new window to Retail Boss website…. You can find me directly on LinkedIn… opens in a new window to LinkedIn Retail Boss company page… and DM me. But, if you’re just looking for resources and to get started, just go to my website. I have it all there for you.
Laura: Awesome. What you’re doing is amazing. I appreciate you coming on the show. And we’ll you next week.
Jeanel: Thank you so much!
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