Ever since the fad of food trucks swept the nation several years ago, many culinary entrepreneurs have been testing their local markets with inspiring menu creations for the customer on the go.
Three female entrepreneurs from Springfield, Illinois have decided to put an interesting new twist on a classic. They have opened up the Itty Bitty Fashion Truck, which as the name would indicate – isn’t about food at all. Taking a page out of the food truck model, they aren’t serving up any tasty treats, but rather catering clothes and delivering them with a new style.
Tricia, Rachel and Krissy are sisters who show that they have more than fashion sense, but also have a good sense of how to create a business that attracts droves of customers wherever the Itty Bitty Fashion Truck rolls up. The former uniform truck has been converted into a full-service clothing store on wheels that features merchandise, a check-out counter and even includes a dressing room. An attractive branding and active social media presence has turned would be mall-goers into spotters of the truck at the farmer’s market and local events.
PEN caught up to the drivers of the Itty Bitty Fashion Truck business at a pop-up event at the Engrained Brewing Company to see how this Central Illinois startup is creating big style in a small space.
Can you talk about your different paths to arriving at creating the Itty Bitty Fashion Truck?
We had always dreamed of opening our own business together. Krissy was already working as a buyer for a major department store. The overhead of a brick-and-mortar store always seemed daunting, so when we discovered the model of a mobile retail store it was a perfect fit for us.
When did you decide that starting a business was something that all three of you wanted to do?
Entrepreneurship was installed in us at a young age. Coming from a large close knit farm family, we always knew that we wanted to collaborate. We had been talking about starting a business together for years, however, in 2014 the time was right. Krissy was working and living out of state and wanted to be closer to home and Tricia and Rachel were beyond the demands of raising small children.
Why did you think that using a truck would be the best way of starting up?
We instantly connected with idea of mobile retail. The convenience and connection with customers were the driving forces behind our decision to go with this business model. We thought it was new and innovative for our area and knew it was something we would want to shop ourselves.
How did you go about launching the business?
Finding a truck was the hardest part. We spent many hours searching for the perfect vehicle. We had specific requirements in mind. It had to be 16 feet. It needed to have barn doors off the back and it needed to be an automatic.
We were lucky enough to find our truck in the Chicago area. It was a blank slate giving us the freedom to design the build out. We were able to have it painted locally and wrapped with our logo.
Sourcing product for the truck was easy because Krissy already had the experience in buying. We feel that our appeal is the fact that we buy things that we love and that we would want to wear. We span three decades of fashion with Tricia being in her 40’s, Rachel in her 30’s and Krissy in her 20’s. Luckily for us Tricia’s husband is a lawyer, so he was able to help us set up our business as an LLC.
Did you have any help such as mentoring, business assistance, or by attending any entrepreneurship events?
Our first step in this process was taking webinars from the American Mobile Retail Association. When it came time to write a business plan we received help from Paul Short, a SCORE mentor.
What the are the challenges/opportunities that come from having a mobile retail business?
We don’t want to be perceived as a novelty experience, we want our customers to come back. We are not at the same location every day, so our customer needs to be social media savvy in order to find the truck. We are also at the mercy of inclement weather.
As far as opportunities go we are offering a new and fun way to shop. Our space is small so our inventory is ever changing. Our boutique is small and we can offer a one on one experience. We offer the ultimate in customer convenience by bring the store to where our customers already are, whether that means a music festival or their own driveway.
Who handles what day-to-day duties?
This is truly a team effort and being sisters makes that effortless. We all know how to do everything but we have found we each have our own strengths and weaknesses.
As an early-stage business, what are your needs to help stabilize and grow your company?
We have been so fortunate that our community has accepted our new and innovative business. The response in our first year was overwhelming. We hope to continue building our customer base by being out and about more. We have also branched out to offering a small selection of our clothing at a local downtown shop – Urban Sassafras.
If we can’t make it to an event, do you have an e-commerce store where we could shop online?
We currently have an online website where people can find out where to find a truck on any given day. The details about booking the truck for private events can also be found on our website. We hope to launch online sales this fall.
How can people find where you’ll be next?
We connect to our customer through social media, however, they can always find our calendar of events by visiting www.ittybittyfashiontruck.com.