Meet Tina Jackson, Owner of T. Boutique
Tina Jackson is the owner of T. Boutique located in Alpharetta, Georgia—a luxury boutique featuring a carefully curated collection of both national and international designer brands.
Tina’s story is so intriguing and I have had the opportunity to watch it unfold over the past six years. I first met Tina as I was in the hiring process for a graphic design intern back in 2013. (At least I think that’s right, it was so long ago!) It was one of those moments when the stars align and the perfect candidate just falls in your lap.
She was studying graphic design at Samford University (here in Birmingham) when we met and already had a side business in the works! She and her sister, Erica, had started a jewelry line called VELINA as a creative outlet inspired by their background, travels, and exposure to art, fashion, and design growing up. Crazy, right?! Like I said, when the stars just align . . .
Tina has always had an incredible eye for design, a wonderful heart, and the work ethic to match so it wasn’t a surprise when she texted me a few years later letting me know she had become an owner of a boutique back home.
I’m so excited to share her story with you. Now, I’ll let her tell you the rest!
Tell us a little more about your background. What’s your story?
I grew up in Toronto, Canada in a multicultural home—my mother is Italian. We lived in Paris, France and traveled throughout Europe, North America, and Asia when I was young and later settled in Atlanta, Georgia.
I attended Samford University in Birmingham, AL and was originally a business major but ended up switching to graphic design and minoring in business. Graphic design was a major creative outlet for me—doing web design and marketing. It was a blend of all my passions.
I would say I've always had an interest in fashion and dreamed of having my own business some day. I worked various retail jobs and believe this is what originally inspired me to start VELINA. I started learning a lot more about business as I worked on getting VELINA into shops. The first big thing we did was a pop-up shop with Avalon, a mixed-use dining and shopping development in Alpharetta, during the fall of 2014. It was a small kiosk space and it was like having our own little shop. Until this point, VELINA was mostly online so this was a way to introduce the brand to customers face to face. That was actually how I got connected to T. Boutique.
So what happened? How did your journey with T. Boutique start?
T. Boutique was an existing business. I’d always admired the shop and during our Avalon pop-up, I got to meet a lot of their clients as we were in the same shopping area. I decided to approach T. Boutique about carrying VELINA in their store. Little did I know they were looking for someone to buy into the company.
The shop had two owners at the time and one was ready to retire from ownership. They were looking for help establishing an online presence and really developing ecommerce. I recognized my skillset could offer that and the timing just seemed right. I never would have imagined the opportunity would present itself so quickly, but I was excited and knew I could bring a lot to the table. This opportunity would allow me to merge all my passions: business, ecommerce, design, photography . . . I officially bought into the company in the fall of 2015.
I don’t think most people consider the option of buying into an existing business. What was that experience like for you?
When I first came into the business, it was extremely stressful. There was so much I didn't know. There was a big learning curve and you kind of just get thrown in. There were bills to pay, processes to clean up—and now I was responsible for it. I thought, “Wow, do I really want to do this? Do I believe in it enough?”
After about six months, when all the legal stuff was official, I started to see things take a turn for the better. I was able to let go of a lot of stress, got a lot of things cleaned up, started building our online presence, and we were in a good place. That first six months was the heightened point of overwhelm for me. I'm young and I had just graduated a year and a half before. It was a lot at once.
What are the benefits of buying into an existing business?
There can be a lot of benefits to an existing business. They had been in business for many years before I joined and had a solid foundation of loyal customers. I was also very lucky in that my business partner saw value in what I had to contribute even though I was much younger less experienced at owning a store than she was. She was a great mentor. We were 50/50 owners and established clear, respectful boundaries around how we made decisions. She was very open to the change because she knew the business needed it in order to continue growing.
I remember my first time going to market. I was so overwhelmed! I had never experienced that before and didn’t realize how exhausting it can be. She introduced me to the process and I was able to learn directly from her many years of experience. That was something really great about our relationship. We were both very open to learning from each other. She had so much experience from being in the industry for so long and I was able to introduce her to new technology and integrate more modern elements into the business. We had a mutual respect for one another.
Last spring in 2018, my business partner decided to retire and I took full ownership of the business. It was still nerve racking but those years with her helped make the transition so much smoother.
What has been the most rewarding part of owning your shop?
The positive feedback we receive from our clients is always inspiring. Getting compliments on our Instagram and website, about brands we are carrying and the selection we buy, about our styling and service, and about the changes we’ve made to T. feel super rewarding. It reassures me that we’re making the right decisions and doing a good job. It makes you want to keep going and growing. And building relationships with our customers makes my job so fun—customers that have also become my friends!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Overcoming the feeling of overwhelm. I still deal with that all the time. I’m really protective of the business, so I'm super involved. It’s hard not wanting to do everything yourself and knowing when to let go. That can be really challenging at times. When you hire someone, you want to let them use their skills!
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
I actually have two things. 1) Be open to growth, change, and listening to other people’s perspective and ideas. 2) Understand that you physically can't do it all.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Remember to look at the positive and don’t be so hard on yourself. I still struggle with this—because I am a perfectionist—and it always seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day. It’s important to recognize all that you've accomplished and not focus solely on what you haven't. You have to be proud of your progress. Don’t overanalyze everything and remember tomorrow is a new day. My mom and I talk about that all the time. I'm very much like her.
What advice would you give your former self or to a fellow shop owner who’s just starting out?
To my former self: Sleep! When I was in college, I would pull all-nighters with graphic design and eventually I made myself sick. I didn’t realize what stress and overworking yourself can do to your body. Remember, you need to take a break and that's okay. It’s completely necessary for creativity and productivity to recharge and refocus.
I’m in a much healthier place now. I make sleep a priority, and at some point in the day, I do shut off to let my mind rest. I love the saying “you honor the dream by doing the work”, but you should never sacrifice your mental health for your job. You have to take time to enjoy life and chill! Look at the big picture and what's really important at the end of the day. If you are moving in the direction you want to travel, enjoy the journey.
To someone starting a shop: If you’re really passionate about it, don’t give up. Don’t let those times of self-doubt affect your decisions. It's normal to experience that and you just have to push through it. Have the courage to overcome challenges, and know that those moments will actually make you better.
Tina, thank you so much for sharing your shop story with us. I can’t wait to see what new and exciting things you do. And happy one year anniversary to you being the full owner of your own shop!! That’s so awesome!
Want to tell your story?
I’d love to share it. Click the link below to get in touch!