Tessa Miller 0:00
I do have an emphasis on keeping things local and it goes back to the whole part of the community. If I’m paying people in this community for their items, then that money stays in the community. I make money off of them that stays in the community.
Angela Giovine 0:19
Pop cultures 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.
Angela Giovine 0:57
This episode is brought to you by WP Engine.
Angela Giovine 1:06
Tessa Miller has owned and operated The Nest in Reno’s up and coming West District for over 10 years. She often supplies the most sought after vintage shops in San Francisco with her finds in Nevada secrets sprawling estates of mining moguls, ranchers, casino billionaires, Tahoe’s Lakeside mansions and her informed eye of the state sales, garage sales and more. We talked to Tessa about resilience, vision and the art of making your passion a business.
Tessa Miller 1:43
Hi, my name is Tessa D Miller, my business is The Nest, a vintage furniture clothing and decor store in Reno Nevada.
Angela Giovine 1:51
I love so when I was looking you up Reno Reno, it was like a little play on words.
Tessa Miller 1:57
Oh, yeah, yeah, at Reno is an up and coming town and there’s been a lot happening, a lot moving and shakin’, especially within the last 10 years, specifically five with Tesla moving in and a whole bunch of other companies. So it really is seeing a renaissance through a renovation, so it is appropriately titled.
Angela Giovine 2:17
And you’re a native of Reno?
Tessa Miller 2:18
Yeah, yeah, born and raised in Reno. I did go away to school, Santa Clara University for college, but then came right back and I’ve been here ever since.
Angela Giovine 2:28
So how did you get into vintage and reselling and upcycling?
Tessa Miller 2:32
Upcycling, yeah. You know, what’s funny? It seems like most people get into it because they’re like, Oh, I have this passion and I’m going to turn it into a business. And I found my passion after I found the business which is totally backwards but ended up working out. So like I said, I went to Santa Clara University. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all. It was in the middle of the Silicon Valley, I didn’t like that vibe at all. Reno is surrounded by mountains and trees and scores and lots of hiking and outdoor stuff in Tahoe, right? So I just needed to come back to like nature a little bit.
Angela Giovine 3:08
What did you study?
Tessa Miller 3:10
You’ll laught at this, Spanish and philosophy.
Angela Giovine 3:13
Tessa Miller 3:14
It was one of those things where I was like, Okay, I want to get out of here as quickly as possible, what is the easiest degree that I can get? And I already had a ton of credits accrued from those two things. So I ended up just, you know, using those as my major and minor and graduating a little bit early to come back. Yeah, I got back, I had no idea what I was going to do, was kind of feeling like that whole segment of my life was a little bit of a waste. Because I felt like once you get out of college, like you should know what you want to do with your degree, and I just didn’t. So I worked some odd jobs, you know, stuff like valet and like restaurant jobs, but I just kind of needed to like unwind and like not use my brain for a minute, but that lasted about six months, and then I was like, Okay, I’m ready to use brain again. But it’s a kind of a funny story. It was actually my dad that got me into this business. So back then there was a like a little local paper called The Big Nickel, and that’s where like all the classified ads and things were. So this was about 15, yeah, 15 years ago. And my dad was like, You should look into owning your own business. And I was like, Why? Like, I don’t have like, I don’t have any business experience, I don’t know anything about anything when it comes to that.
Angela Giovine 4:28
Is he a business owner?
Tessa Miller 4:30
No. So my dad worked as a dealer in a casino for over 35 years. And basically, his thing was that, look, you don’t want to have a boss because bosses, kind of they can suck sometimes. So like, I think it was his sort of way of like, not so much like living vicariously through me, but like, if he could have gone back and done it differently, he would have probably tried to open his own business. So he kind of tried to push me in that direction and at first I thought he was crazy.
Angela Giovine 5:01
So funny because my dad is an entrepreneur and he tried to push me towards corporate America. It’s just so funny how it’s the grass is always greener. So anyway, so he’s he kind of suggested to you that it would be good for you?
Tessa Miller 5:15
Yeah. So both he and I are just we’re savers. We’ve always been savers. So I had some money saved up. And he’s like, let’s go look at these businesses. And I thought, well, you know, I’m going to look at these businesses just to placate him, and then I’m going to go about my way because I don’t know anything
Angela Giovine 5:31
To buy an existing business?
Tessa Miller 5:33
Angela Giovine 5:34
Tessa Miller 5:34
Uh huh. So, he circled one. We went to that one first. It was a used furniture store out in Sparks. The lady was sort of like, older Hispanic lady that was like, Hey, I have a sixth grade education, I can run the store just fine. And I was like, Huh! alright well, it’s kind of fascinating. I don’t know. And the weird part about it is that like, I’m not generally a risk taker, but for some reason, I just felt like Hey, I’m not doing anything better, I have a little bit of money saved up. Like, if I’m going to try something crazy, I might as well do it now, right out of college.
Angela Giovine 6:09
Yup, been there.
Tessa Miller 6:10
Yeah, like two weeks later, a used furniture business and I didn’t know anything about used furniture, or business. And, and after that, I was like, Oh my god, what have I done? I don’t know. My dad spotted me the rest of the money, which was really amazing, because, you know, working as a dealer in a casino, it’s not like, you know, he had all of this money.
Angela Giovine 6:30
Tessa Miller 6:31
No, no. So he actually took money out of his retirement to put it towards me to do this. And so, while I was extremely grateful, appreciative and honored, it was also a lot of pressure because like, here’s my dad’s retirement, like, if I screw this up, like that’s not just on me, that’s, you know, my dad so
Angela Giovine 6:51
Did it motivate you?
Tessa Miller 6:53
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. All the times when I thought like, Oh gosh, I just can I’m just going to quit. I’m just going to quit. You know, it was like, Nope, you can’t. Like your dad trusted in you and believed in you so much that he would put part of his retirement behind you. So you better buck up and figure it out.
Angela Giovine 7:10
Tessa Miller 7:12
Angela Giovine 7:13
And what year was this?
Tessa Miller 7:14
This was 2005, that I got it, that store and that was called Budget Use Furniture. With that store for about five years, learned all the ropes, made all the mistakes, did all the things and then really realized that I don’t like all used furniture. I like vintage stuff, because vintage stuff is so much better quality, has so much more character, I believe that things sort of carry an energy somehow, and like heirlooms and stuff that was appreciated. Like I wanted to see those go on to other people and have new lives instead of just being thrown in a landfill. So that’s when I started The Nest, so yeah, in 2009 I opened up The Nest, and it was just this kind of in a small, hidden away place and I was going back and forth between the two businesses.
Angela Giovine 8:03
Oh so you were kept them separate. You didn’t just pivot one into the other, you open to different ones. What was the reasoning behind that?
Tessa Miller 8:10
I don’t know the wisdom of a 24 year old? I can totally do this.
Angela Giovine 8:15
You just felt that it was a different audience, you wanted to keep the cash flow and the business going for the one kind and then you wanted to differentiate in this vintage area. Okay?
Tessa Miller 8:23
Yeah. I mean, it was very much like, there was the same sort of energy or feeling behind it as there wasn’t getting into budget. Like I’m not necessarily a risk taker, but something feels right about this. So I’m just going to go for it and see what happens.
Angela Giovine 8:36
And when you open The Nest, you used the proceeds that you were making in the other business to fund it?
Tessa Miller 8:41
Angela Giovine 8:42
Tessa Miller 8:43
And it was definitely bootstrapped. And, like, everything that I do is like completely DIY. So there wasn’t a lot of, I didn’t need a lot of capital to start. I basically took this stuff, I noticed that in that location, my really high quality vintage stuff wasn’t selling because people just wanted something that was cheap that would get them by. So I just ended up taking that inventory that I already had from old store and then putting it into the new store and setting it up in vignettes and making it look nice. And then kind of separating it in there. So we kind of had like the lower end and the higher end spectrum of basically the same business.
Angela Giovine 9:20
Tessa Miller 9:21
I did that for a little while realize that that was probably not, not a smart decision. But you know, they lead us to the next, you know, step in the path.
Angela Giovine 9:31
Tessa Miller 9:32
Exactly. I was in there for about a year and a half, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, then it was like, You know what, I can only handle one of these because I’ve got to, you know, be around and be available. So I sold Budget, and then moved The Nest into a larger location. Kind of made that my own, like the big main focus of everything. Was in that location for about two years. When I moved to an even bigger location there.
Angela Giovine 10:03
Wow. So clearly it was growing and growing. And I think I read that you’re up to 3700 square feet?
Tessa Miller 10:09
Angela Giovine 10:10
3400 square feet, that’s amazing.
Tessa Miller 10:12
I feel like I’m busting at the seams. My dream is to have like 10,000 square feet.
Angela Giovine 10:16
That’s the thing about us as small business owners, we can never just stop and be like, Man, I’m proud of myself. I said to some of my employees the other day, I’m like, this type of like, quarantine is the worst for me, because I’m like, Oh, I could start this, I could do this, I could do- and all of a sudden, I’m like, 50 and they’re like, please don’t do that, Angela. Please stop, please stop your brain.
Tessa Miller 10:40
Angela Giovine 10:41
Uh get it.
Tessa Miller 10:42
Something that you can’t shut off as an entrepreneur.
Angela Giovine 10:44
You can’t. It’s just like once the creative juice is going, It’s like it’s out of control. All you can do is try to like, rain it in and harness it, for good.
Tessa Miller 10:53
Yeah. And it’s hard to be like content with where you are knowing that like you can grow and build.
Angela Giovine 11:00
Tessa Miller 11:00
It just feels complacent a little bit, to like
Angela Giovine 11:03
Tessa Miller 11:03
just stay there. And I get all like itchy and want to short circuit when I’m like, when I feel stagnant.
Angela Giovine 11:11
Absolutely. So I have to imagine when you started with Budget, the internet was not a main focus of your business.
Tessa Miller 11:18
No, wasn’t a thing at all, yeah like
Angela Giovine 11:20
So how did that evolution happen?
Tessa Miller 11:23
Gosh, I mean, even now the internet is not that large of a part of my business.
Angela Giovine 11:28
Tessa Miller 11:29
It has become more so in the last two months, with the COVID stuff, but before that, my passion is really connecting with people face to face. And I loathe internet shopping. If I’m being quite honest. Like I just feel like more times than I’d care to admit, I see something in a picture, It looks great. I order it, I get it. It is nothing like I thought it was going to be, this returning process and the shipping is so much of a hassle that I just give up. And then I’m like, that’s why they did this, because they know that like, people, like most people aren’t gonna return. They’re going to be like, Oh right, you know.
Angela Giovine 12:08
It’s not worth it. Yeah.
Tessa Miller 12:09
Yeah, but I don’t like that. I’m a very nostalgic person. And I like the idea of, you know, back in the day where, you know, you went to your butcher, your baker, your candlestick maker, and you’re all friends and you know, like, How are the kids? And oh, yeah, let me get my stuff from you, because I know I’m supporting you and not some unknown person with tons of money, and all of that. So I really enjoy the community aspect of it and connecting with real people and just helping them fine.
Angela Giovine 12:39
So you’ve really cultivated a group of people, I guess, clientele that are
Tessa Miller 12:44
Angela Giovine 12:45
believe what you believe, love what you love, and they come back over and over.
Tessa Miller 12:49
Yeah. What’s really been interesting is like I knew that I had this amazing community, but it’s really opened my eyes to how large and dedicated this community is, since COVID happened because with having to close the doors, and not knowing what I’m going to do, I, you know, was obviously really scared. And I have tried a number of things to try to pivot and stuff. And the amount of people that have been like, Hey, what can I do? Let me buy a gift certificate right now. Let me come in and help you with something. Let me, like the amount of support that I’ve gotten from people, I like makes me all teary eyed.
Angela Giovine 13:24
They’re there for you, that’s amazing.
Tessa Miller 13:26
They are, they really are and I think that is because of the relationship that we established beforehand, where I care about them, too. Like, I’m not just trying to peddle furniture, I’m like, is this going to work for your space? Like, if it’s not, I’m going to find the right thing or I’m going to send you somewhere where you are going to find the right thing. I’m not just going to try to push something just so I can make a sale. So I do care about my people. Yeah. And, you know, I want to make their lives better through the right outfit or the right piece of furniture in their house or whatever.
Angela Giovine 13:58
Now while you might have be using e commerce, I did notice that you have a great social media following and a beautiful website. So it looks like you’re using technology in some ways, but maybe not with e commerce.
Tessa Miller 14:12
Yeah, I have a great friend, Allie Deni who does my website for me and I love her. She does an amazing job. Social media, I think, like with most people, I have a love hate relationship with it. I do have an amazingly supportive community on there, which I love. But at the same time, sometimes I want to tune out from the whole thing. But yeah, you know, COVID has really pushed me to kind of embrace social media as a selling tool, which before it was kind of more of a connection tool. And I guess you know, it’s probably best to have a combination of both. But yeah, I’ve definitely gotten creative in the last couple months with how I use social media and the website and all of that to further connect with people and try to offer things that they might need in this time.
Angela Giovine 15:02
So are you solo in the store? Or do you have a team?
Tessa Miller 15:06
I’m currently solo, I used to have a couple employees, but with COVID, they’re, you know, well, one is immunocompromised, and the other ended up finding out like a full time job at CVS where they’re like, no one can work for us, so we’ll pay you whatever you want just come work every single day. So that has been quite a challenge for me in the past couple months, because I’m not very good at delegating anyway. But once I have finally delegated,
Angela Giovine 15:35
To replace is the worst.
Tessa Miller 15:36
Angela Giovine 15:37
Tell me about it, I hear you.
Tessa Miller 15:39
Angela Giovine 15:40
Tessa Miller 15:40
So I’m in the shop right now, I’m trying to keep regular hours to sort of keep things going for me. So I’m in there three days a week, but I’m trying to do three different jobs, in three days a week at the store. It’s just absolutely exhausting.
Angela Giovine 15:56
Yeah, yeah, that’s a lot. Yeah, and I mean to add the whole other layer of complexity on it with the PPP, and like you had in order to get the loan, you have to have the employees and I’ve been hearing a lot of small business owners saying, I’m having trouble because my employees don’t actually want to work, because they’re getting better opportunities, they’re getting unemployment, whatever it is. And then it leaves the business owner in trouble because they can’t take advantage of the peep, it’s like, boy.
Tessa Miller 16:21
Yeah, the whole thing is such a mess.
Angela Giovine 16:24
We’re all just trying to figure it out as we go. I know. I know.
Tessa Miller 16:27
Angela Giovine 16:28
So just you right now, but in the regular world, normally, with that size business, you’re employing a couple people.
Tessa Miller 16:35
Yeah, yeah I’ve got a couple part time employees that are in store for me. Yeah, and then I run pretty much everything else.
Angela Giovine 16:42
Right, and the partners like the help with your website and stuff that.
Tessa Miller 16:45
Yes, yeah. Absolutely.
Angela Giovine 16:46
Yeah. So you’ve grown obviously, over the past decade from a small location to a bigger location, or bigger location and you have your sights set on even larger locations with more inventory. Would you characterize your growth as a like a slow and steady type of growth? Or were there like certain moments or certain things that you did that were big dominoes and really move your business forward?
Tessa Miller 17:10
I feel like they are just big jumps. Those big jumps usually happen in like five year periods like we were talking about, like, when you sort of get to a place of maybe a little bit of complacency, like things are working well. It’s like a well oiled machine, I should be so happy with that. But then I’m like, Oh, well, now that everything’s going well, what else can I add?
Angela Giovine 17:34
What other plate can I start spinning? I heard Gary Vee say that the other day about entrepreneurs or plate spinners. And I was like, that is such a good analogy. We just keep trying to see how many plates we can spin up
Tessa Miller 17:46
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Now, that is how I feel.
Angela Giovine 17:49
You figure out your business, you get to a certain size, you realize you’ve got it down and then you kind of go to the next?
Tessa Miller 17:55
Angela Giovine 17:56
And have you always had all these different types of products from clothing, to furniture, it sounds like you started with furniture and then you added the clothing?
Tessa Miller 18:04
Yeah. So when I had budget used furniture that was obviously just furniture and then as I was out getting furniture, I realized that like, there was some pretty decent deals to be had on used clothing as well. So I had a small section at Budget that had clothing, but it didn’t do so well because it was just a couple of racks and people were coming, looking for furniture, not clothing. But then when I transitioned to The Nest, I knew that I wanted to make clothing a more prominent part of what I was doing. So it ended up being sort of like, I would say, like a third of the space was clothing.
Angela Giovine 18:37
Was Nasty Gal big then?
Tessa Miller 18:39
Angela Giovine 18:40
Tessa Miller 18:41
No, uh oh yeah. Could have taken some pages. It’s probably about the same, so my space is divided up we’re about a third of it is clothing, And then two thirds of it is furniture.
Angela Giovine 18:55
Awesome. So not jewelry or anything like that?
Tessa Miller 18:58
Oh yeah. I’ve got jewelry, accessories, so it’s just kind of grown into anything under the vintage umbrella. So I really don’t like to be limited when I’m out looking for things, If I find something that seems really special, I want to pick it up. And I feel like that’s been a little bit hard in this sort of Instagram age, in that people, I feel like they want to put you in a box, right? To be able to understand you better like you carry furniture or you carry jewelry or you carry clothing, but when you say, you carry all of those people like whee, we what? Like, I need your feed to be cohesive, and you know what I mean? It has to have all the same filter, I have to like know from looking at your nine grids that you just carry furniture. That I have struggled with a little bit with the business and just trying to tell people like, Hey, I carry a little bit of everything because there’s so much good stuff out there and you know, I might find something that you know, like an old rotary phone, and even though that’s not furniture, or clothing, like it’s still cool and people want it, so I’m going to bring it on in.
Angela Giovine 20:08
It’s almost like, I’m just guessing it’s like you have an avatar in your head of like who your clientele is. And these are the things they might like. If you’re a Nestie, someone who loves your your store, they might like a rotary phone fits in the aesthetic of something that they might like, but also this vintage ring might fit into their aesthetic in this couch. And it if you think of it sort of like that, like, who those people are and what kind of things they like? Or you try to be more broad?
Tessa Miller 20:39
You know, I think I end up being more broad just because what I’ve noticed is I have a lot of people that say Okay, what is your target audience? Or you know, what is your ideal customer? And when I kind of like break down, the people coming into my store, I can’t really narrow it down because I have little kids coming in that love it, all the way up to people in their 80s that love it. And there’s males and females and there’s, like, I haven’t been able to really hone in on what that target demographic is because it feels all over the place. So the only thing that I can sort of like pinpoint is that people that have an appreciation for things that are good quality or unique, they don’t want something.
Angela Giovine 21:27
They want a story?
Tessa Miller 21:28
Yeah, they don’t want you wouldn’t go into their house and say, Oh, you just bought the showroom floor of Pottery Barn and just had it like
Angela Giovine 21:37
With the Pottery Barn episode. It’s the apothecary table. Have you ever seen that episode? I’m a big Friend person.
Tessa Miller 21:37
Angela Giovine 21:45
There’s a episode that’s like actually paid for by Pottery Barn, where Phoebe and Rachel live together and Phoebe’s like, I hate Pottery Barn, I hate everything mass produce. So Rachel keeps buying things from Pottery Barn, and saying she bought them out of vintage store and she’ll be like, this is the apothecary table from the days of yore. And then eventually the whole apartment is Pottery Barn, and then Phoebe figures that anyway. I know too much about that.
Tessa Miller 22:11
Angela Giovine 22:13
But yes, they want stories, they want it to mean something, they want the quality. Even I’m looking at you right now, that looks like you’re sitting on a beautiful piece of furniture.
Tessa Miller 22:22
Yeah, I’m actually on my bed here. So this is my headboard here, green velvet with like a
Angela Giovine 22:28
They don’t make it like that anymore.
Tessa Miller 22:29
No, no, they don’t. So, you know, when people come into the store or my house, it’s like, I oh my gosh, what is that? I’ve never seen it before. That’s the type of stuff that I like to pick up.
Angela Giovine 22:40
Yeah. So are you the one who is finding all of your product? Or do you have shoppers that find for you? Do people bring stuff in to sell to you? Where’s your product coming from?
Tessa Miller 22:50
My favorite part of this job is finding this stuff.
Angela Giovine 22:54
Are you good at haggling?
Tessa Miller 22:55
I fancy myself a treasure hunter.
Angela Giovine 22:58
Tessa Miller 22:59
Haggling is Interesting. Like when I first started in the business, I was right out of college and I didn’t have any money, and I was living on top ramen and trying to figure out this business. And so I definitely got a rush, and also, it was necessary for me to get good deals because I didn’t have a lot of money to work with back then. As the business has grown, I have a little bit more capital to work with. And so I don’t haggle just to haggle, right? Like, I think there’s a time and a place for it, and I think when you’re out with people like a little bit of like a a banter, and like a challenge with it, but there’s also people that are like, no, I really just need the money and I’m not trying to like nickel and dime people either. So I’ve done a lot less haggling in the past than I used to when I didn’t have as much money.
Angela Giovine 23:52
That has to be hard to try that for each product to figure out how much it’s worth paying versus how much you think you can sell it for and do you always change the product? Or sometimes you just bring it into the store?
Tessa Miller 24:04
Nowadays, I try to get the product in, where I have to do the least amount of work to it. Just because I’m so busy. Although I do love that part of like fixing things up and re staining and refinishing and all of that stuff. I love it. And I think I just got off track though, what was your original question?
Angela Giovine 24:22
I was just asking about your like, it has to be hard to figure out how much you can spend on a product and knowing still make a profit on it.
Tessa Miller 24:32
That is literally just a guessing game. It really is.
Angela Giovine 24:36
Have you gotten better at it over time? Or it’s still always just a guessing game?
Tessa Miller 24:41
I’ve gotten better at it as my knowledge of items has expanded, but there’s still always something new that I’m like, I don’t actually even know what this is and you know, do research on it. And then I’ll figure it out from there. But yeah, there’s so much variance in all of it. And honestly, when people are like this is worth X amount, like, things are worth what another person is willing to pay for it, period. That’s it. Like, because you paid X amount for it does not mean that it’s worth this much now or later or whatever. It’s really only, how much someone right now is willing to pay for it. And that’s probably one of the hardest parts of my job is trying to tell people like, I know you paid $1,000 for this, but it’s out of style and no one wants it, I can’t buy it even for $5 because I won’t be able to move it. So that part of my job is extremely hard. I read somewhere this study was so fascinating to me. They did a study where they separated people into two groups and they gave one group mugs, and they said okay, this is now your mug. How much is this mug worth? And they you know, picked a price it was like $5. Then they asked the other group Okay, how many Is this mug worth? This is other person is holding. And across the board, the people that now quote unquote, owned this mug, thought that it was worth twice as much as the other people thought that it was worth. So this idea of ownership once you own something, it is worth more. So I have a really hard time explaining that to people like Yes, I understand that this was your mother’s most prized possession or whatever. But if a random person comes in and looks at it, they don’t have those same special memories to it. So this is what they’re going to be willing to pay. Now if I have the special story that I can pass along with an item, that’s always helpful, right? Like, Okay, this dress was actually this lady and it was her wedding dress in 1945. And this was her name and this is what she did. Like it does end up having more value that way. But we don’t always have all of that information with-
Angela Giovine 27:00
I’m sure that’s few and far between.
Tessa Miller 27:02
Angela Giovine 27:03
Tessa Miller 27:04
So it’s really tricky. And then, you know, you have the whole supply and demand as well. So, you know, usually about this time when it’s spring cleaning, I’m getting inundated with stuff. So I might only be able to buy clothing for $1 a piece, you know, because I’m getting so much of it in. And even if it is worth a lot of money, like supply and demand, this is what I can pay for it. So that’s also hard to explain to people that have sentimental ties to these particular items. So I struggle with that a lot.
Angela Giovine 27:35
Yeah, I could see that people being emotional to certain items.
Tessa Miller 27:38
Angela Giovine 27:44
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Angela Giovine 30:13
So you do markets, you do estate sales all different types of- and then people It sounds like call you also to sell.
Tessa Miller 30:19
Yeah, yeah, especially in the last few years, I’ve really become known in this area for someone that will take care of these items for people because, you know, a lot of times the other options are, you know, have a yard sale or donate it. Because most people don’t want to take the time to say list on eBay or whatever, like that’s a hassle. So I do get a lot of inventory from people. They’re like, this is really special to me, I just want to make sure that it goes to a good home, that’s why I’m bringing it to you and not anywhere else.
Angela Giovine 30:19
Now, do you travel far for inventory or mostly in your region?
Tessa Miller 30:55
I don’t travel at all. I keep it all within the Reno, Sparks area, occasionally I’ll go up to Truckee and Taco, but I do have an emphasis on keeping things local, and it goes back to the whole part of the community. If I’m paying people in this community for their items, then that money stays in the community. I make money off of them, that stays in the community. The only exception that I have to that is last November, I traveled to Uganda. My friend Ali actually, who does the website for me, she and her husband run a a foundation for a kids school there. So we went and took we raised some money to buy some books for their school because it was a school with literally, like, not a single book. So we went over there and then I ended up meeting some wonderful ladies that were seamstresses and I went to a market and saw just the most beautiful fabric you’ve ever seen. And I was like, Oh, you know, let me start spinning this other plate of being a fashion designer as well. Yeah, so I establish a relationship with them, and now I have skirts, and purses, and scrunchies and hair bands that I have made in Uganda.
Angela Giovine 32:10
Tessa Miller 32:11
brought back here. So that is pretty much the the only exception for stuff that’s not actually like local.
Angela Giovine 32:18
Tessa Miller 32:19
Yeah, but I feel like since I know the ladies and I traveled there, I feel like that’s like an acceptable extension of what I’m doing.
Angela Giovine 32:27
And like you said that there’s a story and people can gravitate towards that story and understand what’s going on behind that.
Tessa Miller 32:34
Yeah, yeah. And I can tell you, Hey, if you buy one of these skirts, it was sewn by either Maggie, Face or Lillian, and these are their stories. They’re incredible women, and this is where they live, and all of that. so yeah.
Angela Giovine 32:40
Now, do you sell that all under The Nest?
Tessa Miller 32:49
Angela Giovine 32:49
Mostly in the store?
Tessa Miller 32:51
Yeah. Uh huh.
Angela Giovine 32:53
Tessa Miller 32:54
Angela Giovine 32:54
So how did people start to find you? Did you do a lot of advertising? What were the ways in which you’re doing store became popular?
Tessa Miller 33:01
Totally word of mouth. Absolutely word of mouth. When social media started getting bigger, I did a lot of that and that helps get people in. But you know, for the first five years or so, like I bootstrapped it and I struggled and there was not a lot of money and advertising was extremely expensive and still is extremely expensive. And I think people see through advertising a lot or, or they just say, like, Eh it’s advertising, it’s paid for, I’m not going to pay attention to it. So fully word of mouth, I take care of my customers, if they’re like, Oh my gosh, I love it. I’m like, please tell a friend, like if you want to help me out, like, please tell a friend.
Angela Giovine 33:45
Have you as an entrepreneur become involved in the community or in networking places, like in your area so that people know or it’s really just been like, the sign is out front, we’re in a well trafficked area. Like Tell me more about how people are walking in and happening upon you?
Tessa Miller 34:02
I think it’s more that I’ve just been around for so long and been established. I am on a somewhat busy street, but it’s kind of my location is definitely out no man’s land. So there’s like the downtown area, the Midtown area. And I’m kind of on the outskirts of that. There’s a new and burgeoning arts community, which is a couple blocks away from me, but they kind of had their own thing going. I’ve just recently teamed up with them, and we’ve kind of gotten sort of like a little networking thing going on where we’re going to, well, we were going to do events. I don’t know what that’s gonna look like now.
Angela Giovine 34:38
In the new world, but someday.
Tessa Miller 34:40
Yeah, but someday. So yeah, I have so many friends who are small business owners, and I’m always reaching out to people like Hey, how can we collaborate with this and that. It’s more of those sort of like small collaborative efforts, and then we all sort of get to know each other that way and the word spreads quickly, that way.
Angela Giovine 35:00
So tell me about some times when you’ve taken risks. I mean, obviously, you took a risk to buy the company, you take a risk when you hire someone, tell me about some of those risks and when they’ve paid off, and maybe when it’s been more of a learning experience?
Tessa Miller 35:14
Oh, yeah. Gosh, I think, you know, like jumping into Budget was obviously a big risk, starting The Nest was a big risk, and moving The Nest to a bigger location was a big risk. There was something interesting about it of all of those three, that’s like, unknown factor to it, that I don’t know that I can really explain other than it just felt right. So I’ve noticed that when I’ve made big jumps that don’t necessarily make logical, rational sense, but they just felt right. Those ended up being the things that really propelled me forward. And then there were times when opportunities came up where I was forcing it.
Angela Giovine 35:57
They looked good on paper, but it didn’t feel right.
Tessa Miller 36:00
It didn’t feel right, but I didn’t trust that, I didn’t trust my intuition with that. And they ended up blowing in my face.
Angela Giovine 36:06
Was that with like hiring or some sort of collaboration, what kind of experience were those?
Tessa Miller 36:12
Hiring, that has happened to me quite a few times with hiring where I felt like, you know, someone quit, I was in a pinch, and I was like, Oh my gosh, I just need to hire someone right away. And against my intuition, I was like, well hire this person just because I need someone in the store right now. And it ended up being like, not a good match and really hurting my business in ways that I, I feel like sometimes I don’t even really understand the breadth of it. Like you know, even now I had a guy come into my store the other day that said, I haven’t been in a couple years because there was a guy here that worked here that was extremely rude to me. And I’m like, What? And like, yeah, like that hurt.
Angela Giovine 36:56
Tessa Miller 36:56
Oh, like, you can only imagine like how much business have I lost because of one employee that just had a bad attitude or whatever. That’s painful to hear, like a couple of years later, even.
Angela Giovine 37:10
Mm hmm, absolutely. I mean, when you think about all of the sacrifices you’ve made to come as far as you have, it’s hard sometimes to have employees feel the way you feel about it.
Tessa Miller 37:22
Yes, yeah. I’ve had a really hard time and I think I held off on hiring employees for as long as I could, because of that. I think it’s really hard to find people who are going to care about this as much as you’re , you are going to care about it.
Angela Giovine 37:40
It really is.
Tessa Miller 37:41
It’s your baby, but for them, it’s just a paycheck and something to get by.
Angela Giovine 37:46
And once in a while you find someone who cares even a little bit as much as you do and you just throw like
Tessa Miller 37:51
And then you’re like
Angela Giovine 37:52
Please never leave me.
Tessa Miller 37:53
please don’t ever leave me.
Angela Giovine 37:56
Employees, I think they just sometimes don’t realize if they are good employee how much power they have. Because like you said, to find someone who believes what you believe, to have the culture that you want to instill in your community, to treat your customers the way you would treat your customers to have that trust, to have that rapport, and then just the years of training.
Tessa Miller 38:15
Angela Giovine 38:16
Even like for me, I have a virtual assistant that she’s been with me for, like two and a half years and I almost lost her at one point and I was like, No, it just took me like a year and a half for me to get you exactly like the perfect and I can’t start all again.
Tessa Miller 38:32
Yeah, you know, sometimes though, that ends up being a little bit of a detriment too where you’re just like, you’re so overtraining that you’re like, Oh, overlook this and that and whatever if I just don’t have to like
Angela Giovine 38:48
Tessa Miller 38:49
Rehire and retrain again. So I don’t know there’s like a balance there too to navigate.
Angela Giovine 38:56
In another lifetime, I used to do events for a university and I got to meet Barbara Corcoran. And her big thing she says it in her book, she said it in her talk is, shoot the dogs early. So she talks about like, you know, if it’s not going to work out, you’re going to know pretty soon and just get it over with like, don’t labor it. You can, cerebrally like you can logically understand what she means, but in practice that is so hard when, you’re like but I just need a body, like I need a person to be able to actually follow through on that and even when you talk to someone in hindsight, they’re like, Yeah, I wish I had done that, It’s just that’s a really hard one to follow through on.
Tessa Miller 39:34
Yeah, absolutely. And especially like the types of people that I usually end up hiring, are younger kids, you know, right out of high school or college or whatever. And I know that they mean to be good workers, but they just don’t know how to. I feel like, you know, my husband’s a teacher and things have changed a lot. I feel like from when I was growing up, where there’s not as much accountability. You know, like, now you have like parents calling in and saying, Oh, well, my kids didn’t do this thing, can you still give them credit for it? Blah, blah like, that wasn’t a thing, what at least then that I remembered back then. Like you had to be your own advocate, you had to work things out for yourself. And it seems like there’s sort of an overarching feeling of kids, they don’t know how to work.
Angela Giovine 40:22
I’ve experienced that as well. You hire these interns and you expect that you’re like you’re giving them the opportunity to show off and they want to be told exactly how to do things and when to do it and nothing more and nothing less and like you’re like Just take the ball run.
Tessa Miller 40:39
Totally, totally. I it’s hard when you see like your business suffering but at the same time, like I understand that like we’re living in a different time where the culture is different. And it’s not always necessarily these kids’ fault.
Angela Giovine 40:56
Tessa Miller 40:5
They have been cuddled a little bit and they don’t know how to work, and
Angela Giovine 41:00
Tessa Miller 41:00
what a good work ethic is and they have expectations of well I’m here aren’t I? So I should be getting paid 30 dollars an hour
Angela Giovine 41:10
Right. Participation trophy, yeah.
Tessa Miller 41:12
Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Angela Giovine 41:14
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I totally get it.
Tessa Miller 41:17
I struggle with that a lot.
Angela Giovine 41:18
I know, I know. It’s hard, it’s hard I mean it, I mean sometimes I’m like Oh I sound so old, like ragging because they’ve you know, we’ve been ragged on but it’s like you know, I guess nothings new under the sun. We all rag on the next generation.
Tessa Miller 41:31
Angela Giovine 41:34
So as an entrepreneur, as a small business owner how do you fortify yourself, how do you educate yourself, how do you keep yourself motivated?
Tessa Miller 41:42
Oh, I don’t know I think that’s just a natural part of who I am. Yeah maybe at like it would behoove me to be able to shut it off more so than to like keep it running. You know, like as far as being a entrepreneur, because I am constantly to wanting to figure out the next thing and how do we make more money, and how do we serve our customers better, and how do we do the next thing. And then I, I do tend to overwhelm myself, with that.
Angela Giovine 42:10
Do these ideas come to you? Or you like listening to podcast, or you’re reading books or you following certain business leaders, or it is just more like creative juices?
Tessa Miller 42:19
It’s more like when I can give myself the time and space, to be creative that’s when these things usually come up. I do pick things on podcast and then books and stuff like that, but I feel like a lot of stuff that really ends up doing well for me, is more like the creative brain child that I get at 3 in the morning that I can’t sleep, and then I’m like Oh! here’s this idea, like let me get up and write it down otherwise I won’t be able to sleep and then comeback to it a little bit later.
Angela Giovine 42:50
Who are some small businesses that you look up to or admire?
Tessa Miller 42:54
There’s a lot of small businesses just in my Reno Sparks area, that are just kicking butt, you know. Especially during all of this. I’m seeing everyone pivoting in these ways that this really impressive. I look up to those people a lot just because, like what you’re trying to highlight in this podcast, like they don’t get a lot of recognition, you know. But they’re doing really good things and they’re thinking outside of the box, and they’re doing it because not only do they want to stay afloat but they are legitimately like worried about how can I serve my community? You know so many of us, right now, I myself included are making face masks for people. And you know, I know quite a few businesses that are putting together self care baskets for health care workers. And you know all of these things that very much sort of remind me of like the Rosie The Riveter, like World War 2 , like Okay people aren’t as concerned about getting my products right now, which are considered quote unquote non essential, so how do i provide things that are essential? And that’s been really fascinating and fun to watch and I think you can kind of see the difference between like the people who are like going to make it long term, just by the way that they’re functioning throughout this crisis.
Angela Giovine 44:18
The attitude towards tha sink or swim sort of wellf
Tessa Miller 42:22
Angela Giovine 44:22
figure our a way, type of mentality.
Tessa Miller 42:25
Angela Giovine 44:26
Some of the things that you have pivoted towards, you said masks, also you’ve been using online more, what types of things have happened during this quarantine, this COVID time, that you think might stay with you in the long term, and what kind of stuff is just like, maybe just temporary because of the situation?
Tessa Miller 44:43
In the first week or so that this was all happening, one of my like 3 am ideas was to come up with a coloring book, which obviously way outside of my will house. But I’ve got a friend who’s an artist and another one who’s a graphic designer, and I don’t know I was a little like frustrated hearing all this stuff about people hoarding toilet paper. I just got like, I just got like disproportionately angry about it for some reason like it just didn’t seem right.
Angela Giovine 45:12
Tessa Miller 45:12
Right? And so like this little sort of mean popped up in my head that was like, like a picture of an owl, and it said Owlways share my toilet paper with you. And I was like That’s cute, like that’ll make people laugh and then I was like Oh and then I thought of a couple other ones and then I got in touch with my friends that next day, and I was like What if we made a coloring book and then like little colorable post cards? So that you know, people are starting to say, I’m bored, I need something to do. I know for me, art is always the most important outlet when something is going wrong. You know, you’re super stressed out, art has the ability to sort of like take you back to that time when you’re a kid, when you didn’t have any worries and all of that. And especially like coloring too, like I was coloring with my son and got some clowns out. I was stressed out, and then all of the sudden I was like Oh my gosh, I feel like I’m 4 again, like what are finances? what are
Angela Giovine 46:06
I do like coloring with my sons. It’s true, it’s like relaxing.
Tessa Miller 46:10
Yeah, yeah. So I thought Okay, well this is cool because, it’s going to give people an opportunity to have an artistic outlet during this time. Hopefully it will give people a few laughs, and hopefully it will become like an alternate revenue stream for me, for right now. So we kind of put together that whole project, I was really proud of how quickly it came together,It was 10 days from the inception to Okay were this thing is going to go to print. And we did all 3 of it through social distancing. It was actually through text. And then I think 5 days later we had them printed out and they were
Angela Giovine 46:49
Tessa Miller 46:50
But there was a lot of challenges with that, a lot of things that I learned about like putting things online, and selling online and shipping and all of these things that I hadn’t really explored very much. It’s not I don’t know if that’s something that I really want get into, I think it kind of pushed me to the side of like Do you really want an internet business? Like I know everyone’s going online but is this really how you want to spend your time? Because it’s a lot, it’s a lot of work. That was kind of one example, I don’t know if that’s going to carry on, well see.
Angela Giovine 47:23
And it’s good that you were able to dip your toe in it with something that sort of just kind of put you through the paces and figure out that nuts and bolts of it, before you made a major investment in something and realize that you did not like that area.
Tessa Miller 47:37
Yeah, yeah exactly. Because it’s been on my sort of to do list of spinning plates like what’s make a real go of doing an online store. I’d hesitated and I’d hesitated, just because like I said, I like the face to face interaction. I don’t like internet shopping myself. So why do I want to like pour all this time and energy into something that I don’t even necessarily like.?
Angela Giovine 48:02
Yeah, it’s hard to build something when you’re not the lover or the consumer of it, it’s it’s really hard.
Tessa Miller 48:08
Angela Giovine 48:09
My husband and I were just having this conversation at lunch because he was like, talking about, he loves gardening in outside work and he was like, talking about this new wheelbarrow that he saw. And I was like, it’s like alien to me. I fully understand and appreciate that there are people that that is really valuable to them. But that’s not me and so it’s really hard when you put yourself into those shoes when you’re not naturally there.
Tessa Miller 48:34
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I kind of feel like through this whole process this might be something where like, if I find someone who is really jazzed about internet shopping and internet posting and photography and all of that and wants to take that on as a job, then I might sort of go that direction, but it’s not what brings me joy. So I don’t think that I’m going to be spending my time there much after this whole thing is over.
Angela Giovine 49:05
Now you, are a solo owner You don’t have a business partner?
Tessa Miller 49:10
Angela Giovine 49:10
Have you ever had a business partner?
Tessa Miller 49:12
No. When I started out with The Nest, I was going to have a friend to go into business with me, and that lasted all of like a month, I think. Because you know when you’re young, you’re like Oh we’re friends, and of course this is going to work out. And then once you add business, and finances, and all of that into the mix it can quickly go south. So from that experience, I’ve kind of been a lone wolf after that. I love to do collaborative projects with people, that have maybe sort of like a limited run, that can be renewed after a while, if the relationship ends up being mutually beneficial, but I am kind of wary about partnerships because there are so many ways that they can go wrong and especially if you’re working with friends, like it can easily tear apart relationships and with most of my friends, like that’s not something that I am willing to go there.
Angela Giovine 50:07
So when you don’t have a business partner to sort of lean on in a spiritual or psychological way, a mental way, who do you lean on for advice and strength than when you’re having a rough day, and someone who understands what you’re going through?
Tessa Miller 50:22
Oh definitely other small business owners. I have a great network of other small business owners, you know, some down the road. We used to have once a month like a brunch and we would just like, yeah, we will just hash out what was going on and you know, bounce ideas back and forth. I know there’s a lot of sort of like networking communities but I feel like those tend to get kind of big and overwhelming and I like the small groups that I have because then you can really like be truthful and honest and
Angela Giovine 50:56
Tessa Miller 50:56
Yes, and get some good feedback. And you know those people have your back and you have their’s and so yeah, that’s usually who I turn to. With that type of stuff.
Angela Giovine 51:08
Yeah it’s so important because, I mean especially if you have a spouse or family that are not business owners, for them to really understand what you’re going through can sometime be like, hard.
Tessa Miller 51:18
Oh yeah, super hard. Super super hard.
Angela Giovine 51:23
Finish this sentence. I would not be standing here today if not for
Tessa Miller 51:29
My dad. My dad who trusted in me enough to put his retirement towards all of this. And to see that potential in me that at that time I did not even see in myself.
Angela Giovine 51:43
He just knew you would be good as an entrepreneur and he was right.
Tessa Miller 51:46
Angela Giovine 51:48
That’s awesome. And if you could go back in time, what’s one piece of advice that you would give your 18 year old self?
Tessa Miller 51:55
It doesn’t have to be perfect. And I say that because I would tell that to my 18 years old self, and I’m telling that to my 36 year old self and I feel like I will be telling that to my 85 year old self. I am definitely a perfectionist. And while it has served me well in lots of situations, it’s also held me back in a lot of them.
Angela Giovine 52:18
Held you back in what way? Held you back from pulling a trigger on something or?
Tessa Miller 52:22
Oh yeah, totally. I mean even when I’m looking at my to do list today, it’s like Okay I need to schedule social media, well I don’t really like that picture all that much because I could tweak one or two things and so then I don’t post the picture and I try to take another picture, but then by the time I can take the other picture, the caption is no longer relevant, the information is no longer relevant, so then I don’t do it. But then if I look back at the pu- like no one else would notice in that picture that there was something distracting in the lower right corner bla bla, you know what I mean? So those are the types of things that end up holding me back, where I’m like I want to say 100% perfect but you know what is it 90% perfect like people are not going to notice that little thing that you notice, when they’re scrolling through their instagram feed you know, super quickly.
Angela Giovine 53:15
So when you find yourself trying to be too much of a perfectionist how do you catch yourself and reorient?
Tessa Miller 53:21
I’m still working on it.
Angela Giovine 53:24
Tessa Miller 53:24
I’m totally still working on it. I’m really trying to- a friend of mine said especially during this time, she is putting her focus for today she’s picking three things to get done, and just three things and you know, focusing on those things and I think I get so
Angela Giovine 53:42
Mmm hmm… Me too.
Tessa Miller 53:43
so torn in so many different directions, and then with trying to make things perfect on top of that, I end up, I don’t get anything done, at all.
Angela Giovine 53:52
Too many tabs open in the brain, absolutely.
Tessa Miller 53:54
Exactly. I work super hard and then at the end of the day, my husband’s like What did yo do today? And then I’m like, I can’t think of a single thing that I actually like accomplished.
Angela Giovine 54:04
Yeah,I did 5% of 10 projects.
Tessa Miller 54:08
Exactly, exactly. That’s a daily perhaps hourly struggle for me to just let go and let it do it’s thing.
Angela Giovine 54:17
Tessa Miller 54:17
Angela Giovine 54:18
Well thank you so much. Tell us tell everybody where they can find you online.
Tessa Miller 54:22
I’m at www.thenestreno.com, and on instagram @thenestreno. So you can find me at either of those places.
Angela Giovine 54:34
And one more time, thank you and shout out to WP Engine, check them out and get your special offer today at extraodinary small business dot com, backslash WP Engine.
Angela Giovine 54:50
Thanks for listening. For more information about our show and our company, head to extra ordinary small business dot com. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram. We would be so grateful, If you could help us reach more listeners. All you have to do, is go to iTunes or wherever you get your podcast and rate, review and subscribe. It would mean the world to us. Ratings, reviews, and subscribes are how iTunes decides which podcasts are worth sharing. Help us continue to bring these stories of extraordinary small business owners to the world. By rating, reviewing and subscribing, you’re helping our small business. It’s free and it takes just a minute. Thanks!