[This interview originally appeared in the February/March 2012 issue.]
Only a mere summer ago, Emily Benson – like many who contemplate their next move after college graduation – found inspiration with the food truck revolution happening in her surrounding NYC neighborhood. With her desire to travel – and of course her love of fashion – she did some research and drove right in.
The Fashion Truck offers a range of clothes, an assortment of accessories and a variety of services from closet organizing to personal shopping. It’s a one-stop fashion shop – well, truck. Read on for more exciting tidbits from this fashionable mover and shaker: The Fashion Truck.
by Megan Hyde
What was your inspiration to begin something so innovative?
Friends and family have told me that I started mentioning an idea for a traveling boutique two or three years ago. While living in New York City, I saw food vending transform to gourmet restaurants on wheels from the old-school carts selling hot dogs. I thought about the idea of putting a boutique on wheels. I love to travel and always imagined opening my own boutique. The Fashion Truck felt like it would be a socially relevant combination of my favorite things. In the summer of 2010, I was frustrated working in corporate retail and started investigating how a traveling boutique could work in real life. After extensive research and thought, I decided to make the idea a reality. I found out that www.thefashiontruck.com was available to buy, and I knew it was a sign.
What is the overall perception when you tell or show folks The Fashion Truck?
The most commonly heard phrase when people first come inside the truck is: “What an interesting concept.” I seems like people are running the idea through their head to try and figure out how it works. Do I have to pack it all up when I drive off? NO! Can I just park it anywhere I want? NO! Do I really drive it? YES! After thinking they’ve seen it all, I’ve presented them with something they have never seen, or heard of, and they are amazed. After the initial shock wears off, most women are hooked when they see the assortment of merchandise and prices. I know a ‘regular’ customer when they feel comfortable popping in just to see what’s new this week.
How do you stay one step ahead of what’s already out there?
I have always been a forward thinking, curious person. My parents still tell the story of how my preschool teachers would find me in other classrooms because I thought they were doing something more fun or interesting. As a visual person, I get information and inspiration from everywhere -- from a football game to runway shows to the street. My years of working with the best in the retail industry have taught me how to absorb what I see and edit for my customer.
What types of fashion does the Fashion Truck specialize in?
The Fashion Truck specializes in trend apparel and accessories for women under $100. I buy what I like and would wear myself. My search for the most beautiful and well-crafted mix of items creates a unique assortment that appeals to my wide variety of customers. From basic items, like the famous Wrap Sweatshirt that looks great on nearly every woman, to fashion items, like wild feather headbands that you would see on Fifth Avenue.
What services are offered through the Fashion Truck?
One of the most utilized services I have right now are private parties. I like to call it the modern tupperware party. You pick a day -- most popular have been Thursday or Friday nights -- invite 10-15 friends over, and I pull the truck right up to your house for a private shopping experience. You get my styling advice and the best in fashion, all without leaving your driveway! I also love working with women to re-vamp their personal style. I offer closet clean-outs, outfit organizing and anything else you need help with. My goal is to help women feel more confident in their style.
What do you think makes a team?
Often people will think that I have a whole team behind me or even am a franchise. A majority of the business is done by me: ordering merchandise, ticketing it, driving the truck, booking events, maintaining social media -- nearly everything. However, the support of my family has been so great that I do feel I have a team behind me. My father and I designed and built the interior of the truck together; going back and forth on function versus aesthetic. My mother and sister love seeing my latest purchases, so they will always pitch in by ticketing merchandise. Even my extended family pops in from time-to-time. My uncle came up with and built the dressing rooms, my cousins have interned with me helping inventory, booking parties, spreading the word on Facebook. They are all so excited and proud of what I’m doing; they just love being a part of growing the business.
What advice would you give to future entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs need guts, drive and confidence. When I first started the business, I remember hearing ‘no’ a lot, to the point of where I almost gave up. Novel ideas and innovation are never immediately accepted by the masses, and entrepreneurs need to have the drive to fight for their business. Also, having the confidence to cope with being in the public eye is an important characteristic of being an entrepreneur. The Fashion Truck is something I’ve put my heart and soul into, so criticisms aren’t easy to hear. I’m still developing the skills to divide what’s personal and what’s business. Overall, through the stress of entrepreneurship, never lose sight of your love for what you are doing.
Where do you hope to take the truck next, figuratively or actually driving?
The Fashion Truck is staying in the Northeast for now. This year, the goals are to focus on booking more private parties and to get a regular stop schedule around Boston -- as food trucks have. The online shop launched about two months ago, and I’d like to work more on it mirroring the mobile boutique.
What exactly drives you to keep driving the truck?
I love that the view from my ‘desk’ is no longer the walls of a cubicle but the busy streets of Boston and the smiling faces of my customers. Being able to drive up, open my doors and present a new concept of retail to consumers ignites me with energy. Ultimately, experiencing the excitement of my customers continuously fills me with joy.
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