We learned a lot about our This is Retail winners when we met in person this May in Washington. And even though some of us spent an 18-hour day with them soaking up everything we could learn (and trotting them all around the nation’s capital – with blisters to prove it), they still seem to have plenty to teach us about business, life, and how to balance the two.
Tanna Dang, the owner of Honolulu’s Eden in Love and first place winner of this year’s video contest, shares how she managed to combine her passion for fashion with her desire to make an impact on her community in an interview in last month’s STORES magazine. And while she was at it, Tanna took some time to talk with us about the importance of following your dreams, the best career advice she’s ever received, and her thoughts on all the wide-ranging opportunities in our amazing industry.
We like to think of the retail industry as a place where your passion can be your work. Can you share more about how you pursued your passion, and the importance of pursuing what you’re passionate about?
WOW! That’s my life mantra…following your heart to find your passion, then turning that passion into profit! That’s the story of my life. And that saying is true: If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I believe that!
While I love owning my own boutique, traveling to L.A. on monthly buying trips and orchestrating photo shoots, my true passion is about creating opportunities. For example, this business has helped 22 employees find their purpose and calling in life.
Retail has created jobs in so many ways…a director of marketing who focuses on social media, writing articles and working with the media on press releases and an ad budget; a visual merchandiser who comes in to refresh our boutique and create beautiful displays that are attractive and appealing to our customers; a team ambassador who keeps morale up and brainstorms ways for my team to bond off the clock; four stage hands (a.k.a. stock people!) that come in every night to replenish what was sold and keep our shoppers satisfied…and the list goes on.
My love for cute clothes and accessories became an outlet to do good, and to fuel my passion to create opportunities for my team and customers, which is something that has filled my heart beyond measure.
So many people have had a major impact on my life…
1) A savvy business owner/wedding coordinator who looked shocked and was left speechless when I told her that after two years of owning my own business, I wasn’t on payroll. She taught me to value my time. Best advice ever.
2) The book “E-Myth.” I’m actually going to a Leadership Intensive seminar later this year. The principles can be applied to any business: Know your role as an entrepreneur, manager or technician and do it well!
3) A somewhat intimidating, yet life-changing experience I had in Atlanta with a homeless man who taught me to “be responsible for the energy you bring.” Without even knowing it, he taught me so much about myself.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
“Run your business, don’t let your business run you.” Simply said: Take control of your business and understand that your business was created to provide the life you want to live. Now go on and live it!
What’s the biggest challenge when hiring for your store?
I have 22 amazing employees — they’re the heartbeat of my company. The biggest challenge when hiring for my store is making sure the people I hire really get what we’re all about. This isn’t going to be your typical part-time or full-time job. We love what we do and it shows! My staff sees the world with untainted eyes. We believe we can change the world, one dress at a time!
Can you share an instance when you were made proud by an employee working for you?
This is going to sound ridiculous, but one of my proudest moments is when one of my long-time employees put in her two weeks and said she found a “real” job (come on now, retail is a real job!) for a local staffing agency. She was three years out of college and was spending a lot of time soul-searching, going through what we dubbed a “quarter-life crisis.”
Throughout the years that she worked for me, we touched base frequently about what her interests and passions were and how we could help her reach her goals and find her purpose. She loved making new friends and making sure people felt comfortable. Hence, the Team Ambassador role was formed. She worked with all the new hires on training, pulling paperwork, doing pulse checks after each shift and creating fun, morale-boosting events for the team so everyone stayed connected and felt appreciated. Right up her alley!
When she put in her two weeks, she had tears in her eyes as she told me she found a full-time job that was just like her Team Ambassador role but for a bigger company. She thanked me for the opportunity to work at Eden in Love and wrote me a card that said, “What would you do if you knew you could never fail?” I was so proud of her for developing a sense of self-worth and putting herself out there to the world. Better yet, the opportunities that we created for her within our company gave her the launch pad she needed to continue on with her career. I’m happy to say she loves her job!
Read more about Tanna Dang, and her thoughts on how retail creates opportunity to do good and make a difference, in the full STORES Magazine interview.