Women in Flint and Genesee County are propelling themselves to new heights. Their numbers are impressive: At 5,500 and growing, they are helping fuel Michigan’s ranking at the top of the nation for the growth of women-owned firms since 2014. The HUB Flint will highlight some of these achievers in the coming weeks. Meet Deria Brown.
Among those pushing small businesses forward is Flint native Deria Brown, the founder of GLAM Boutiques.
In just four years, Brown has expanded from a single storefront operation inside the Summerset Salon and Day Spa on Miller Road to three business locations.
Her two newest — a pop-up shop in Dryden’s Retail Shops and Glam Box Boutique at the foot of Saginaw and Second Streets in downtown Flint — are among the most visible and popular shopping destinations in the city.
Brown says the stores are a manifestation of her creativity and an outlet for that part of her personality. She is proud of the line as well because she believes it has something for every woman and enough of a variety for customers to stand out from the crowd.
“We have extensive quantity and variety of merchandise, but everything we sell is unique,” Brown says. “No woman wants to wear the same thing that everybody else has. So we keep that in mind.”
As a result, the stores are bold and confident, much like Brown herself.
“There’s something about when you know you look good,” Brown says. “When it’s all done and you’re ready to go out, it’s like ‘I killed this look today.’ So I love that moment we’re able to have the customer emerge from the dressing room and we know we nailed it, that this is the epitome of her shape, her size and her expression.”
That takes an understanding of the marketplace, which Brown has honed to an artform since she began working as a makeup artist in 2009.
The experience taught her a lot, including the need to balance between selling what ‘she wants’ versus selling what ‘her customers want’ to buy.
Her sales have increased 50 percent since last year, evidence that she nailed the merchandising and sales side of the business.
But there are other considerations to running a business she has had to learn.
“A business is a lot of moving parts,” she says. “There’s the aspect of marketing. There’s the aspect of hiring and the really daunting challenge of risk management.”
Brown currently has six part-time employees at her locations, creating a niche for herself in micro-retail or smaller, demographically targeted stores. None of Brown’s sites are larger than 750 square feet.
“We’re a niche in that we have a small space and yet a really big experience in our store. So that helps us as it relates to other businesses,” she says.
Brown utilizes social media heavily to promote her business. She finds the downtown Flint community to be a supportive one. A lot of retail competitors downtown recommend each other, Brown says.
“Word of mouth always gives you a better, quality customer and a long-term customer,” she says. “We nail our customer service experience the first time, and then we ask for our satisfied customers’ referrals of their family and friends.”
Operating smaller, well-merchandised stores allows Brown to control labor costs and keep staffing levels constant. This, in turn, has contributed to staff loyalty and higher levels of customer satisfaction.
Brown does not just hire employees; she trains future entrepreneurs.
Being able to provide paychecks to other women is one of the things Brown says keeps her moving forward.
“We’re making more noise,” she says. “We are running quality businesses. Women used to run businesses from home. They were working hard, but they weren’t going on record. Now, we’re going on record.
“We’re out in retail. We’re registering our businesses. We’re asking for help and resources. So that’s getting us counted,” she says. “The next step is getting a seat at the table, to be able to add us to policy, add us to regulation and make it easier to get funded, expand and to hire more people.”
She got expansion funding through Metro Community Development.
“I bootstrapped and funded my own store the first time. I maxed out every credit card had. I borrowed grocery money from my husband,” she adds. “I hit my mother-in-law up for money to get that first business off the ground. Once going forward, I was made aware of all the resources set aside for minority-owned businesses that help us to succeed.”
Recently, on a mission trip to Nassau, Bahamas, Brown had the opportunity to talk to young girls there and take them hygiene supplies donated by her customers.
Brown says she sees women-owned businesses expanding in Genesee County.
“I would love to start local and then go global,” she says. “I see Flint as a headquarters for major things that could impact the nation and the world.”
Editor’s Note: Glam Boutiques Miller Road location is located at 3426 Miller Rd #2 in Flint. Its Pop-Up Shop is in the Dryden Building located at 601 South Saginaw Street in downtown Flint.
The Glam Box’ newest downtown location is in the Perry Building located at 620 S. Saginaw at Second Street in downtown Flint. Call (810) 230-0566 or visit their Facebook page.
Online shoppers can go to Glam Boxes “Busy Girls Shop,’