SBDC client Jami Faust is driven and has been that way for years. When she was young, she knew that a career in fashion is what she wanted. And she never took her eyes off the goal, never let up on the gas, nor allowed any obstacles to derail her journey.
In 2018, Jami started on what would become gingham+grace, an online fashion retail experience and pop-up shop. While working a full-time job at Delaware Technical & Community College, being the wife of a Delaware State Trooper and mom to twin boys, she had saved close to $5,000 to get started.
She invested $3,000 in inventory and $2,000 in supplies and equipment such as rolling racks, mannequins, hangers, office supplies, tissue and bags, shipping paper, business cards and travel to and from New York City to meet various designers and purchase her first 50 styles (300 pieces) for gingham+grace starting inventory. By October, her business was operating and by the eighth day of the month, she had sold 200 pieces at pop-up shows in Kent and Sussex County. By the end of 2018, after three months, she had grossed $21,000.
Jami kept adding to inventory and increased her pop-ups beyond Southern Delaware to include New Castle County, Philadelphia and Sicklerville, NJ. In May 2019, Jami purchased an enclosed trailer necessary to accommodate pop-up shop travel. One month later, she hosted her first virtual pop-up on Facebook and had more than 50 transactions totaling 150 pieces of clothing.
In two years, Jami has developed a virtual customer base in Delaware and 29 other states. She has sold thousands of garments that she personally selected for inventory. She carries sizes XS-3XL with emphasis on XS-XL. Every Monday through Thursday evenings, she posts on her Facebook and Instagram accounts new items for sale from dresses to pants, tops and jackets. Buyers comment sold and the size, then Jami ships the product, or in the case of some local clientele, hand delivers or makes items available for pick-up. She has also utilized Facebook live to increase her web presence and sales.
In 2020, the SBDC started working with Jami to put together an application for a Delaware Division of Small Business Edge grant. The first round was extremely competitive: Jami made it to the final round but did not win a grant. Jami retooled and resubmitted her application for another round of Edge grants, but Covid-19 struck and the state put the Edge grants on hold.
The purpose of the grant was to take Jami’s business to the next level. She wanted her own space outside of her home to host pop-ups and events at her leisure, plus a place to store inventory, equipment and a shipping department. But she did not let the paused grant process stand in her way. She self-funded her showroom, which is located between Lewes and Georgetown.
Jami has increased her customer base drastically since she started. And she manages that base to her advantage. Often, she will show a style in two colors on her Facebook page and ask customers which they prefer. She knows her customers’ demographics and their buying patterns and stays on top of their choices and emerging trends. What better market research than your own customers!
“I attribute the instant success of my company partly due to my vast experience in the fashion industry, my fashion degree and education, my attention to detail,” Jami said. “In depth customer surveys and my organizational skills, along with my excellent customer service experience continue to serve me well.”
Jami attended McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana where she received a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising. After college she began working for world-renowned fashion designer Betsey Johnson in her New York City corporate office. Her work included styling models at the Mercedes Benz fashion week and managing a multi-million-dollar retail store in Atlanta, GA. She learned the back end of the business by attending trade shows in Atlanta and later working at the corporate office of South Moon Under in Berlin, MD.
“My plan was to take this virtual boutique to incorporate a 1,200-1,500 square foot warehouse space for sales events, shipping, inventory storage, photography shoots for on-model merchandise, and office workspace,” she said. “I plan to expand market share by incorporating a robust eCommerce website so that shoppers everywhere can enjoy the experience of gingham+grace 24/7, 365,” Jami added. “I will incorporate a strong SEO campaign based on the market research and customer surveys that we continue to do. As our customers’ buying patterns evolve, we will evolve with them.”