Five years ago, Nina Rioja and Samantha Winch took a big risk. As the recently divorced mothers of three toddlers between them, they had little time or money and desperately wanted jobs that would give them the flexibility they needed to look after their children. Samantha worked as a college professor while Nina toiled as a representative to a South American diaper company. They knew the status quo had to change. So with the help of their families and a small business loan, the two moms opened Petit Tresor (www.petittresor.com), an upscale nursery and baby boutique in Beverly Hills. The leap paid off—but not immediately. That first year they tallied just $100,000 in sales. Fast forward to 2008. Today Samantha and Nina have a seven-figure business, two stores and a celebrity clientele so prominent they could have red carpet decking their doorways. They dressed little Suri Cruise for her parents’ wedding in a frock handmade by a seamstress in Provence. And right now the newborn twins of Jennifer Lopez and Mark Anthony are sitting pretty in a nursery of Nina and Samantha’s design. We spoke to Nina and Samantha about what it takes to be such power mompreneurs.
1) On your website you say, when you were shopping for your nurseries, “We were disappointed to find that the selection at most boutiques was too limited and their inventories were not designed to meet all of Mummies’ and Babies’ Needs”. Can you elaborate on that? What specifically did you feel was missing and why did you think you would be able to fill the void?
We were surprised that there was a lack of truly elegant baby and toddler furniture (as well as clothing and accessories) that were almost “standard” in Europe. It wasn’t just that design and workmanship was poor – – we couldn’t find really beautiful items to create the kinds of nurseries that we envisioned.
2) When did you start Petit Tresor? Was it scary opening your doors that first day? How did you get people to come in?
February of 2003. The first day that we opened our original boutique on Robertson Boulevard, we were frightened that nobody would show up. But all of our family and friends came with hoards of people and it was an exciting day.
3) You were new moms with a new store. How did you market your business–and find the time to do it?
We did quite a bit of juggling to say the least. We both had infants and had both at that time become single mothers, so it was even more difficult. Luckily, we had some family to help with the children and that allowed us to work ridiculously long hours in the beginning to get the business off the ground.
4) What’s a typical day like for you now?
Both of our stores are open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., except on Sunday. We meet three times a week at about 10 a.m. before openings. We deal with “kid” issues before that hour. Once we get started, we’re meeting with vendors, going to homes to design nurseries, and dealing with merchandising throughout the day. We also both spend time on the floor with customers. It’s a good 60-hour work week.
5) How do you balance your family time with your growing business? Do you ever need to bring the children to work?
We work as much as we could from home. But of course there were times when it was just us and the kids at Petit Tresor!
6) How old are your children now?
Nina’s son Max is 6 and Samantha has twins, son Zachary and daughter Danielle are 7.
7) How did you finance your business?
For the most part, Petit Tresor was financed with a small business loan.
8) How big is the business now?
Petit Tresor started out as less than a $100,000 a year business, and this year, it’s is a seven-figure business.
9) What are some of the most stressful things that happen in your business?
The most stressful times are when a product is promoted on television or in a major national magazine and we get hundreds of orders at once and we have to strategize how to fill all the orders in 48 hours!
10) What’s next for Petit Tresor?
We’ve just opened a second location in Brentwood, California and hopefully we’ll be opening two more stores in California in 2008. We’ll also be franchising Petit Tresor around the world. In another month, we’ll launch a brand new website which will be the most cutting edge baby boutique on the Internet.
11) What is the biggest obstacle to moms becoming successful entrepreneurs?
Juggling work and family without any support from anybody but each other, and having to make choices between spending time with family or doing inventory or ordering!
12) Tell us about your celebrity clientele. Petit Tresor has been called “the celebrity baby boutique” by so many people in the media.
We have a huge celebrity clientele including: Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Nicole Richie, Gwen Stefani, Heidi Klum, Tori Spelling, Britney Spears, Jennifer Garner, Katie Holmes, Camila Alves, and Paris Hilton.
13) What happens when a celebrity comes into the store?
When celebrities come in, they’re left alone and are treated normally. If a celebrity really wants privacy, they’ll come in after hours or we will visit them at home to design their nursery.
14) How did you become so popular with Hollywood moms?
We’re not sure. We didn’t do anything special. They just flocked to the store years ago and have just never stopped. Petit Tresor has just become the Neiman-Marcus of baby goods. We were lucky enough to have done a good job branding our name and our style and celebrities have taken to it.
15) What was the hardest part about starting Petit Tresor?
We both really needed to launch a business to earn money and the hardest part was our fear that Petit Tresor would never survive. We’ve certainly proved that fear to be wrong.
16) What’s the best part of owning Petit Tresor?
We’re doing what we love to do: traveling, designing and buying.
17) What advice would you give to budding Mompreneurs?
Plan. Strategize. Don’t get in over your head. Find your market. Try to create a 36-hour day to fit in work and family!