The secret to Lauren Hise's success is simple: She loves what she does and always takes the approach of doing it with passion and not viewing it through the lens of work.
Hise, of East Atlanta, is owner of the Baby Love store in Grant Park, the maternity, baby and "tween" shop at 465 Boulevard, just south of I-20.
Now open a year and half, Baby Love sells new clothes and toys as well as items on consignment.
A mom with a 2½-year-old herself, Hise, who was a professional nanny for 12 years before launching her business, said she wanted a holistic approach to her shop, which led to looking at all aspects of parenthood from pre- to post-birth.
That explains why the shop offers a number of regular classes including prenatal yoga, postpartum fitness and hypnobirthing for parents and soon-to-be-parents.
In September, she'll be offering a parent and child music class in conjunction with the Learning Groove.
We caught up with Hise as she prepared for massive weekend sale she's planned for Aug. 25 and 26 to ask about her business philosophy and how she turned a passion into a successful business model.
Q.: Why did you go into business for yourself and specifically, why maternity, baby and young children's retail?
A.: I have always loved children and after being a professional nanny for 12 years, I felt pretty knowledgeable about children, children's products, what products/services parents purchased for their children and what they wished was offered for themselves and their children. Then I had a baby of my own and graduated business school in the same year. So, when it came down to going back to work after the birth of Gabriel, I thought it was the best time to take the leap and open the business I had been planning for and dreaming about for the 3 years prior.
Q.: Tell us about your search and how you came to pick Grant Park as the location?
A.: I live in East Atlanta, but was not very familiar with Grant Park until I found our location. When I first looked at the property, I magically fell in love. I liked the size of the space and the way it was laid out inside (already with a dividing wall between the studio and the store), I liked that it was conveniently located and easy to access (right off I-20 and Boulevard), I like that Grant Park is such a family-oriented in-town neighborhood, I liked that it's four miles from my house, and I just knew I had to be here. The lease process was a nightmare — bank owned property — and I wanted to find somewhere else many times, but I just knew I couldn't; this was where Baby Love was meant to be.
Q.: As a small business owner, what should government — at the local, state and federal level — do to make the business environment better and strengthen the economy?
A.: I feel like there is always a hoop to jump through. Just when I pay my sales tax, the property tax bill arrives. Just when I finish the IRS tax return, I have to file a Business License Return. As a small business owner, I cannot afford to be taxed to death and keep up with the constant filing fees, applications, etc. Also, I applied for several business loans before I opened, and got denial letters from all. Now there is a new SEABA program in place that is supposed to make it easier for banks to lend with government funds to back the loans. I need more money to expand my business because it has grown so rapidly. I am going to apply this month, so I'm hoping for the best, yet it's hard to be optimistic. To summarize, I would appreciate some filing fee/tax breaks and more opportunities for loans through government programs.
Q.: What's been the best or most interesting suggestion you've received from a customer?
A.: To always greet everyone who walks through the door! We had been open about a month and while I was deep in conversation with a customer, someone walked in and walked out fairly promptly. She then called me on the phone to advise me that she felt she was treated poorly because she was not acknowledged when she came in. I apologized and try my best every day to never let that happen again. I want every person who walks through the door to have an awesome experience. I need them to tell their friends and family about us. That is my best and only advertising these days. I want to provide an experience you will not get at Target or Babies R Us.
Q.: How do you stay passionate about what you do and what advice would you give to others about keeping the fun and passion in their life's calling to keep it from just being work?
A.: The only way to go to work and not feel like you’re at work, is to love what you do. I love everything about this business. The children, parents, buying, selling, being such an integral part of the community. It's a fun job and the hours fly by too fast for me. My customers are in such a happy period of their life, and who doesn't love shopping for a baby? I stay passionate because I have aspirations to be much more. I would like to open other stores (locally and nationwide), create other concepts, and build an empire. Baby Love is only the beginning.