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In Florida, Polka Dotz isn’t just a gift shop – it’s a community hub. Today, I’m excited to talk with Heidi Hardman about the remarkable journey that elevated Polka Dotz to local fame in less than a year.
If you’ve ever wondered how to make your store the talk of the town, you’re in for a treat with this episode. Heidi generously shares her tips on how to show up everywhere with an omnichannel presence. She also offers practical advice for retailers looking to collaborate with a marketing team.
From billboards to local movie theater ads, Heidi’s advice is a goldmine for any retailer seeking inspiration to become locally famous. She also opens up about integrating her non-profit, Polka Dogz Pet Rescue, into her retail business. The impact of giving back and increasing customer engagement is nothing short of inspiring.
This episode is sure to motivate retailers to start new projects, release the fear of making mistakes, and discover what can happen when you set goals and strive for consistency over perfection.
[03:32] How Heidi’s store evolved into multiple locations
[05:44] What Heidi and her team have been doing to become “15-mile famous” and the results they’re getting
[07:53] What results is Heidi seeing from showing up everywhere?
[12:04] How Heidi works with her marketing manager
[15:57] How Heidi and her marketing team regularly review their goals and results
[21:43] Heidi’s advice for retailers to have a successful relationship with their marketing person
[26:13] What steps did Heidi take to integrate her passion for dogs into her retail store?
[33:29] Heidi’s top tips for retailers who are hesitant to take the next step because they don’t feel ready
[38:32] What is Heidi excited about for the coming year?
[40:14] Heidi’s resilience round
Mentioned in the Episode
- Catch up with Polka Dotz
- Catch up with Polka Dogz Pet Rescue
- Join the Rooted In Retail Facebook Group for After the Show LIVE
- EVOLVE 2024 in Denver, CO - Crystal Media
- Social Media Hooks & Hacks - Crystal Media
- Crystal Media Insiders
- Follow Crystal Media on Instagram
- Follow Crystal Vilkaitis on Instagram
- Crystal Media on YouTube
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Crystal Vilkaitis: Real quick. I want to share some of my favorite episodes as we are leading up to the one year birthday of Rooted in Retail. There’s so much in amazing content on this show. I have talked to incredible guests, so it’s very hard to narrow it down, but I did find my top nine and I want to share three in this episode today.
I’m calling this theme fast growth. All three of these retailers saw pretty quick growth. And have just been scaling their stores and have incredible advice for you, the listener.
So if you haven’t caught episode 28 with Adrienne, the owner of two Bostons, we do talk about having multi store locations in this episode.
She’s got seven storefronts, but even if you only have one. Adrienne’s episode is like a masterclass in running a retail store. She breaks down everything. And again, whether you want a second store location or you’re operating 20, this is an episode for you. If you want an epic masterclass, she shares it all. She doesn’t hold anything back. When I was relistening to this episode, I was driving and I was like, Whoa, I can’t believe how much she shared. There’s so much gold in this episode.
Also episode 32. With my friend, Beth Rich of Mix it Up. Beth also shares so much of what she’s doing. She tripled her sales in just three years of purchasing her store.
She’s going to share more about this too at our conference evolve. She’s one of our speakers. We talk a lot about events in that episode and a lot of our retailers are running events. There’s very creative event ideas that can significantly increase your revenue, your profits without you having to manage the event and put it all on.
Beth has found an amazing hack to have people lining up to host events at your store and be a part of events at your store.
And then finally, episode 40 with Kristen, the owner of white arrow home, she started her store and grew very quickly as well, winning industry awards. And she shares how she did it. She’s got a very active social media. So we talk about that in the episode.
And again, if you’re just really looking to scale and grow and see some of these faster results, these ladies are the ones to listen to. So be sure that you go back and listen to these episodes. And let’s get into today’s episode.
In this episode of Rooted In Retail, I am chatting with Heidi Hardman, the owner of Polka Dotz, which is a gift shop in Florida. And man, I love to talking to Heidi this episode. I just feel like she gives so many tips and value for our retailers. She’s a fellow retailer. We are talking about how to become locally famous.
If you want more people to know about you and your town, Become the talk of the town, show up everywhere. Then this is a great episode for you. I love what Heidi’s been doing her and her team to become “15 mile famous.” We also talk about the dynamics of working with a marketing manager and somebody who’s helping you with your social media.
So if you have somebody on your team now, or you’re thinking about hiring somebody, you’re going to love this episode. It’s going to help you on understanding how to best manage that relationship and work together. And then we also talk about integrating a nonprofit into your business. Heidi has Polka Dogz Pet Rescue, and it’s a really lovely story about giving back, and I just love what she’s doing for our furry friends.
We also, at the very end, Heidi has some really great advice for you. If you are struggling to get started on something, if you’re hanging on to inventory, you shouldn’t, if you’re resisting anything, we kind of go deep into there. So I think that you’re going to get some great value out of today’s episode.
So let’s dive in.
Welcome to Rooted in Retail. I’m your host, Crystal Vilkaitis. Here we have engaging and informative conversations with successful indie retailers and industry experts. Together, we learn, connect, and grow. Don’t miss our live after the show every Tuesday night in the Rooted in Retail Facebook group. All right, here’s today’s episode.
Heidi, welcome to Rooted in Retail. I’m thrilled you’re here.
Heidi Hardman: Thank you so much. It is such an honor to be here, Crystal, really.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yes. Well, I am honored that you are here and we got to spend a little bit of time together at Evolve, at our in person conference last year. And then I got to see you later at the WhizBang! Retail Success Summit. And then I saw you at another market and I was like, I get so much Heidi time. This was amazing.
So this is really fun. I’m glad that my listeners get some Heidi time. Cause you’re doing some really cool stuff. Yeah, so let’s dive right in. I know that one big takeaway for you at our conference Evolve was being “15 mile famous.” And I’ve talked about this a little bit on the show, but it was a very brief part of the ending of the conference and you held onto that and people are really resonating with that.
And we’re going to talk more about it at Evolve this year, 2024. But you emailed me and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I love that. We’re talking about it in our meetings and we took out a movie theater ad; we’re thinking differently.” And so I would love for you to share. Actually, before I even get you into that, Heidi, I should have done this first.
Take a couple of minutes and tell us about your store.
How Heidi’s store evolved into multiple locations
Heidi Hardman: I’ve had 4 stores. Now, we’re just down to 3 because we closed one but we had it for 20 years in a mall. But I started a long, long time ago doing craft shows back in the nineties. So that was how I started my business. I actually made musical kids clothes, you pushed a button and they would play music.
So I would travel all over the country making kids clothes. And then that just evolved to our first store, and then it just evolved from there. And then I had up to four stores and down to three. And now we just moved our store that we’ve had for 14 years in one location. We moved it to a downtown location because it seems like downtowns are really revitalizing and coming to life again, which I absolutely love.
So it was just the right opportunity. I was ready to retire and thought if something comes up in that downtown area, and ten days before my lease was up, it was meant to be. Yes,
Crystal Vilkaitis: things work out like that.
Heidi Hardman: And I was so excited and it is just the dream store, I love it. So I still have my other ones, but one is a franchise store.
So that one, it’s not as fun as this one.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Sure, and tell us some of the types of products you carry.
Heidi Hardman: So we have Pandora Jewelry, Kendra Scott. We have a lot of jewelry, Hans Swarovski, Brosway Italia, which is one of our newest brands. We just brought in Buddha Girls, Julie Voss, but we also have gift items and Spartina. And Dot and Dash, which is a Morse code. And then I have a whole rescue section in the back, which for our pet rescue that we started as well, that we donate everything back.
So it’s really a lot of gifts and jewelry, but they have to have some meaning behind them. They have to have some either people that give back or locally made or just something that can be encouraging or inspirational. Just make you feel good.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Oh, I love that. It’s gifts and accessories with a meaning, which is so special. And we are going to talk about this pet rescue, I love what you’re doing. And I’m in Florida a lot, I really want to come to your store. I know you messaged once and I was like in and out on that trip, but when I’m in the area, I’m coming to Polka Dotz.
I cannot wait to check out your store. Um,
Heidi Hardman: you.
What Heidi and her team have been doing to become “15 mile famous” and the results they’re getting
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yeah, it’d be so fun. Okay, I was so excited to talk about 15 mile famous. So here now let’s get into it. Tell me as you took that away from Evolve, what have you and your team been doing to really build that fame and create that local impact and what kind of results have you been seeing?
Heidi Hardman: So we did a lot of things. And Roberta is my marketing manager and Molly, who worked for us, she went on to have a full time social media job. But she still helps, which I love. And she’s actually coming to Evolve this year again. So we’re going to bring her along anyway. She’s awesome.
So we really started focusing on that. How could we do that? Because, for us, for the major brands we carry, like online, we can’t even sell Pandora online. That’s still one of our major things. So our fight wasn’t going to be against these big name brands. We wanted to keep it to what can we do locally? We have such a great local market that people support local businesses.
How can we make this 15 mile famous? So we really sat down and went through it, went through our plan, how we come up with our tagline and what does that mean? And then how do we resonate that in all our advertising? So we really did, I call it omni channel. I don’t know if that’s the correct term, but we did a local movie ad, which it’s a local theater, not a big one.
But a lot of locals go there. We did that, we did two local billboards. We did a magazine called The Local, which has been fabulous. We did another magazine that is specific to a big subdivision here which targets our market. So that was great. And then we’re really starting to host different events with local companies.
So that was really our thing. And we do like parades or events or just anything local right there to just really get the word out.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Okay, I am so proud of you. You are just knocking it out of the park. Anybody who’s listening to this, imagine if you and your team, like Heidi and her team, sat down and really thought about the 15 mile famous. How anybody in a 15 mile radius can know your store, your name, what you sell. Heidi, like you were saying, your tagline.
What results is Heidi seeing from showing up everywhere?
Crystal Vilkaitis: Everything is out there. It’s consistent and you’re showing up in as many places as possible. And you are showing up. Now, how has that been translating from traffic sales, social? What are you seeing? What kinds of results are you seeing from this?
Heidi Hardman: Well, I have a funny little funny story about it because we did do a parade just on Martin Luther King Day with the rescue. So in our ad at the movie theater, Maverick, our mascot for the rescue is in the ad, and we’re going down the parade and I hear this lady screaming, “Maverick, I just saw you at the movie theater.”
So he’s like a little celebrity. So I have to say that has been a big key, but it is definitely translating. We’re having more people come in and say, “Hey, I saw your ad at the movie theater,” or they may not comment on our social media or on our lives, but the way it has been translating.
We find that whatever we feature on that live that coming week, we start to sell more of that product, or we have people now coming in and like Roberta, my marketing manager, they’ll say, “Hi, Roberta.” And she’ll look like, I don’t know you. But they’re like, “I know you from the lives, my wife watches you.”
And so that has really been how it’s translating. It’s not always complete, direct results. Like I can’t say, this person, but when you start hearing those comments over and over again about, “Hey, I saw you on this live,” or people are coming in, “Oh yeah, I saw that on Instagram.” That’s how we’re really tracking a lot of that.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Exactly.
Heidi Hardman: It’s been great, and word of mouth.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Of course, absolutely. And that’s the thing, I think that Bob Nagin says this a lot. There’s a difference between sales and marketing. So what you’re doing here and those results that you’re talking about, it’s all marketing, right? It’s to generate that awareness. It’s to generate the brand recognition and Roberta is part of the brand recognition.
Maverick is part of the brand recognition. You are too, so you’re building all that and then you’re hearing it. And this is what’s great too. I mean, keep in mind that you’re hearing it, but there’s so much more you’re probably not hearing because not everybody will share. And I think for a lot of us to your comment about, maybe you’re not seeing the comments on the lives or people commenting on social media.
I’ve actually started to see this more too, where I think that the consumer is less likely to comment publicly on brands’ social media. But that doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention. It doesn’t mean that they’re not watching and they might be watching live or the replay. And it doesn’t mean that they’re not actually DMing.
And so that’s one strategy. If you really are trying to get people to comment or engage, encourage them or invite them to do it in a DM or a private message. Because I think that consumers feel more comfortable from a brand perspective there, I think we’re going to start seeing a rise in that. So I’m sure people listening can totally resonate with what you’re saying.
Maybe you’re not seeing a lot of the engagement, but man, you’re hearing about it in the store. So it’s converting.
Heidi Hardman: It is definitely. Definitely see it more when people were just in conversation or walking down the street and you’ll hear somebody say, “Oh, yeah. I love your store and I watch you on Instagram.” Or they may not, like you said, they may not comment right there, but they’ll mention it when I see them out somewhere else that there’s different situation.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yep. And then what I love too, that you and your team are such an action taker because you left Evolve, you started implementing. It hasn’t even been a year. We’re recording this in January, so that happened end of April. Hasn’t even been a year. What happens with your omni channel approach here, where you’re showing up at the magazine and the theater and on social, that compounds. Like people are going to continuously see you show up time and time again.
And just look at what you’ve done in under a year. So I’m very proud. I’m very excited for you
Heidi Hardman: I’m very excited too, but it’s Roberta. She’s the one that even reached out for this. She’s the one stretching outside the box and doing things. So I think that it takes the right people. That’s a big key.
How Heidi works with her marketing manager
Crystal Vilkaitis: It really does, teamwork makes the dream work. And that’s actually a perfect segue because I want to talk about Roberta. So Roberta helps you with your marketing, and you also mentioned Molly helping you with your social media. And something I always really hope for our retailers is that they have help because it’s challenging to do it all.
So will you just take us through? Anybody who’s listening to this right now, who maybe does have somebody on their team or wishes they had somebody. What does that relationship look like? Like, how do you and Roberta work together? How does she know your goals? How often do you meet? Can you share behind the curtain on that relationship with Roberta?
Heidi Hardman: So I will tell you, she started with me when she was 17 years old and then she went away for a long time and now she is 30, I think she’s turning 38 this year. So in a few days, actually. We go way back, but she’s a totally different person now. She’s a mom of a teenage son, but we have that relationship and we always have just trusted each other and I’ve always encouraged her.
And now that she’s back and she’s really getting into this whole marketing thing. She has experience. She worked for Expedia, so she has experience, but she’s really come out of her shell and just come up with some great ideas for events. We meet every week and we talk almost daily because we want to keep it on track.
So just like coming up with a tagline. That was a few months of meeting weekly, both my managers and them, but for her and she’s not doing it full time yet. She will be, but Molly’s helping. I’m doing it. You just have to find the right people that you can really work with. But she’s really good. She has to have the goal in mind.
So that’s something we kind of drill down, like the “greatness, gratitude, giving,” which is our tagline. We wanna make sure everything is consistent with that. And then like once a month, she had the idea, let’s post one thing that just reminds people that, okay, this is the greatness, this is how it relates to the store, how it relates to the products we bring in.
Then the gratitude, then the giving. So she’s the one. Like I said, we meet weekly and then in fact, Wednesday, we always do it on Wednesdays, but we talk daily. It could be two o’clock in the morning. She’s like, “Oh, Heidi, I had a great idea.” And we’re always up.
Crystal Vilkaitis: up? Yeah.
Heidi Hardman: We’re
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yeah
Heidi Hardman: business owners, I’m always up and doing it.
Don’t call me at 7am, but 2am? I’m up. And so we try to make sure everything goes through that funnel, but she and I just have the same goals. I think that’s the key is you have to have the same goals. And they always say to surround yourself with people better than you. So I try to do that and she’s been fabulous.
The idea she’s coming up with, I’m like, wow, like she didn’t even tell me about this podcast, until she confirmed. Then she’s like, “By the way.”
Crystal Vilkaitis: She’s good.
Heidi Hardman: really honor. She’s very good, she thinks outside the box and Molly’s been awesome too with that.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yeah. Well, it kind of seems like Roberta has that marketing mindset. Like how can I connect with my customers? How can I get the brand out there? How can I get Heidi out there? So she’s asking those questions. So if anybody listening is trying to work with somebody else, make sure they’re thinking that way and make sure they understand why that’s so important, right?
It’s about the brand awareness. It’s about connection. And to your point, Heidi, goals. I t’s so easy to just run a business and get caught up in the day-to-day and we forget about our goals or we’re not checking in or tracking them. And I just really believe we have to have those goals.
We have to know where we’re going. Otherwise, we’re going to get lost. We’re going to get off path , and then that sets both of you up for failure. And I think that’s where a lot of retailers feel frustrated with their marketing person, feel frustrated with their social media person. I think that’s actually a very big pain point for a lot of retailers.
How Heidi and her marketing team regularly review their goals and results to ensure they feel good about how they’re using their time
Crystal Vilkaitis: And Yeah.
maybe it’s marketing team in general, I know it could be very challenging, but I think especially marketing, a lot of retailers have a hard time tracking. Do you guys have any kind of system or way that you guys connect on checking in on that goal and checking in on the results so you both feel good about how time is being spent?
Heidi Hardman: Yes, we do actually, we use your social media planner. Sometimes just paper and pencil and I love that, because it plans things out and you have a direction and each week has a theme and now we haven’t planned out a few months, which she is the planner. If it was up to me, it would never be done. So I have to say, I give her credit.
And then Molly runs analytics every month for us too. She runs the analytics on our Facebook, our Instagram, our TikTok, our website. Where’s the traffic coming from? And because we’re a fashion store, we’re a boutique, she does: what is the new aesthetic? Like she came up with, now vanilla girl is the aesthetic that’s in.
So when we go to market, that also helps us to bring that in. And then we’re going to keep that consistent in our social media and our bags. And actually I reached out to somebody from your Evolve conference again, with one of the outbreak sessions that I had, reached out to her about branding too, which was amazing.
So that’s a really key thing is we do track our analytics. Where are we going with this? And what is performing better? Is it the reels, the carousels? Like you talk about, what is performing best and then we try to focus more on that. And how many times a day do you post? And I know everybody’s like, “Well, three to five times a day.”
It’s almost impossible. I’m not gonna lie, it’s really hard. But some days when we went to Atlanta, we were posting a few times a day. We definitely got more traction. And I think that really helped. So we’re not there yet. And I was feeling pretty overwhelmed, but after going through your Evolve, especially, and just focusing in that social media planner has been a godsend, I have to say.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Good. Well, I’m so happy that you invested in yourself and your team and were at Evolve. And then you also spend that time investment of making this a priority. A lot of people just, they don’t want to check the stats. They don’t want to make it a priority, but you’ve got to, you’re spending the time and effort and salary or pay on somebody who’s doing this for you. We got to make sure that we’re checking these results.
Heidi Hardman: Yes. Yeah, you definitely do. Otherwise, like you said, if you don’t know where you’re going, any roads get you there. Right? So you have to have a target goal and then you just regroup. Okay, this isn’t working. Let’s try something else. There’s not mistakes. Like you said, done is better than perfect.
I keep putting that in my head too. And just,
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yep.
Heidi Hardman: so what? If you make a mistake, who cares? Like today, we just happen to be in the store. We remodeled yesterday. We were in the store and we said, we’re going to start a morning dance party for our chat in. So we all start dancing. And then my rep from one of my brands walks in.
We’re like, “Oh, hi,” but it just set the mood though. It was just fun and people are laughing. It’s just great.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Oh, I love it. Oh my, I love a dance party. So that is a fabulous way to kick off the day and a live stream and anything you’re doing. How fun. But there’s two things you said. There was a keyword, which was consistency. And a lot of us are like ugh, eyeroll. I know, I know. You hear it from everyone.
But it’s true, like anything, you’ve got to be consistent. And then you also said, we’re not there yet. And I just want to encourage you because what is there mean exactly? I mean, we’re just really on this journey and you learn something. You get it down. Then there’s the next thing and the next thing. And I think I hear that same statement from a lot of retailers.
“We could be doing so much better. We’re not there yet.” And it’s like we put some big expectation of what we should be doing and where we should be at. And I think that’s actually what holds us back from being consistent because we have such a big expectation and it’s really about connecting with your customers, focusing on the goals, having fun while you do it, and making sure you’re consistent with that brand.
So, let’s get rid of we’re not just out there yet. You are there. You are rocking it. And I’m just so excited to see what you guys have built.
I have exciting news in honor of Rooted In Retails first birthday. We launched this show on March 5th of last year. And to celebrate, we are giving away five tickets to our in person marketing conference called evolve. So if you can come to Denver, Colorado, April 28th and 29th, and you want to go to evolve, which who doesn’t.
Then you can register to win, go to crystalmediaco.com/win you must register by February 29th leap day. We will pick our five winners and announce those on March 1st. I hope to see you at evolve and good luck and happy birthday to rooted. Thanks for listening. It means the world.
Heidi Hardman: It’s certainly a journey, it is. It is a journey and it’s an exciting one and good days, bad days. But it’s a journey and we are having fun along the way. So I just feel like once we found you and not to plug you, I know this is your podcast. But in all honesty, Crystal, this has been the best resource I have found. It’s just easy because you’re geared to small business and to stay focused and really help.
I’ve told numerous friends that are retailers. I have at least one of them coming to Evolve this year, but it’s just finding the right resources as half the battle. And to me, you’re like having another employee on your team. That’s going to really guide you and get you, on the direction and yeah, so we I’ve been following you for years. So this was great, and Roberta, like I said, my marketing manager. And Molly, they’re on it. It’s great. It’s just you need somebody, a coach.
Crystal Vilkaitis: You do.
Heidi Hardman: To enter that direction and keep you focused.
Crystal Vilkaitis: That’s exactly what I was going to say. Again, going back to teamwork makes the dream work. It doesn’t always have to be team under your roof.
Heidi Hardman: Mm hmm.
Crystal Vilkaitis: That coaching, that mentorship, that guidance. And there’s so many amazing resources out there, and we happen to be one of those that’s very targeted on retailers.
Heidi’s advice for retailers to have a successful relationship with their marketing person
Crystal Vilkaitis: And we love that you are in our world. Now I have to ask anybody that’s listening to this, what piece of advice would you have on working with a Roberta? Their marketing person, maybe they don’t have that person yet, but once they get them hired, what advice do you have for a successful relationship?
Heidi Hardman: I think the biggest key is, I have my girls do a vision board when they come on board. I want to make sure we are all going the same direction, that this is what your vision is for the store. And I hire people that I have the big picture of the store in mind. They’re not just in it for them. I’m there in it for them.
The success of the store, then we can make it fun. We can have fun along the way. But, and really keeping that consistency, like you said, meeting weekly, it could be a 30 minute meeting. But you walk away, okay, you’re going to do these three things. I’m going to do these three things. Don’t try to do everything in one week.
So it’s just okay. And if it’s not coming to you, just put it aside, and walk away for a little bit, come back to that. But really, then meeting every week and talking as much as you can. So you make sure that you both have the same big picture in mind. And again, brand consistency, because you don’t want your marketing person going off in this direction.
You’re like no, this is the vibe or whatever the brand of my store. So you really have to have that, even a personal connection, I think that’s key. You have to be looking for the same thing. Like we have that funnel. Like I said, all our ads have to go through a funnel. And I think once you get that funnel down, you get the right person in there.
And like I said, it doesn’t have to be a marketing manager. Just going through your stuff and your five things to do each day is really a good key start. And that gives you the basic. Because sometimes when you want to hire somebody, you’re like, “I don’t even know what their job should be.”
You don’t know enough. So I think that’s really a good key foundation, but yeah, to work with the marketing manager, keep it very consistent. Meet consistently. Meet consistently, because you have to be learning as much as they do.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yeah. No kidding. You will both be learning from this experience. Awesome advice. That was
Heidi Hardman: And give them freedom, I think that’s another big key. Give them the freedom to run. Like, okay, let’s try this. My key is if nobody dies, then you’re okay. It’s just,
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yes.
Heidi Hardman: It’s not really going to matter. You can recover, so we’re good.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Exactly. You know, I’m so glad you said that because I think entrepreneurs, and I could be guilty of this. We like to have control. We want to make sure things are a certain way. And I’ve just heard so many retailers over the years be like, “How are they going to represent me? How are they going to be in my voice?”
And I’m like first of all, you got to give somebody a shot. You’re making problems that you don’t even know if they’re going to exist yet. Let’s see, now there are definitely steps you want to try. You definitely want them to represent you well and represent the brand and talk how you would talk.
And they can look at past posts and they can kind of pick up that tone. And now with ChatGPT, you could be putting in past captions and be like, “write me captions that sound in this exact voice.” It’s so easy. You can even make personas, like your own custom GPT personas. Sneak peek at what we’ll be talking about at Evolve.
We’ve got some fun stuff we’ll be sharing. So give them the freedom. I think when people are stifled and held back, it’s like the creativity isn’t there, and then they’re not thinking like how Roberta thinks, what if we did that? And having these different ideas, you’ve allowed her to just think bigger and have that freedom.
And it’s only going to help build your business. Such good advice.
Heidi Hardman: Once she knows the brand, she knows me well and. Once she knows that, give her a little freedom to run, like I said. The things that she’s come up with, that she reached out to the local magazine and we just hosted their first ever event. Like they’ve never even done it. And she’s like, “Let’s do it at our store.”
So she’s really getting out in the community, but she gets me out there too. I’m still the one who’s owned the store for a hundred years, however long it’s been. But
Crystal Vilkaitis: You look
Heidi Hardman: maybe not a
Crystal Vilkaitis: for a hundred dollars.
Heidi Hardman: But anyway, I trust her. I think that’s a big key, you have to trust the person. And then, yeah, if they make mistakes, so what? Just if you’re painting raw blue and you don’t like it, you paint it green.
You just start over and you’ll be like, “Hey, sorry, we made a mistake,” and you move on. That’s
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yep, nobody’s gonna
Heidi Hardman: lot of freedom. Yeah, exactly. Nobody dies. No dogs die, that’s key for me.
What steps Heidi took to integrate her passion for dogs into her retail store
Crystal Vilkaitis: Exactly. Well, for sure. Well, Heidi, you have a Polka Dogz Pet Rescue.
I love it. Polka dogs like, this is so cool. So how can you talk about how you integrated your passion and created this, your pet passion really, and created this rescue and how it integrates into the store as well?
Heidi Hardman: Yes, I could go on for hours about this, but I won’t. So, what had happened is first, I adopted my first dog in the midst of all my stores and everything else. I adopted my first dog, Sparky. Still with me today, thank God. So then I just started my passion. I remember going to a Toastmasters years ago and I had to do a speech on something I was passionate about I couldn’t come up with anything.
Well, careful what you ask for. So 15 years later, I adopted my dog. I found my passion. So it is truly a passion, and I was with a different rescue first and jumped in head first. And then Aaron, who started the rescue with me, my co founder said, “If we ever started a rescue, you should name it Polka Dogz, like your store.”
And I’m like, perfect. It was just one of these epiphanies. I’m like, that’s great. So he actually named it. And then during our first six months, we found this little dog Maverick. He was hit by a car two different times. His leg was mangled. His spine was severed. And people just left him on the side of the road for weeks before we found him.
We found this out through the doctors and the x rays and MRIs that the injuries were weeks apart. So anyway, so we took him in and Maverick has become our mascot for the rescue. And then since people get to know him and his story, and again, using social media. The power of social media is how that got out.
And I have people calling me from new Zealand, from everywhere to work with paralyzed dogs. Cause we’ve worked with a lot now. And so it’s my passion, but the way I incorporated into the store is I have an entire rescue section in the back where a hundred percent of the profits go back to the rescue.
So we sell different products or we do a roundup at our store. And then Maverick comes in on Saturdays. People come in asking for them, just like I said, in the parade. Like this past Saturday, I thought we were going to have a riot and Shannon said, “I think we’re going to have a riot if you don’t bring Maverick in.”
Cause I’ve had five people ask for him. And it’s really incorporating your passion. People can see it, like I’m very sincere. I have seven dogs and Maverick is one of them. And I foster him permanently for the rescue, and then I have a foster dog. So you have to be sincere. Like you can’t just say, “Oh yeah, maybe I donate 10 percent,” because you want to get more clients.
That’s not. We’re very authentic. I can say, I definitely walk the walk because I have a lot of dogs and I foster and started our own rescue and raise money for it and everything else. So I think that that’s the key. If you have that passion, you can incorporate it. You can find a way.
It took a while for me to do that. But now, like I said, in the movie theater ad, Maverick’s in the ad and he has his own little license plate and now he’s in the store and we have shirts with him on it. So really people start to know that too and it gives your business more of a personality. Like you’re not just trying to sell things.
And really, if somebody walks in your door and they see a little dog running around in a wheelchair, who’s going to be in a bad mood? Who is going to focus on their own problems when they see this little dog running, jumping curbs? And going up to everybody, running over their feet and you just can’t be in a bad mood.
And it also just lightens up the whole mood of the store. So it makes people feel good when they come in. And it makes them think that this is not just a business that’s trying to sell me something. This is a small business. This is another reason to support your local business.
These are people that care, so people bring in their dogs all the time and we talk. So it’s just really a passion and it’s incorporated into the store. And the name, people are starting to finally get it.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yes.
Heidi Hardman: And like I said, I use him in our ads sometimes, like, “Maverick says.”
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yeah. That’s the thing is you have to be known for something. I did a podcast episode and actually aired this week while we’re filming this, with Jacqueline from The Product Boss. And she talks about how you have to be known for something. There are just a ton of choices and a ton of brands out there in stores and places to shop.
And when you’re trying to be 15 mile famous and you’re really building your brand, what are you known for? And so having that consistency is key. But to your point, you have brought Maverick in, who is such a big part of the messaging. But I just want to say thank you as a fellow pet lover. I just think it’s phenomenal that what you do and how you’ve integrated it.
It’s very inspiring. And I think my fiance probably told you this when we were at Evolve and I walked up at part of this conversation, that we have a non profit where we help pay for pets medical bills. As it relates to the dog’s death or illness unexpected bills that happen for people, and you know when you have something that you, just like you said, you care about. And you bring that to life and you’re able to help people pets.
It’s just makes it a lot more meaningful and we need that. We really need that in this world, and so thank you for doing what you do.
Heidi Hardman: Thank you. And I will say we were very proud between our roundup and our rescue section. We donated $12,000 back to the rescue last year. So we were very happy about that.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Oh my gosh, congrats. I love hearing that, so good.
Heidi Hardman: Yes, and Aaron, the guy who started the rescue was the one that implemented the roundup. He said, “We should do that.”
I’m like, okay. And so people are really good about it. And it’s and again, it’s just we really mean it. We’re not being insincere. We really do care and they can see that people bring their dogs in all the time. So
Crystal Vilkaitis: love it. Oh, I love it. It’s so funny that you said you were in Toastmasters and you were like, what are we passionate about? What we got to talk about? When I was in college in my speech class, we had to present and we had to talk, pretend like it was an event, like maybe a graduation or a wedding or something like a special event.
And we’re winning an award or whatever. And all I could think about was my dog Bruiser. So I was like, “Is it okay if I bring him to class?” It was five pound Chihuahua. So I brought him in and I held him. And my event was, it was Bruiser’s birthday party and you guys all came, you had no idea, but you are all invited. And I just talked about my dog and I was like, “I feel like that’s going to be easy. I’ll just talk about how much I love him.”
And they filmed it. I don’t think I have the video anymore, which is so unfortunate, but you would watch yourself back to see if you were good at your speech. And Bruiser was just sitting there, just looking around like, just so unimpressed. It was so funny.
Heidi Hardman: Wish we could all be that relaxed, right? He’s like, whatever.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Exactly. Like, why am I here? Why are all these people looking at me like, what’s going on? So fun.
Heidi Hardman: fun.
Heidi’s top tips for retailers who are hesitant to take the next step because they don’t feel ready
Crystal Vilkaitis: Oh, okay. Now, Heidi, when we were emailing back and forth, getting prepared for this, one thing that you said in there was. You don’t have to know everything to get started and don’t wait for the perfect time.
And I just wanted to pull that out. And I want you to just elaborate a little bit, give some advice to our listeners who maybe are waiting to do the thing. They don’t feel ready. What do you say to them?
Heidi Hardman: That’s the whole paralysis by analysis for sure. I just jump, just take a chance. I mean, really, that was a friend of mine said that just jump. Like I said, nobody’s going to, I’ve almost gone bankrupt three times, but I’m on the other end of that.
And it just always have to take chances. Don’t be married to your past. Don’t be stuck on it. A product’s not working, you invested money in.. Okay, as long as you hold on to that, instead of putting it on sale and clearing it out, you don’t make room. You don’t have your open to buy dollars.
You’re not making room for something that is going to sell. And then it just becomes clutter in your store. So I think that’s a big thing. Try to take advantage of new opportunities and always learning, like just going to this Evolve. I was so excited that I could not sleep. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve just so many ideas.”
And I go back to the book and the one when you are, “Okay, where are you going to be a year from now? Where are you going to be a month from now?” And I’m like, Oh my gosh. And I’ve done all this so many times, but this was just a new way to elaborate on my business. I was like, “Wow.” It just, some things just resonated so much better and you being so authentic and sincere and all of us, even Molly and Roberta, both were like, “Oh my gosh, we have so many ideas. So many ideas.”
So I think that’s a big thing, but you just have to start. Start, just like you said, it’s just better done than perfect. And if you don’t start, you’re never going to get anywhere. I think that’s a very big key. And like I said, we’re still a work in progress, but.
And, we’re just having fun along the way. Like you said, it’s a journey. Whatever happens, you’re going to make mistakes, but that’s okay. Nobody died. Move along.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Exactly. And I think I’d rather make the mistake than never get started, never do the thing and have so much regret. Just really do, over the years and working with retailers, I, there is a lot of fear. We all have fear. There’s a lot of resistance. And I do think that people hold themselves back.
I think that they don’t start. I think that they can hang on to products. I think that there can be that scarcity mindset. And a question I really like to ask is, what’s the worst that can happen? And can you live with the worst? And typically you can. It’s everything’s going to be okay. And so that kind of gives you a little bit more courage to do the next thing.
But I just love that you said that. And thank you for sharing that advice with our listeners. It’s needed.
Heidi Hardman: And we also do a zero based thinking. We go, okay, knowing what you now know, would you get into this again? Would you have that product, that relationship, that person, whatever it is, would you have it again? Knowing what you now know. answer is no, move along. Time to get rid of it and move on.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Ooh, I’ve got some things I’m working on that I’m going to be using that. That’s my next journal for tomorrow morning. Yep. I love it
Heidi Hardman: That is a big piece.
Crystal Vilkaitis: That’s a really good one. I feel like my new commercial or tagline for Evolve should be “Evolve: Where you won’t sleep afterwards because you have so many amazing ideas.”
Heidi Hardman: But it’s so exciting. I love that. When you really love it and you have these ideas, you’re like, getting up in the middle of the night and you’re writing stuff down and it puts a fire under you and it just makes you feel alive. And I love that better than just going through the grind. Even the AI, that’s a big learning curve for me, but Roberta’s already using it and like, “Yes, I use it. And I love that. So it’s
Crystal Vilkaitis: There’s so much to learn there. But to your point, like you just however, it can work for you. You have to, I’m a big life learner, right? The more you learn, the more you earn. You’ve got to put yourself in those situations and invest in yourself. And I think in person is better because then the energy of other people, it’s just different.
You’re like in the room, in the building, it’s just so different.
Heidi Hardman: You can’t really pick up on people when you’re not in person. There’s other outside things that around you that you interact with that just. It is different. That’s why I love having in person. I think it’s just fantastic.
Crystal Vilkaitis: I do
Heidi Hardman: I’m not going to go and brag about your Evolve a hundred times but it really
Crystal Vilkaitis: you know.
Heidi Hardman: a lot, a lot of conferences and I told you this on that, that was just, just fantastic.
One of the very best. And I’ve been to a lot, Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy and all those in person. And this was right up there, girl,
Crystal Vilkaitis: I love it. I love hearing that because it really means a lot to me and my team. We really want it to be a high value and so that really means the world to me and my team.
What is Heidi excited about for the coming year?
Crystal Vilkaitis: Heidi, what are you excited for in the coming year. What ‘s coming up? What’s exciting?
Heidi Hardman: I’m really excited for all the new opportunities. I think really. Like I said, our marketing efforts, I think they’re just going to keep climbing and keep climbing. And the nice part about the social media is you have an opportunity to write a story. Now like, I have found for the rescue when I was really doing all the Facebook and Instagram posts for the rescue.
You tell a story. I can get that dog adopted, like we do a 30 day challenge, or I can raise money for that dog, but it has to be about the story to make you stand out and social media gives you such an opportunity for that. So that we didn’t really have before with just static marketing. I’m excited to do more in person events.
So we have actually one scheduled every single month. So through at least the first six months of the year, we have one scheduled and Roberta has one that’s themed by colors and everybody’s going to dress in the color. And so I’m excited about that. I’m just really excited to learn more. And like I said, the marketing, everything changes all the time.
You just have to roll with it. So I think ’24 is going to be a fantastic year. I feel amazing. Best I felt in a while. And I love it where the small business is going and where, main streets again are revitalizing. And I’m just oh-so-excited. So excited about all the opportunities and I’m really excited to come to Evolve
There’s so many things, but alll our events and having a great team, a smaller team. But just a really awesome team and just moving along. And
Crystal Vilkaitis: Oh yeah.
Heidi Hardman: my goal this year. I’m going to exceed it this year.
Heidi’s resilience round
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yes, you are set up for success. You’ve got the passion, you’ve got the fire. You are ready. I love this mindset and I can’t wait to see what you guys do in 2024. So exciting. Heidi, are you ready for the resilience round?
Heidi Hardman: think I am.
Best business book
Crystal Vilkaitis: Alright, let’s do it. Best business book.
Heidi Hardman: I don’t have one. I can honestly say I do not have one. I get my inspiration from so many different places. You from Zig Ziglar, Brian, Tracy, all of these. I just get it from really. All different places, so I can’t say I can’t nail it down to one business book. I listen to Audible every day.
Best retail technology
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yeah. Ooh, yeah. Love that. I agree here. Same best retail technology, like an app or software.
Heidi Hardman: I have two, my POS system, which is Artisan Storefront by Saratech. I found they’re not the biggest, they’re a very small company, but I find they give a lot of reports for a fraction of the cost and I love that. And the other one is my link in show notes. That’s my app that I use for scheduling and everything.
You have your Asana, I like my Pencil Planner Pro that can schedule everything right in there and that syncs with all my calendars. I love it.
Crystal Vilkaitis: awesome. Say the POS again.
Heidi Hardman: Artisans storefront by CERTEC. C E R T E K. I love it. The reports that they offer everything is all inclusive. I love it. Love it. Love it.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Okay. I haven’t heard of that one. And I know POS systems are a challenge for retailers, so we will link for that.
Heidi Hardman: Yeah, this one is not nearly as expensive as some of the others.
How do you keep up with the ever-changing landscape of retail?
Crystal Vilkaitis: Okay. Great to know. All right. How do you keep up with the ever changing landscape of retail?
Heidi Hardman: Oh, my goodness. I’m always researching, I always go with my marketing team. You just got to think outside the box. I think that’s the biggest thing. I think I mentioned in my email that sometimes I will go to Lowe’s. I will have no idea what this item is for, but if it’s going to work for what I’m trying to build, I’ll try to build something in the aisle.
I don’t know what it’s for, but it doesn’t matter. It works. So I really try to think outside the box and stay up to date. Like learning from you, learning from all your podcast people that you have on the guests. I’m just, wow. So many ideas that I get from there. So that’s just always learning and talking, networking with my other retail friends and going to the markets, following the trends. Listening to other people.
What’s a foundational best practice for retailers?
Crystal Vilkaitis: Yeah. So good, I agree. To help retailers be stronger, more rooted in success, what’s a foundational retail best practice?
Heidi Hardman: For me, I write down my goals every day. I have this weird thing. I write them on my shower every morning and I have my friend calls a magic notebook. So I definitely write my things down every day. And I just focus on manifesting my goals every day. And again, networking. I’m always talking to other people, but I write my goals down every single day.
I cannot even tell you how many crazy things that have happened to make things come true. Crazy. You would never believe,
Crystal Vilkaitis: Sounds like we have to have a part two.
Heidi Hardman: But manifest. I guess. my other thing is keep your theme of the store. I don’t carry tires in my store. Okay, this tire may be a great seller, but it’s not for me.
So don’t chase brands that aren’t right for the theme of your store. Once you know yourself and, like you always say, be authentic. And just once you know what your brand is, stick with that, you’re going to be much more successful than trying to chase down brands that just aren’t the right fit for you.
Crystal Vilkaitis: So
Heidi Hardman: And that’s a hard thing to do. That’s a hard thing to
Crystal Vilkaitis: Hard, but
Heidi Hardman: do.
If you had to start your business all over again, what would you do differently?
Crystal Vilkaitis: Great advice. If you had to start your business all over again, what would you do differently?
Heidi Hardman: Nothing. I love it. I trust my intuition much more now. That’s the only thing I think I would have trusted my intuition more earlier, but I think that just comes in time to learn that. I wouldn’t, it’s a journey. It’s success. I don’t call it success and failure. Everything’s a learning experience, and it’s a journey I’m happy to be on, and I just love it.
You have to love what you do and I love it. So I’m gonna continue until I’ll probably retire when I’m 95 years old, I don’t know. But , it’s not gonna be any time soon. So
What do you think the future of independent retail looks like?
Crystal Vilkaitis: Good. I got full body chills when you answered that. I love that, Heidi. That’s so good. What do you think the future of independent retail looks like?
Heidi Hardman: I think it’s fabulous. Honestly, I think people are missing that connection. That’s what we’re finding in our little town. It’s people are really missing that connection. So I think, they’re building like crazy around here. I don’t think that the malls are going to be a thing going forward, but I think an independent retail, I think it looks fabulous.
I absolutely, my sales are going up yearly. And it’s you love what you do and people want to connect with people. That’s such a big key. And I think that we were missing that. So you get to tell stories and you’re authentic. And I think retail looks absolutely amazing. There’s so many opportunities and people are coming out.
So you just got to get them, give them a reason, give them the reason to connect with you. So
Crystal Vilkaitis: Exactly. And make sure they know you’re there by being 15 mile famous and getting out there and connecting. I love it so much. Heidi, how can people connect with you?
Heidi Hardman: You can just go through our Instagram or our Facebook, which is Polka Dotz. Winter Garden, you can message me through there or PolkaDogzPetRescue.Org for our website. But Polka Dogz Pet Rescue on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, any of those things, so they can, either one.
Crystal Vilkaitis: Love it. Go follow Heidi and Roberta. Say hi, say what you loved about the podcast. Go check them out. Heidi, this was so fun. Thank you so much for your time and your wisdom and sharing with my listeners today.
Heidi Hardman: And you are awesome, Crystal. It is always a pleasure, and I can’t wait to see you in in February and in April. So I would definitely encourage everybody to go to Evolve because it’s amazing. Really, really amazing. Thank you, Crystal!
Crystal Vilkaitis: you so much. I will see you soon and everyone remember that I’m rooting for your success. Have a great week ahead.
Thank you so much for being here. It means the world to me. Don’t forget to join the rise and shine newsletter, which is social media news. You need to know sent via email every Monday morning, go to crystal media, co. com slash rise to join. And don’t miss the newest episode of Rooted in Retail, which drops every Sunday morning.