J. Kim's Story- What Every Independent Retailer Fears
As long as I can remember, I wanted to live the dream of owning my own business. As much as I tried to run away from the idea, I realized that the need to be an entrepreneur ran deep in my blood. I was surrounded by ambitious entrepreneurs my entire life.
As a single mom starting life from scratch with two young boys, I decided this was the right time to take the biggest risk of my life. I opened up a lingerie store at a shopping mall in Northern CA. The experience of running a retail store was its own monster in itself.
With background in fashion wholesale for over six years (and a family with over 30 years experience expanding business from Brazil to Los Angeles), I was faced with a challenge that was frightening.
I had my store for over two and a half years. I had put blood, sweat and tears into this business with the help of my family. The experience was priceless. There were sleepless nights and grueling mall hours, but I wouldn’t exchange this experience for the world. Except, the nightmare of dealing with the leasing managers.
My business was successful. Every year our profit increased and so did our customer base. Our customers ranged from pre-teens to senior citizens.
You might ask yourself, why did she close her business if it was successful after only 2.5 years? Here’s my answer, the rent, tough negotiations with leasing managers, the mall companies who in my view cared more about national retailers and local small business owners.
My lease was up for renewal and with much discussion back and forth with the leasing manager, I realized that it just didn’t make sense to continue my business. It was too expensive and at the end of the day I would be at a negative.
I would have to work incredibly hard just to make rent. I had a sense that they didn’t want my store around, I wasn’t a national tenant, I was a small business owner. There was no wiggle room in staying as a temporary tenant. My only option was to become a permanent tenant. Mind you, the difference is triple the rent!
Working 10-12 hrs throughout the entire week and weekend with 4 part time employees, tripling my rent did not make any sense to me. I personally think that they wanted me to fail. The success of my business seemed insignificant to them, they simply cared about someone who would pay more rent.
I had met Carmen through my network in Los Angeles towards the second year of my business when my lease was terminating. She quoted me a price to help me with site location and lease negotiations, (since some mall owners do not pay commissions to outside brokers). Her fee seemed out of my budget, since I didn’t think the task at hand would be so difficult, so I decided to try to find a location and handle the negotiations by myself.
My limited knowledge of negotiating one lease on my own did not help my business. After a few months of trying and failing at finding a new home for my retail store, I had to close down and put all my merchandise in storage. I was devastated, so I called Carmen and shared with her my experience and told her I wanted to learn more about mall leasing and asked her for a job. I already had a California real estate license.
Working side-by-side with Carmen made me realize how much I could’ve benefited from her commercial leasing expertise. There’s so much value in her service, but I didn’t realize it until after working with her for 10 months. She could have saved my business, had I used her services from the very beginning!!
I didn’t know how little I knew about getting the vital information necessary to keep my retail business doors open. I can’t emphasize how important it is for any business to have the right broker to help with leasing. There is so much more that business owners can benefit from, whether it’s negotiating a lease, rent reduction or terminating a lease properly. This was an expensive lesson I had to learn the hard way.
America is truly a land of opportunity. That is why my grandfather decided to immigrate here. That is why I had a chance to live out my dream, but my dream could’ve been more successful with help from Carmen and her Golden Rule Resources team.