In the mood for a little Q & A? Sure you are. After you’re done reading, go on over to Danielle’s online shop, Collective Elements, and take a look around.

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Q. What motivated you to open Collective Elements in 2006?

A. Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with catalogs. The more exotic, the better. I always dreamed about owning my own business but kept putting it on the back burner. After leaving my 5th job in 10 years, I decided to make my dream a reality. Why not use my diverse skills and background for something I could completely own and be proud of?

Q. Was this your first try at starting your own business? If not, what other business ventures have you been a part of?

A. No, this isn’t my first try at starting my own business but I would say its my first serious venture. In the past, I’ve sold custom stationery and gifts in addition to doing free-lance web and graphic design. I also designed graphics for digital scrapbooking from 2004 to 2005. But these ventures were more hobby for profit.

Q. Why did you choose to have a strong focus on independent designers and artisans instead of offering trendy, mainstream products?

A. Growing up, my mother was my main style idol. She always bucked trends and wore what she liked. She always stressed quality and being unique. As I started shopping for myself, I found myself drawn to things that were different and one-of-a-kind. It was only natural that I would want to fill my shop with the same type of products I’m drawn too. Plus, I’ve always found that independent designers and artisans believe in the “art” of making something not just the resale value.

Q. In the beginning, what proved to be the hardest obstacle to get over when trying to get your own business off the ground?

A. Balancing my time proves to be a big obstacle for me. After starting Collective Elements, I took a full-time job offer so now I’m juggling a full-time job, Collective Elements, and being the single mother of a four year old. I structure my day to allow time to take care of everything plus spend time with my daughter and have time to myself. You have to take care of yourself or you’ll burn out real quick.

Q. I read that you offer several options for placement to vendors wanting to sell their items through Collective Elements. What do you look for when accepting new vendors on consignment terms?

A. Initially, I look for the “wow” factor. It doesn’t matter what style it is or what kind of product it is, it has to have something that makes me want it personally. Sometimes its the color and design that catches my eye, for example the pieces by Ophelia Jewelry. Sometimes its the humor implied in the work like the buttons by Bad Buttons. Or the outstanding quality of the product such as anything by The Small Object.

Overall, I look for products that are complete and professional. What I mean by that is: attention to detail, greataesthetics, realistic pricing, and professional packaging. Just because you’re an independent designer doesn’t mean you should slack in any of these areas. If anything, indies should strive to create the “best” product they can offer.

Q. When you are not busy being the “business woman”, what things do you do to unwind?

A. I’m very “big” on family. My family is such a joy to my life so I spend alot of time with them. I also like quiet time to myself where I catch up on books, listen to music, practice my singing or writing, or work on craft projects, etc.

Q. What advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting their
own business?

A. First of all, be educated. With anything you do, you should constantly strive to acquire more knowledge. While I do pursue different artistic pursuits, I’m not an expert in everything so I try to educate myself to different forms of art and craft. It gives me a greater appreciation for my vendors. I also work on gaining more business knowledge through research, networking, and mentoring. Networking has definitely been a great asset to my business. Find organizations or websites that cater to your business to meet new people. It helps to talk to people in the same boat as you. The Switchboards is one great web resource.

Second, be flexible and realistic. Success doesn’t always happen overnight. Sometimes it takes a while and you may have to alter your original game plan. I have made detours in my original route since opening Collective Elements a year ago. I had to revamp some of my original ideas to better the company for increased profitability and greater visibility.

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