BABE #43: TESSA DEE MILLER,
Owner + Operator @ The Nest
Tessa was referred to BWH by a couple of readers in Reno (thanks, Michael and Casey!) She's such a kind, free-spirited boss lady and I loved learning about The Nest, her kickass vintage clothing, furniture and decor store! Being a fan of all things vintage is one thing, but learning about the ins and outs of the business is a whole different ballgame. I have so much respect for Tessa and her story. Thanks for chatting with me, babe! (Reno babes - stop by The Nest and tell Tessa we sent ya!)
Hometown: Reno, NV
Current city: Reno, NV
Alma mater: Santa Clara University
Degree: B.A. in Spanish & Philosophy
Hustle: Owner + Operator at The Nest
Babe you admire and why?
I admire any Babe who follows her passion. Anyone who carries on despite adversity because she knows in her soul it's what she's meant to do. Anyone who persists even though the obstacles seem insurmountable. Anyone who is filled with compassion for every living being around her yet doesn't take any shit from anyone. Anyone who sees problems as challenges instead of setbacks.
How do you spend your free time?
What is that? :) Between running a business and trying to not miss out on a moment of my 1.5 year-old son Owen's childhood, I am more than busy! If I did have free time, I would catch up on sleep and yoga. If I could clone myself, I would want to make custom furniture, and start my own clothing line using vintage fabrics.
Must-have item in your purse?
A fold-up reusable Envirosax bag. My hands are constantly full, and it's really nice to have something that folds up and fits in my small purse that I can take out and use whenever I need. Plus, I HATE using plastic and being wasteful.
Go-to coffee order?
I'm a tea drinker all the way! My favorite is Jasmine!
Go-to adult beverage?
In the winter, I'm all over hot toddies. In the summer, mojitos and other fruity drinks are my fave, and I'm not ashamed to say it!
Biggest pet peeve?
Dirty dishes in the sink and things not put back in their proper place. I'm a Virgo through and through.
Tell us about your hustle:
I am the Owner, Operator and DIY-er at The Nest, a vintage and upcycled furniture, clothing and decor store in Reno! I handle all additional operations from social media and branding to accounting, et cetera.
What does your typical workday look like?
Every day is just a little different, which I love! Saturdays in the summer are my craziest days - I hit around 30 yard sales, spin back through to pick up bigger pieces, then take them to the shop to clean and put out on the floor. It usually takes me the rest of the week to get this done with all of the items I pick up (while selling them!) and then it starts over again. I'm always finding different things which keeps things interesting! In the slower times, I spend whole days researching new items, creating window displays and planning out my social media. There is always something to be done.
When and how did you become interested in the world of vintage?
It actually just fell into my lap. Once I got started with my previous business, Budget Used Furniture, I began to see that I was gravitating towards vintage items because I appreciated the craftsmanship and quality of them. That's when I decided to open The Nest and sell my previous business!
Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit
I loved crafting from the time that I was a kid, and I was always trying to sell what I made. The more that I do it, though, the more it is like any other skill that flows more naturally with time and practice.
What would you say are the common misconceptions about your job?
Ha! That it's an easy job. No one thinks about everything that has to happen behind the scenes for the shop to run smoothly. They think that clean, fully-functional items magically appear in my store when in reality I spend many hours behind the scenes digging through large amounts of junk to find one hidden gem. Then I clean and repair it, merchandise it in the shop then hustle to sell it. And that doesn't even take into account all of those other not-so-fun things like paperwork, bills, social media/website maintenance and general cleaning and upkeep!
Do you think that starting your career at 22 gave you an upper hand? Why or why not?
It definitely had its pros and cons, but I wouldn't have done it any other way. I think a hands-on approach is always the best way to learn. There are things that I learned in my journey that I don't think I could've learned in a classroom. For example, I was deathly shy all throughout my life until I got into business. I had to overcome my fear because my livelihood depended on it. Plus, education has gotten so expensive that it's very hard to start off tens of thousands of dollars in the hole from student loans.
What advice would you give to other small business owners?
Be persistent! There were many, many, many times that I thought that I had made the biggest mistake of my life and wanted to give up on my business. But I stuck with it, and I couldn't be happier where I am now. Just know that owning a business is not for the faint of heart. If you're not willing to put in all of your time, blood, sweat and tears, then maybe owning isn't the path for you. You'll have much to show for it in the end, but it won't be easy. Another quick word of advice: SAVE. You never know when you're going to have a month... or six, where for whatever reason, the money isn't coming in. You need to have a cushion for those times because they will happen. I think that's why most people fail in their first 5 years: they've spent all of their money opening the business but don't have enough to sustain themselves when the going gets tough.
How would you say that your gender and/or ethnicity effects your work?
Ugh. If I had a dollar for every time someone said, "You can't lift that. You're just a little girl," I may have more money from that than from actually running my shop. I am strong. I am smart. And I am damn capable of running my own store and lifting heavy furniture, thank you very much. To combat this stereotype, I don't say anything: I get them to shut their mouths by *showing* them what I can do. Yes, I can load that couch into the back of my truck by myself, and I don't need your help. Just watch me.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Treasure hunting! I love digging through junk for hidden gems and uncovering that one piece that no one else can see the potential in.
Paperwork, bills and all that responsible adult stuff.
When did you decide it was time to start delegating and growing your team?
As of right now, I do it all. I am trying to come to terms with my weaknesses, and my main ones are delegating and trying not to freak out when everything isn't exactly perfect. There's that Virgo in me again...
What are some of your favorite pieces that your shop has housed/sold?
Oh man, there are so many, I don't even know where I would start. Each piece has its own story and soul. I guess in a sense, that makes it hard to narrow it down to a favorite: it's like asking which is your favorite kid.
How do you handle the pressures of your job?
Sometimes not very well. That's another thing I'm trying to work on. Ideally to answer this question, I would like to say that I go to yoga twice a week and have enough 'me' time to recharge my batteries. Unfortunately right now, I can't say either of those things.
What is your “dream job?”
If I could efficiently manage a team to help me with my least favorite tasks and never worry about having enough money, I'd have my dream job already!
What does success look like to you?
A happy, healthy family in a cozy home and a business that pays the bills and feeds my soul.
Do you have any noteworthy (intense, funny, embarrassing, etc.) work-related moments?
In the first year of owning my business, I was young and naïve. I always greet customers as soon as they walk in the door. Lots of times, you can tell what kind of customer someone is going to be by how they respond, but not always. I remember one time a couple walked in the door and I greeted them to no response. I thought silently to myself that they were probably not the nicest people. When they finally got to the counter and motioned to me, I realized that they were deaf. From that experience, I've learned to never judge a book by its cover and to remember that we never know what someone else's story is, so we should treat everyone with as much grace and kindness as possible.
What do you hope for your future?
I hope to continue to grow and learn and improve not only in my business, but as a person, woman, mother, wife, sister and friend.
Career and/or life advice for other women?
Never let anyone else tell you what you can or cannot do - not even that deep, dark part of yourself.
In partnership with:
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