Tykia Stokes had an entrepreneur mindset before she knew what she wanted to do.
At 34, the Detroiter is already in her 10th year of business selling women’s clothes and accessories as the owner of Karismas Kloset, which is located on Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion at 19458 Livernois. There also is a hair salon in the back of the store.
Like many businesses on the Avenue, the store has gone through tough times because of streetscape improvement construction on Livernois that started in April 2019 and lasted for nine months. Then the pandemic shut the doors when coronavirus first hit last March.
But Stokes has had a good social media strategy in place, plus a website to rely on during this time.
We asked her for her best advice to share with other business owners and entrepreneurs.
To begin with, she said, she wants her customers to feel comfortable and excited when they enter her store.
The interior is red, purple and gold and has unique chairs in the shape of a shoe and a floral backdrop for photos.
“I want to be able to dress you for your special occasion or your special day,” Stokes said. “It’s moments in time where you’re going to do something — party with your friends, going on a date, a job interview.
“I want them to feel comfortable when they come in.”
But Stokes’ focus on utilizing social media to generate sales has really paid off.
Karismas Kloset has over 27,500 followers on Instagram and Stokes has over 161,000 followers on her personal account.
While the physical store is reopened, foot traffic has slowed, so relying on social media to help customers place orders continues to be a win.
Here are four things Stokes says aspiring and current business owners should focus on when using social media to make their businesses a success:
Stokes said social media websites, like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, have shifted to being a platform for businesses instead of mainly being used for personal reasons. Each social media website has tools to see your engagement on each post, including how often someone clicks a link and how many times content was shared.
She also uses Shopify analytics, which is an e-commerce retail space, to see how much money she makes from advertising on each social media platform.
“Back then, it was just ‘I’m taking a picture,’ ” Stokes said. “Now, it’s serious. I have to take it serious now, especially with COVID. It’s way harder now because it’s so many boutiques.”
With her go-to model being in nursing school now, every time she gets a new shipment in, Stokes has to head to Instagram to post pics of the newest clothes arrivals.
“The foot traffic isn’t the same right now, so everything is social media and online,” said Stokes. “If (the customers) don’t see it, they don’t know you have it. They won’t come and look in here. They’ll literally pull up their phone and say ‘hey, do you have this?’ “
2. It’s all about presentation and your own branding
Presentation, branding and content have been a huge part of Stokes’ social media growth. Stokes models her own clothes to show customers what the outfits and accessories look like.
“Instead of using other people’s pictures or other boutique’s pictures, use your own,” Stokes said. “You may see something that looks cute, but if you put it on and you have a following, people like you, think you’re cute or you’re shaped different, it actually may help because you never know how many people are made more like you than a Barbie doll image.”
3. Know who your customers are and what they like
Knowing what your audience wants to see is a very important step, said Stokes. This allows for business owners to know how to market to a specific customer base. The pricing of the merchandise that a business sells also has to do with knowing who the customers are.
“When you do know who you’re selling to, you need to know what they can afford,” Stokes said. “Even if they can afford it doesn’t mean they want to pay that amount. So you need to know that.”
Stokes normally determines how much she would pay for an item herself, and if the item is too costly, she won’t stock it in her store. She even finds that customers overlook her discount rack and focus more on purchasing the full price items.
And if a business is not specifically depending on social media for sales, she said to know where your customers are when choosing a physical location. She uses her Shopify POS system to find out where her customers are located.
4. A business plan is important, too
Outside of working on social media growth, Stokes said there are a lot of things that aspiring entrepreneurs should do before starting a business. She advises to not invest in something until you’re ready to take the next step and to make a business plan ahead of time.
“Do research and see if it’s really what you want to do, even if you shadow somebody,” Stokes said. “If you say you want to run your own business, go run behind somebody that’s running a business because it may be so much more details that you are not ready and don’t want to deal with. It’s not as glamorous as they think. It’s so much more.”
With a goal to uplift other small businesses during the pandemic, Stokes is hosting a pop-up shop in her store that will feature several local businesses and a DJ. The pop-up shop will take place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Karismas Kloset.
Are you a small businessperson with tips to share or know one we should talk to? Send us an email at [email protected]