Noel Do is a local entrepreneur and the founder of Noellery, a trendy jewelry and accessories boutique. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she had three bustling New Jersey storefronts located in Hoboken, Jersey City and Montclair. I spoke with her about how she first got into fashion and how her business has been faring during the lockdown.
When did you first get into fashion?
My background is actually in financial services. I shifted gears after I realized that I couldn’t be told what to do. I wasn’t happy being tied to a desk because it limited my ability to create without restraint. Noellery brings me back to my first passions in life that allows me to marry my business acumen with jewelry- something I actually love. Some days are tougher than others, but this role as a business owner really makes me tick. Each passing year has brought challenges both large and small, but I love figuring things out as I go. Retail is like a never-ending marathon, but there is a beauty in choosing this path that makes me feel more fulfilled than I otherwise would. Chasing after something bigger than yourself, and finding happiness in doing so is incredibly fulfilling.
What inspired you to open Noellery?
I launched Noellery in 2015. The retail sector has changed considerably since the 90s,’ with big-box retailers over levering and not delivering the type of personalized service to consumers that I personally prefer. Larger shops always overwhelmed me with all of the options, and I felt that street retail needed something more cozy and personable. Bringing the latest trends to a local transit-oriented neighborhood was the answer, so I jumped at it after grad school and haven’t looked back since. I’m inspired by everything outdoors in its natural state, and regularly turn to nature, architecture, photography, and world travels for inspiration.
You’ve had to temporarily close your three storefront locations. What adjustments did you have to make?
We had to disinfect each store thoroughly during the shutdown and move our business online. It’s definitely different, as that in-store interaction was the most enjoyable aspect of my business. As consumers are social distancing at home and spending more time on the computer, we had to switch our short and long term growth plans overnight. I’m just grateful that we have a digital channel to work with currently, and can only imagine what it’s like for those small businesses that don’t.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced these last couple of months?
Not being able to open my physical storefronts is the biggest challenge, but this is literally out of my control so I am making the most of it. This shutdown, however, is forcing me to re-vet my business model and plan my next moves so that we are well prepared to weather the new norm. The current restrictions have highlighted the importance of focusing and investing more heavily in the tech space for future revenue growth. I’ve learned the most from my most difficult times, so I believe we will plow through this fine as long as we have an active strategy in place. All I can say is that we are currently working on it.
Entrepreneurs, in general, should always be prepared for the worst if they want to succeed. Things break and don’t always go as planned- that is a fact. You always need a reserve, but who would have ever thought you would need a reserve for a government-mandated shutdown? That is something new! Ever since I started Noellery, I’ve found myself constantly trying to hedge my downside while simultaneously growing our upside. That is something that will never stop, irrespective of the economic conditions, as long as we are around. It is important to be able to surpass each challenge with innate ferocity, and it’s that very pursuit of overcoming and building that makes this whole Noellery journey worthwhile.
Have you been able to keep in contact with customers?
Yes through our website, email, text messaging, and social media channels. Thankfully our loyal customers continue to check-in and shop online with us. Managing that relationship is even more important during a shutdown as you do not want them to forget about your brand.
What is your hope going forward?
My hope is that those families that experienced loss or prolonged suffering will heal and find peace. Those that were adversely affected by the shutdown and quarantine mandate need to get the help that they need to bounce back quickly, and that includes both on a physical and mental health care level. Local municipalities also need to listen to the needs of small business owners and not just at the state level, as we are the ones that are actually getting hit the hardest.
Crisis’ brings out the best and the worst in people, so I think everyone will learn something important from this pandemic. I do believe in the American spirit- our ability to rebound and be resourceful & supportive with our neighbors. I really just want things to go back to normal, but I know that the new normal business wise will be very different. We need a healthy population that is not afraid, so re-instilling consumer confidence through health, wellness, and support should be first. When you have an unhealthy workforce, your business can’t be effective. We cannot expect a fast economic recovery without putting peoples’ health first.
Right now, we have a big disconnect with the market, consumers, and the economy. There will be a pivoting in all industries across small businesses, and it’s just a matter of getting Noellery ready for this pivot so we don’t fall flat on our faces. It’s a work in progress, and my hope is that we will have the necessary tools to adapt well to the changes and continue to grow our business channels in a healthy manner.
Follow her @shopnoellery on Instagram.