Some people are thrown into entrepreneurship while others feel the call deep within their souls.
Marissa Zimmerman of The Vintage Valet falls into the latter camp. She felt the call to start her mobile fashion business while still in school and did everything in her power to bring that dream into fruition.
If you have the chance to speak with her (and we highly recommend you do), we know you'll see her excitement and passion for everything fashion and Pittsburgh shine through. We're really excited to see how The Vintage Valet continues to grow in 2017 and know that Marissa is destined for great things.
We love the idea of a mobile fashion boutique, particularly in a city where people do not like to cross bridges or go through tunnels to get places. Can you share more about where the idea for The Vintage Valet came from and why you're so passionate about this business model?
I came up with the idea for The Vintage Valet while I was a student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I was working on a project in one of my classes where I had to merge my major with my hobbies and I had my “lightbulb” moment. Then I had my business ownership class where I spent six months working on my business plan so that by the time that I graduated I had already formed my business and bought my truck.
I am so passionate about my mobile boutique and this business model because it is creative and it lets people have the opportunity to think differently about retail. It is much more personal, and I feel that it bridges the gap between a brick and mortar and an online store. Since Pittsburgh did not have any mobile boutiques prior to 2013, I was so excited to be one of the first! I love bringing fashion curbside in Pittsburgh and meeting so many people!
The Vintage Valet is Vintage and Vintage Inspired. The clothing that I carry is vintage inspired so it is new but has a vintage flair to it. Whimsical, Romantic, and Feminine are how I would describe my clothing. Inside the truck, shoppers will find a lot of lace and crochet pieces.
Here is where the vintage part comes in. The jewelry that I make is made from vintage pieces like clip-on earrings and pins. I love to go antiquing and then re-purpose my treasures into stylish necklaces so that you feel like you are wearing a little piece of history. Each piece is one of a kind.
I also sell statement necklaces from local artist, Lucy Kelly of Bel Monili. Her necklaces are unique, one-of-a-kind and made from vintage pieces and re-purposed as well.
Can you tell us a bit about your trajectory into entrepreneurship?
My transition into entrepreneurship started while I was a student at The Art Institute. When I decided that I was going to start my own business I felt so strongly about it. I knew that is what I wanted to do after graduation. I couldn’t stop thinking about it day and night, I was so excited to start my new role as an entrepreneur!
I completed my business plan and attended workshops while in school, all while still working a full-time job. Let’s just say it was a little rough going to school full-time, working full-time and starting a business all at once, but my husband was extremely supportive which helped tremendously. Transitioning into an entrepreneurship role isn't always easy, making it really important to have a strong support system.
I started my mobile boutique in 2013 and continued working at my full-time job until 6 months ago when I decided to go part-time there and make The Vintage Valet my full-time job. I now have more time and energy to put into my business!
Life is too short not to be doing what you love.
What has been your favorite part of running your own business?
My favorite part of running the business is definitely the people I have met along the way and how helpful and inspiring they have been. (I also enjoy driving results as much as driving my truck!)
What has been the most surprising?
How embracing and supportive Pittsburgh has been to mobile boutiques!
Where do you see yourself (and The Vintage Valet) in the next year or so? Any big events or goals you can share with us?
There are some exciting things in store for The Vintage Valet Mobile Boutique in 2017! Generally speaking, I plan on focusing more on creating and attending socially conscious causes/events in our community. I have done events in the past that have benefited some really great non-profit organizations, but I want to help people right here in Pittsburgh with causes that are near and dear to my heart.
I am also happy to announce that I will be carrying a plus-size line of clothing (I have received a lot of requests for this ... ask and you shall receive!)
Famous last words... What advice would you give to women as they embark on their own entrepreneurial journey?
First and foremost, follow your heart and surround yourself with creative positive people. Live and breathe your Value Proposition and follow and nurture this guiding principle. When every customer receives more than the product that they are purchasing, and they can see you and your vision and what you stand for, then you have succeeded. Do not measure success in terms of dollars. Business is about building relationships and putting people at the center.