Small Business Profile: Emma and Bobbi, Owners of Hazel & Rose - Minneapolis
Hi Emma and Bobbi! Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Emma and Bobbi both grew up in rural Southern Minnesota, but didn't actually connect until a few years ago, when Bobbi was running Semblance and Emma was researching her own shop. Bobbi studied Graphic Design at the Art Institute in Minneapolis and worked at various retailers before opening Semblance in 2012. Emma studied Communications & Business at Northwestern University and worked in corporate retail as a planner, project manager, and buyer before leaving in 2015 to open Hazel & Rose.
What led you to begin Hazel & Rose?
Emma started the shop in Spring 2016 when she couldn't find a place to shop sustainably in-person beyond secondhand shops. Bobbi joined in Fall 2017 after owning Semblance boutique for 5 years. Bobbi was looking to move back to the Twin Cities and wanted to focus more on sustainable and ethical fashion.
Did you have a previous background in fashion?
Emma worked in corporate retail as an apparel planner and buyer. Bobbi went to school for graphic design and worked as a designer and then in retail in sales, management, and as a visual merchandiser before opening Semblance.
Tell us more about the origins of the brand’s name.
Hazel & Rose are two of Emma's great-grandmothers. She loved the simplicity and personal touch it gave.
You recently brought Bobbi on as a partner; how did that decision come to be and how has that transition been so far? What was your relationship prior?
It was definitely not the plan when I opened the shop, but I'm so happy this is where we ended up. I had connected with Bobbi before the shop had opened because I admired what she built in New Ulm with Semblance and simply wanted to learn from her experience. We stayed connected after that, and I remembered her mentioning she wanted to move back to Minneapolis at some point, but didn't know how. After my first holiday season, I was feeling really overwhelmed. I was exhausted and didn't feel like I was able to do my best since I was spread so thin, managing every aspect of the shop. I knew that the way I was working wasn't sustainable. I remember agonizing over sending a text to Bobbi mentioning the idea of partnering/merging/collaborating in some way so I could share this business with someone and she could come to Minneapolis. Pretty quickly after I hit "send", Bobbi replied that she was interested and wanted to chat further, and it grew from there. It's become a really balanced partnership because her design and visual background and my business background allow us to focus on what we're best at so the shop can grow and thrive.
Bobbi, as a new partner, what drew you to wanting to become a part of Hazel & Rose? How do you want to see it grow?
I had personally and professionally taken a step forward with Semblance Mankato, pushing the shop to focus more on independent designers, but quickly realized it wasn't the right market, and it was difficult for me to go backward in the concept of my shop in New Ulm. It felt like the right move because I would be able to have the business I wanted and to share it with someone who was good at the things with which I struggled. As for growth, our online shop is our first priority; it was something that each of us felt needed to grow in our respective shops, but neither of us had the time to invest in it. Additionally, we would love to expand Hazel & Rose beyond retail by educating the community and investing in other sustainable and ethical brands.
How do you source the items you have in the store?
We attend market trade shows (convention centers full of designer booths showing off their upcoming collections) in New York twice a year, and that's where we source the majority of our collections. We're also always on the hunt for new and exciting brands on Instagram and will have brands reach out to us, as well. Whenever we find a new brand, we vet where the product is made, what it's made of, whether it matches the shop's aesthetic and price point, and whether it's already available in the Twin Cities. We try not to overlap with other independent shops (sometimes it still happens), and at least want to be aware of where else it's sold.
How do you connect with your customers and community?
In person in the shop on a regular basis and through events that we host, and online, mostly through Instagram. We spent a lot of time on Instagram!
What are some brands/designers that you are excited about that we should know of?
Winsome Goods: a local designer who designs and makes each piece in her Northeast Minneapolis studio and has a unique knack for subtle details that set her pieces apart from the rest while still being totally wearable and classic. Reike Nen: a new-to-us shoe brand from Korea that creates footwear that are like works of art. Arcana: a New York-based designer that believes in "heirloom fashion" - thoughtfully made pieces that you will treasure and pass down. Millie & Lou: a Canadian brand that takes vintage pieces and reworks them with screenprinted designs, for one-of-a-kind pieces that feel modern.
Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local makers?
Shopping small and local allows you to invest in your community. The money you spend is going to individuals, not corporations and subsequent entities. We are asking people to shop small when they shop with us, so it makes sense that we should practice what we preach and also be shopping small. We're also seeing a movement of independent designers focusing on sustainability and ethical production, and we want to encourage that behavior and invest in it so it can grow.
What is your favorite thing about your workspace?
The building we are in - we share a building with Spyhouse Coffee, Steller Hair Co, and Brow Chic (among others) and it's such a wonderful community of fellow small business owners!
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
The feeling when someone finds something that they positively fall in love with and can't wait to wear and treasure, and getting to work with a collection of independent artists and be a part of their growth.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you faced when starting Hazel & Rose?
Challenges that still exist are the shop's location and price. The shop is fully enclosed and doesn't have signage outside, so unless someone knows about us or is going to one of the other businesses, they don't know where we are. As we've grown and word has spread traffic has improved, but it would be even better if we had a street-facing storefront. As for price, it costs more to use natural and sustainable fabrics and to pay people fairly to ensure ethical production, and everyone has become so accustomed to the prices of fast fashion that there's a certain amount of sticker shock that is felt when shopping at Hazel & Rose. We address that by talking about what went into the garments, telling the stories of the designers and the fabrics used. We also encourage shoppers to only buy what they love, because if you love it, you're more willing to invest in it and you'll get a lot of wear out of it. We've also been exploring a wider range of price points to carry in the shop, as well as vintage options, to make it more accessible to more budgets.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Women understand and can empathize with what fellow women are experiencing, and that understanding is important to help each other grow. Societally we are taught to compete with one another, but that simply tears us down. There's no downside to supporting other women, and there are lots of downsides to tearing women down.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
Leandra Medine, Emily Weiss, Sarah Edwards, Nora McInerny, Cleo Wade, Emma Watson
Was there any particular person who helped shape your career in a formative way?
Emma: I had really fantastic leaders at Target who became mentors and friends and taught me the importance of being solution oriented and honest. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't have had the courage and determination to go after the roles I had while I was there, and my experience in those roles is what gave me the confidence to open Hazel & Rose.
Bobbi: My family. They never questioned any of my decisions in my career. They offered advice but always supported what I wanted to do and helped me through all of it, no questions asked.
What have you learned from owning your shop that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Prioritization is so important. Self-care is so important. Knowing your limits is so important. Taking risks is so important. Resilience is so important.
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
We've got some exciting things in the works - collaborations with some of our favorite designers, trying vintage in the shop for the first time, the holiday season, and growing our plus size business. We're also exploring ways for Hazel & Rose to grow and make an impact outside of retail. We are still working on the details, but as mentioned earlier, we're interested in community education and investing in independent designers.
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you in creating your business?
So many resources! SCORE, mentors, books, podcasts, talking with other business owners, Google searches, online classes ... anything and everything that was remotely valuable was leveraged.
How do you manage a work/life balance?
Taking actual days off; leave work in the shop, and refrain from email & business social media outside the shop so there's a clear line.
What are some of your favorite places in Minneapolis?
Favorite restaurants include Tenant, Barbette, and Bar la Grassa. Fellow local boutiques - Parc, Idun, Forage Modern Workshop, Golden Rule. The Walker and MIA. The music scene - so many incredible local bands and so many fantastic venues. The lakes.