Vender of the Week: Tender Loving Empire

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Who: Tender Loving Empire

Where: Portland, Oregon

Tender Loving Empire is a Portland-based handmade consignment store and record label, with a focus on supporting local artists and fostering community exchange. Founded with a love for all things artistic, the store has quickly won over the hearts and minds of the locals. We talk to co-founder Brianne Mees about the journey from record label to hip store, and why TLE loves Vend so much.

How did you get started?

My husband, Jared, and I started the record label in 2006 as an excuse to release his own album. We quickly began to see the opportunity to help all types of artists succeed and opened the physical retail space in June of 2007. We liked the idea of a record label that you could walk through the doors of and feel part of. The store currently carries the art, craft and music of over 250 (mostly local) artists.

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What’s your local following like – is it mainly an online or offline community?

The local community in Portland is amazing at supporting small businesses. When you walk around this city, you don’t see chain store after chain store, like you do in so many parts of our country. They’re there, but small businesses definitely win out in garnering local support. We are still around because of the amazing creativity and loyalty of the good folks who live in this city. Because of our location, right downtown, near Powell’s Books, we also get a lot of business from visitors. We love being Portland tour guides and representing the rich, creative spirit that they come to Portland to find. We do get a good amount of web sales as well, and also sell all of our music through direct digital download on our website and all major digital marketplaces, like iTunes.

Where does your passion come from?

The main focus of TLE has always been people focused. It’s about community exchange, and helping artists get paid to do what they love to do. We have had the pleasure of working with so many incredibly talented people that it’s hard not to stay inspired. I get so much satisfaction from being the conduit of exchange between an artist and a customer. Consumerism takes on a whole new meaning when you know the person who made the thing you’re selling and get to watch the person who’s buying it, feel something as a result.

 

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What brought you to Vend and how’ve you found it?

We started our business with a lot of youthful passion and not a lot of business skills. As our company has grown, we’ve had to adjust a lot of things to keep up. Prior to Vend, we were handwriting all of our sales in a ledger and then transferring them to Quickbooks at the end of the month. I have a very persistent employee to thanks for finally being able to talk us into making the jump to a real POS system. We started using Vend in May of 2013 and it has been very transformative for our business.

We saved a good 10-20 hours a month on re-entering our sales, and spend more time focused on the things that move us forward. Having all the info in real time and online has been a huge help as well. I frequently log in through my phone when I’m away from work to track sales, get answers for Vendors, customers or employees and make decisions about restocking. The tools Vend has provided us are helping us make smarter decisions and are creating a better experience for our customers and vendors as well.

Do you have any advice for new retailers?

Tenacity, hard-work and kindness are rewarded.

– Brianne Mees, Co-founder, Tender Loving Empire

About Grace O'Hara

Grace is a Marketing Assistant at Vend and helps make cool things happen behind the scenes. She enjoys talking to incredible Vend retailers from around the world and making the world a better place with her side projects. You can get in touch with Grace by email or connect with her on Google+.

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