It's hard not to be inspired by the artists and makers of the Cleveland Flea. Brilliant, talented, creative. They're tough as bleepin' nails on their ways to making their dreams come true. We began The Maker Series to take a look — behind the scenes, beyond the booth — to see what drives our makers to do what they love and love what they do.
Q + A with Carly of Public Dove
Here at The Cleveland Flea, Public Dove proprietor Carly Moran is known for two things: her upbeat attitude and her impeccable taste in the vintage women's clothing and accessories. Without fail we know that we can come to Carly and find the best party dress a girl's ever seen. It's also likely that we'll leave with a smile and some warm-and-fuzzy feelings... and with a culinary background in pastries, she pretty much has this "sweet" thing nailed down. Read on to learn more about how Carly turned a life of pastries into a business of petticoats and pencil skirts.
Cleveland Flea: What was your path to beginning your business?
Carly Moran: It actually grew out of a need to pare down and save for culinary school. However, after selling off my entire personal closet of vintage I'd collected since high school, I felt a void only vintage could fill. So I started collecting again, and found that sharing vintage with others was a more constructive way to love all the vintage.
CF: Why do you love what you do?
CM: It combines everything I love. It indulges my background in art, as there are so many creative and hands-on aspects. But my favorite part is finding forgotten and neglected physical remnants of history, and bringing them back to life with my own hands in order to share them with people who care about preserving their beauty.
CF: Why does Cleveland need a business like this?
CM: Cleveland is a cool old city that appreciates cool old stuff. But finding good vintage requires a lot of digging and sifting. Since I source my dresses from all over the country (and sometimes world!), I am able to be selective and choose only the most unique and high quality pieces that would be hard to find in just one location.
CF: Why is Cleveland a great place to launch and run a creative business?
CM: Cleveland is a gem- for a city that offers so much, it's not cost prohibitive to pursue a creative or entrepreneurial endeavor here. But most importantly, the people here are supportive. Clevelanders deeply care about the culture of their city, especially the artists and small business owners who contribute to that culture.
CF: What's the best part of running your own business?
CM: Seeing other people nerd out about the same stuff I do. Also, referring to myself as "business lady".
CF: What's your biggest struggle from a business standpoint?
CM: Time, space and inspiration. Working an active, full-time job makes it hard to find the time and energy for the daily demands of running an online shop. Living in a small apartment means business needs can displace living space (when all of the closets you have are filled with vintage, your own clothes get stored in a laundry basket...). Also, as a creative person, inspiration is my fuel. Shop activity and positive feedback can be motivating, but it is hard to remember to push through the slower periods in business without getting discouraged.
CF: What are your goals for the business this year?
CM: To gain exposure to more people who are as inspired by vintage as I am. In the near future I hope to spend more of my time growing the business, which means I will have to earn enough to at least partially live off of my earnings.
CF: Did you see yourself growing up to be a creative vendor?
CM: Yep! Both of my parents are entrepreneurs, and I have dreamed of owning a business since I was a child. I spent summers scheming of ways to make my own money, from craft sales on the front lawn to designing my own posters for neighborhood cleaning services. When I went to college, I took business classes, and as a fine art major I pursued an internship in retail display design at Anthropologie in Chicago.
CF: What's the first big moment where you knew you were headed in the right direction with your business?
CM: When I was contacted by the lead costume designer for the 1930s Off-Broadway play "Women without Men" in NYC. I learned that she had recently worked on King Lear here in Playhouse Square, which I saw and loved. In addition to buying several dresses from my shop, she was kind enough to recommend my selection to a costume designer in Playhouse Square. Being recommended by an industry professional, whose work you already admire, is such an honor!
CF: Who inspires you?
CM: Strong, female entrepreneurs. Namely my mom, my boss (owner of Sweet Designs Chocolatier), the owners of other online vintage shops I have learned from, and Kwan (owner of Thai Kitchen in Lakewood- sit down and have a chat with her about her food sometime, she is wonderful).
Creatively, I am inspired by Max Ernst and Van Gogh, wonderful reminders that being a little crazy can lead to accomplishing amazing things.
CF: Have you learned anything about your business by participating in Cleveland Flea?
CM: Absolutely! I have learned that selling online and selling in person are very different. Not only is there a more personal connection with your customers, but the local market is also very different. Because local shoppers have differing interests from global ones, I have learned to tailor my selection to Clevelanders when I vend at the Flea. And of course, I get to sharpen my retail display design skills since I get to have a physical space for one day every month!
CF: What's your favorite piece of advice as it relates to your business?
CM: Don't get stuck in your own head. If you know you have a good idea, go for it.
CF: How would you hope to hear your business described by your dream customers?
CM: I would love my customers to view my shop as high quality vintage and coherent style, with unique pieces that they have never seen before. Most of all, I hope a visit to my shop to be an inspirational experience beyond just shopping.
CF: What's one thing people would be surprised to learn about your business?
CM: It was supposed to be a pastry shop. After a brief stint living in France, I came home to pursue culinary school. My dream was to open an authentic French bakery. I think I have discovered that I like eating even more than I like baking, so instead, dresses it is!
CF: What's your favorite booth at the flea?
CM: Great Lake Outfitters. Some great finds, I always have to stop!
Am I allowed to have two? The culinarian in me counts down the days until I get a Chill Pop Shop 'sicle.