Expanding your business can be an intimidating process. Finding the right location, landlord, or contractor may all seem like a game of chance—that is, unless you do your research. Viviana Langhoff, the owner of Adornment & Theory, had wanted to expand her independent jewelry store in Chicago for years. While the 750-square-foot brick and mortar was workable, she envisioned a bigger commercial space to house her inventory of artist- and designer-made jewelry. “Every square inch was utilized the most efficiently as possible,” Viviana said.
Long before she secured a spot, Viviana began by making connections with her current landlord and browsing other commercial properties for leverage. Advocating for herself with others is a strategy that’s become essential to the business, she said: “I remember the person’s birthday. I’m friendly and pleasant in my correspondence with them, but I’m also very clear and assertive. I don’t beat around the bush. I don’t want to waste their time. They don’t want to waste mine. And I also do research on my position points so that I already know that I’m in a reasonable range.”
All of this groundwork helped Viviana feel secure in making a direct ask. And sure enough, when an opportunity came—and a storefront opened up right next door, ideal for expansion—Viviana was prepared. “I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t biting my nails,” she said. “I’m like, ‘If it works out, it works out,’ and then I’ll just have a two-pronged attack.”
Thankfully, a good track record made Adornment & Theory an asset that Viviana’s landlord wanted to keep around. It also allowed her to make requests when the pair had settled on a deal. “I started by asking [the property manager] for all of the measurements and layout,” she said. “And then I designed every square inch of the space before I even approached one contractor.”
Viviana’s search for a contractor was as meticulous as the rest of her process. After identifying some strong candidates, she walked them through the space over a Zoom video chat. She came prepared with a layout, renderings, and estimates. And she used word-of-mouth research to make sure she was getting the best service. “My brother owns a construction company in Florida, large commercial build outs, and I was also able to check the numbers against his, just to make sure that things were fair,” she said.
The years of work were worth it in the end when Adornment & Theory celebrated its soft opening among family, friends, and clients. Planning gave Viviana the best opportunity to expand her business, and her community did the rest.
“We were met with a really great reception,” she said. “It gives people a sense of hope and just joy. It’s like oh, one of our favorite businesses is growing. A minority, women-owned business is expanding. We got a lot of love from people and the numbers have been growing.”
Here’s a quick look at some other learnings from this episode:
- Grow without overextending. Manifesting your business goals is great, but you want to balance ambition with realistic expectations. Viviana is fiscally conservative and decided to grow her business but not overextend just for sake of growth.
- Always consider both price and reputation. When choosing a contractor, sometimes paying a bit more is worth the high-quality work and value of their word.
- Find time to rest and recharge. Big projects like expansions and new locations can create imbalances in the rest of your life. Your work will still be there when you return, but you need the time to reboot.
Interviews by Emily Washcovick; photos from Adornment & Theory
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear directly from Viviana, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.
We're sorry you didn't find this post valuable.
How could we improve it?
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.