There's something about Retro-a-go-go! that makes you smile the moment you enter the company's new headquarters in downtown Howell, MI. Maybe it's the fun & functional jewelry, accessories, and home décor that owner Kirsten Pagacz and her product designer husband sell. Perhaps it's the little bit naughty but oh so nice vintage parasols on display, or her stellar team. Whatever the reason, Kirsten and Doug Pagacz have created a successful, predominantly on-line business based on nostalgia and fun.
It's hard to believe that Kirsten started the business at her kitchen table with only $100! But she had the background and the commitment to make the company a success. She had spent her entire career in product development and marketing, and her husband Doug is a brilliant illustrator and artist with over 20 years of experience as a product developer. Plus, the two have been collecting art for years, so the creation of Retro-a-go-go! was a natural melding of work and love. Their passion for reinvigorating items from another era and bringing them to the marketplace is evident in their conversation and in their expression. Not only do they love to reminisce with customers about retro inspired accessories, they are excited to introduce their designs to a new generation of fans.
It hasn't always been easy and Kirsten was keenly aware that she could benefit from a mentor who could help guide her in the right direction. She knew marketing and merchandising, but when it came to selling her proposition to lenders, she wasn't as confident. In 2009, she attended a seminar taught by the SBA affiliated national non-profit organization called SCORE, whose members volunteer their time to mentor small business owners. Jim Martin, a SCORE mentor with an extensive background in finance, taught the class and Kirsten knew immediately that she wanted to work with him. They met frequently at the local public library and spent time developing a business plan with financial projections, both necessary to obtain the financing she knew she needed to grow the business.
With Martin's coaching and asking the right questions, coupled with growing sales, Kirsten finally felt that the time was right to ask for a loan. She contacted Huntington Bank and met with Jeffrey Diaz, who was both professional, personable and believed in her company. After receiving guidance from Diaz, and applying, she received an SBA guaranteed loan from Huntington Bank that allowed her to purchase inventory in volume. "The loan changed everything for us," said Doug. "The SBA process was smooth and Kirsten and I are working very hard to use the line of credit correctly." Kirsten said, "This was the turnkey for our business."
Not surprisingly, the company now sells to over 2,000 stores across the world, including Spain, Italy, Ireland, Australia, and Sweden. As to the future, Kirsten and Doug will be building new products lines, and breaking into the marketplace in a way that's not being done.
Kirsten credits Martin for always looking to the future. "After each meeting, we came out better than we started," said Kirsten. "This has been one of the best mentoring experiences I've had."