Prima Diva Boutique owner goes from unemployed to successful small business owner
CHARLEROI, PA – Daneen Troup has a thing for bling – that flashy, ostentatious jewelry. Apparently, so do many other shoppers in Western Pennsylvania’s Mon Valley.
Troup credits her flair for finding shiny and stylish pieces coupled with the support of Charleroi residents and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) with transforming her from unemployed to a savvy, successful small business owner.
“When I lost my bank job as a market sales coordinator, I cried. Then I went to work part-time at our local chamber, which was promoting the vacant downtown store fronts,” Troup explained. “I guess losing my job gave me the chance to do what I wanted to do, which was to open a retail shop.”
Troup utilized the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to formulate a business plan for a clothing store, which she dubbed Prima Diva Boutique.
The SBDCs and Women’s Business Centers (WBC) are made up of a unique collaboration of the SBA, state and local governments and private sector resources and provide a vast array of technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. The SBDC program remains one of the nation’s largest small business assistance programs backed by the SBA.
“Locally, we have eight SBDCs and one WBC,” said SBA Pittsburgh District Director Kelly Hunt. “And the best part is the majority of services are either low-cost or free and counseling is confidential.”
Prima Diva Boutique is so successful that within four years, Troup went from selling consignment items on a part-time basis to showcasing her fashion finds from buying trips in a large, corner storefront – more than doubling her retail space and customers. In fact, sales are up a whopping 80 percent from last year.
But, like many small business owners, Troup’s success today, as proprietress of the trendy accessory and clothing shop belies her humble beginnings.
“I opened my doors during the awful snowstorm of 2010, splitting my time between the store and the chamber,” she explained. “The chamber really helped me get the consignment clothes and customers; we sent out postcards and utilized social media allowing me to pay my bills that first month.”
Troup scoured thrift stores for furniture and fixtures painting them a sleek black. She ventured into purchasing with a collection of large and decorative purses and jewelry – which her customers seemed to love. “That’s when I realized my niche,” she said.
Today, Troup routinely travels to Atlanta where she strives to find unique fashion and jewelry at affordable prices.
“It’s so exciting to buy merchandise and see first-hand the reactions to my collection, because the more excited my customers get, the more excited I get,” she said. “After I lost my job, I never thought I would be in this position.”
She stressed that her rise to the town’s most formidable fashionista took years. “I made a profit the first year, but, it was nothing to squeal about,” she stated. “As a business owner, you have to be prepared to work long hours for very little money.”
Troup added, aspiring entrepreneurs need to take advantage of the many free and available resources, such as SBDC counseling and entrepreneurial workshops offered throughout the SBA Pittsburgh District Office footprint.
According to Hunt, Troup’s story may sound quite amazing, but many successful small business owners have shared her ups and downs.
“It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to work two jobs and take no salary for many years, Hunt added. “But the fruits of their efforts often are the cornerstone of community pride and future development creating a vibrant Main Street with shops offering unique products and unparalleled customer service.
Today, Prima Diva is placing customers on a waiting list for its hip sweaters and the signature sequined scarves have sold out. “The town is my greatest asset. I don’t pay for advertising because everyone tells their friends ‘you’ve got to shop at Prima Diva.’”
“Today’s SBA: Smart, Bold, Accessible”