“I wanted to be mobile since the get-go,” Tess Coats said. Albuquerque hasn't seen anything like her business, and that intrigued the entrepreneur.
BY DERICK JONES
For Tess Coats, community is everything.
Without their support, she wouldn’t be where she is today – debuting her mobile boutique Spectacle Caravan.
“This is a reimagined shopping experience,” Coats said, sipping an iced coffee at one of her favorite shops, Velvet. Baby in hand (and baby in belly), the 30-year-old-mom is literally juggling the things most important to her – her family and her dream.
And she’s determined to pull it off.
In June of 2015, Coats raised nearly $6,000 for her mobile project, and the bulk of that went directly into purchasing the backbone of her business. Coats believes Spectacle should be a form of emotional escapism – and she feels sure you’ll find that inside her 29-foot 1975 Airstream Land Yacht.
“We’ve seen businesses crumble, brick and mortar places that just close,” Coats said. “Then, you see this new business model of mobile emerge – food trucks, vintage shops, all sorts of things.”
Spectacle Caravan made its official debut on May 1 at the Rail Yards Market. “I wanted to be mobile since the get-go,” Coats said. Albuquerque hasn’t seen anything like her business, and that intrigued the entrepreneur.
Coats said she’s been sitting on the idea for quite some time, but two years ago, she decided this was the avenue she wanted to take. As a visual merchandiser for Marble Brewery and The Grove Cafe and Market, with a background in visual communication design from FIDM in Los Angeles, Coats has already established herself as someone who knows good style.
She’s also been selling the products she plans to offer at events around town like Moonstone Saturdays at Downtown bar Sister.
Working in retail for nearly 15 years has given her the advantage she needs, of truly knowing what works and what doesn’t, Coats explains. Through participation in Albuquerque’s entrepreneurial support systems like ABQid and Hautepreneurs, her business acumen is only amplifying.
Acquiring the Airstream was her biggest task at hand – now everything, as she puts it, has begun to shift into place.
“This was the biggest customer validation, people actually paying me for this idea,” said Coats, who raised her initial goal, the funds to buy the Airstream, through an IndieGoGo campaign. “That was huge for me.”
There’s still a bit of money to raise, but Coats’ plan from the beginning was to stay as debt-free as possible. Taking her time on this venture was key. Eliminating the cost of rent was her first goal, now she’s on to her second – preparing and refining the inventory.
Some of the products you’ll find in her wonderland include handmade ceramics from Hanselmann Pottery, based in Corrales, N.M. “We already have a following for their thumb cups,” said Coats, who explained these cups have an indentation for the thumb, making it easier to hold.
You’ll also find lipsticks and other beauty products by Howl Cosmetics, which is based right here in Albuquerque. Coats said she wants to bank on products such as Howl because no one else in the area has, and that gives her an advantage. Their products are also vegan and cruelty free.
“I want to sell more of a variety of offerings versus quantity,” Coats explained. “But I want to make sure I have products people are familiar with. When you take a trip, there are places you will always visit because you’re used to it back home. I want to make sure to have those products available.”
As Coats becomes more mobile and takes her business on the road, she says her product offerings will shift based on where she is; in the process, she can create a true caravan of entrepreneurs.
“My next milestone? I’d like to acquire a parking lot where all things mobile can [exist]. Austin, Portland and San Francisco all have it – why not us? It would encourage more entrepreneurs who don’t have a lot of money to start up,” Coats said.
And the even bigger growth plan is rentals. Coats said she would love to eventually coordinate mobile units for events. First things first, she’ll be exclusively focusing on the branding of Spectacle and establishing her online presence during the next year.
The final phases of renovating and retrofitting the vintage classic are almost done, thanks to Couty Design. Coats’ initial goal to keep it as “retro” as possible has since wavered, but customers who enter Spectacle Caravan will nevertheless be transported.
“I’m not reinventing the wheel, but [this] needed to happen here,” Coats said, adding that she hopes others start to jump on this trend. “I welcome healthy competition.”
Derick Jones reports on art, retail and fashion for ABQ Free Press. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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