We’ve been repping for almost two years, so we’ve had our fair share of experience when it comes to working with small shops, as an ambassador, a rep, an enthusiast and even a fan.  Some experiences have been nothing short of amazing, while others made me question whether or not I wanted to continue repping (but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post).  Recently, it seems as though shops are finding that people are not applying to be a part of their teams if there are purchase requirements involved.  And I want to set the record straight.  It’s not because they are cheap. It’s not because they are looking for freebies… it’s because a lot of us are just not financially able to spend the money in addition to the time we dedicate. And that’s the sad reality of it.

I’ve said it before… it’s hard work being a part of a small shop team.  I remember when we first started, I thought it was getting clothes for free and snapping a few pics on my cell. And I’m not ashamed to admit I was SO WRONG!  I’m literally spending hours a day on something rep related.  Whether it’s shopping, styling, taking pictures, driving to and from the location, editing, posting, interacting, writing blog posts, answering emails, sharing sales (something I tend to forget to do more than I’ll admit), posting and organizing or posting giveaways…. I’m almost always doing something rep related.  And while it’s more rewarding than any job I’ll ever have, it’s also taking up time where I could be working and making money to pay the bills.

While I absolutely LOVE all things brand repping, I also need to be able to put food on the table and pay our bills so I have to put family first when I make decisions that are brand rep related.  It’s something that I find extra hard because I want to buy ALL of the clothes!  I’ve personally decided to stop applying to shops that have purchase requirements.  That doesn’t mean that I’m not spending money (believe me, my bank account will prove otherwise)… but that does mean that I can use my small shop budget on shops as I see fit.  If I need shorts to match with a tee, I can buy them.  If I see a crazy sale that I can’t pass up, I can take advantage of it!  If one of the shops we are working with is having a new release, I can participate! Believe it or not, I actually spend more with shops we work with that don’t have purchase requirements than those that do.

With purchase requirements, I feel pressure to buy something each month.  I will usually make that purchase at the beginning of the month so that I don’t forget.  But what happens with those shops that only release a few pieces at a time?  What if I have all of the pieces I love already?  What if I don’t really need anything else that they’re offering? I’m still obligated…. and so I have to spend part of my budget on something that I probably wouldn’t have purchased otherwise.

I decided to keep track of one particular experience, just so that I could put things into perspective.

We were enthusiasts for a small shop last year.  It was a shop that I was already purchasing from so when I joined the team, I could afford to buy more items because I was receiving a discount, which is always a big plus for me!  I made my first required monthly purchase.  The retail total of the three items I chose would have been around $78.  With my enthusiast discount, I paid around $60 with shipping.  All three items were photographed separately.  I spent around 30 minutes on each shoot and another 30 minutes editing each shoot.  Posting and interacting to get more likes/comments on the post was another 30 minutes (per post and I typically post 3 per shoot).  So if you’re keeping track… for this one order of three items, I spent approx. 7 1/2 hours.  My discount?  $23.40.  That’s a little more than $3 an hour for my time.

And this is where my husband and I disagree on things… he doesn’t see it as money saved, he sees it as money and time spent.  He pointed out that I actually paid $60 and spent 7 1/2 hours, working hard so that this shop could get exposure and images.  And while I was getting a discount on some INCREDIBLE handmade items, unfortunately, I can’t pay the bills with those items.  While he is absolutely right (shhh! don’t tell him I said that), I try to think about the end game.  I knew that when Falynn outgrew the items, I could sell them in a B/S/T group and while I won’t make all of my money back, I will get a portion back.  If you read my last blog post, you know that I don’t sell the items to make money, I sell them to make room, to get more exposure for these shops and to be able to afford to buy more small shop items.  For these particular items, I wound up receiving a total of $21 (after shipping) for all three items.  $21 that was quickly spent on a portion of a purchase requirement for another shop. A spending cycle that will probably never end.

So what can you do as a rep to continue to support these small shops without going broke or committing such a large chunk of your time to it?  My suggestion is to limit the number of shops you are committing to.  Don’t enter every search just to enter. Set a budget and stick to it.  Never spend more than you can afford. No shop wants you to go without eating just so that you can buy something from them (and if they do, you don’t want to work with them anyway). Sit down and really figure out what your budget is and STICK TO IT!  As hard as it may be, do it!  Don’t be afraid to sell the items in a B/S/T group once your little one has outgrown them.  Commit to use that money to purchase new items vs. using the money in the bank.

Now, let me give you my perspective as a shop owner.  This little experiment has really helped me tremendously with my own small shop team and finally allowed me to understand that purchase requirements aren’t necessary, especially when you have a strong team who love and support you.  I stopped holding searches. Instead, I message customers that have posted great pictures and invite them to join the team.  There are no terms, they can all stay as long as they’d like to.  I took away titles.  There are no more “levels”.  There aren’t different discounts. Everyone on the team receives the same discount to use when they need something.  If they don’t have the money, they can support my shops by sharing or interacting on my IG. I give everyone the same opportunity for freebies or heavily discounted items, when I have new items and need pictures.  We have a contest once every few months where they can win shop credit or free goodies.  I can’t speak for my team, but I think that it’s much less pressure for them and much less spending that they have to do.  I feel like the atmosphere in our group is more laid back and people are enjoying it more because they are taking pictures of things they wanted, not things they were required to buy.  And while I’m still working on things, I want to make sure that my team is a team that I would want to be a part of, as a rep.

Shops, put yourself in your team’s shoes.  Don’t think about it as a guaranteed sale every month, but more as a privilege to work with these incredible Mamas who will take beautiful pictures of your items and promote your shop because they want to, not because you are requiring them to.  That’s the key to your success as a small shop.  Surround yourself with people who are in this to help you but understand that none of them have money trees growing in their backyards.  Set a budget for advertising and stick to it!  Provide a discount or freebies based completely around your advertising budget.  Keep track of your orders and the return you are getting from this. Make changes as necessary until you find the sweet spot where you are getting the promotion you need to make the sales you need to pay your bills.

See, when we come together as a community, we can do big things for each other.  Reps and shops can and should be helping each other equally and looking out for one another.  We wouldn’t be reps if it wasn’t for the shops and shops wouldn’t have the promotion and pictures they need without reps.  Neither side is rolling around in money, but if we work together we can help each other to get to a place where repping is fun again and everyone is able to pay their bills.

In case you’re looking, my favorite B/S/T group is: Insta-Style Baby & Mama BST.

What do you think about this subject? Comment below and let me know your thoughts!  Have a topic you want me to talk about? Email us! Make sure to follow our daily small shop fashion on Instagram @thesmallfashionista and on our new Facebook page.