Vitals: Lauretta Smuck is a lifelong Rockford resident. She is co-owner of SWANK Boutique & Gallery, 218-1/2 E. State. St., and also works as a business development specialist for Southern Imperial, Inc. Smuck is a graduate of Bradley University.
1. What advice would you give to someone starting a new business in Rockford? Wow, there are tons of things to think about when starting a new business anywhere, like knowing your demographics, your competition and even your knowledge about the business itself. But, my biggest piece of advice would be to do what you love! Have a passion for it. That makes the really long hours worth it. And, don’t just think that by opening your doors that the world is going to flood you with business. That just doesn’t cut it. You have to get out there and hustle and really work for it. Show your customers who you are, why you are there and why you are better at it than everyone else. Get involved in your community; after all, they are your demographic.
2. How would your customers describe Swank to those who have never shopped there before? Quirky, fun and colorful, it’s total fabulosity, baby! People always tell me that SWANK is not at all what they expect. Since we are located in an upstairs space, some are leery at first to come check us out. They peer up our bright yellow stairs, doubtful of the climb, but then their curiosity gets the best of them, and up they come. Usually the second thing out of their mouths is, “Wow, this is really a great space, and I just love the colors!” Of course, they are thrilled with the mix of merchandise. We offer new and vintage clothing, furniture and local artists’ one-of-a-kind creations. But, I would have to say the biggest kick they get is from the tattoo area. They are really surprised by it because it’s just quietly tucked away. In fact, they are fascinated!
3. In your opinion, what could Rockford do to attract more businesses to the area? To attract new business in any community, I feel that perception and education are the key. Competition is tough out there, and overcoming the economic challenges we face in this country can sometimes seem daunting. … Our own perception of this community is poor. So, we really have to begin by selling ourselves. We really do have a lot to offer. We have wonderful established neighborhoods and many great cultural amenities here. Our close proximity to Chicago and Milwaukee is a plus, too, but our biggest attraction is our people, our hard-working, skilled people. That is where education comes in. Starting with grade school and ending with college or technical schools. … Not only do we need to provide our kids with the best educational tools possible, but most importantly, we need to expect more from our kids and challenge them. We just can’t keep doing the same old, same old anymore; it’s not fair to our students.
4. What has been your favorite part of summer 2010 thus far? Just being able to kick back and enjoy time with family and friends.
5. Question from last week’s “This week in The Times” participant, Stephan Clemons: What is your idea of a perfect summer day? Sunshine, the smell of barbecue and fresh cut grass–lounging on the deck with friends and family.
“This week in The Times” is a weekly survey of people selected by The Rock River Times staff. The column does not accept unsolicited submissions.
From the Aug. 4-10, 2010 issue