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Meet Susanne Johnson of Verbena Sky in Scottsdale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susanne Johnson.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
As a teenager, I was a serious student. I aspired to be a businesswoman who worked in an exciting industry and loved her job. While in college and enrolled in business classes, I kept having a variety of entrepreneurial ideas. However, it wasn’t until 2004 – 2005 or so did I get the inspiration to open an online business. I have always been fascinated with technology. Back in 2000, I went to work for a tech startup. After being in the industry for a few years, I was even more interested in the field and had a much better understanding of how the online world operated.

Later, when online shopping arrived for everyone, I loved it! I was enthralled with the visual aspect of it – all the pretty images, the visual branding, and the flow of the pages. I enjoyed the ease of finding products through online search – versus driving to another store. I loved the excitement of when your purchased arrived. was an early inspiration for me. Shoe paradise. Amazing selection. Great prices. Cute delivery box.

Besides being an enthusiastic online customer, I had a really good understanding of the back office operations of retail. While I was a student, I paid for much of my tuition by selling clothing, jewelry, handbags, and accessories in boutiques and department stores. I particularly enjoyed selling jewelry at Nordstrom.

In 2015, many things were realigned in my life and I had the opportunity to start a micro-sized online store. I was enthused by the new channels that were available to the industry now – social media sales and advertising, online marketplaces, and creative new ideas on managing inventory and shipping. I decided to go for it. In 2016, I launched Verbena Sky.

I decided to focus on women’s jewelry, handbags, and accessories for several reasons. In addition to my experience in selling these products, I loved the idea that size is never an issue for our customers. No matter what size you wear, a handbag always fits. Jewelry always enhances your outfit and always reflects your mood and personality. Verbena Sky is there to “complete your look”.

Now, I realize that an online store is not going to change the world. However, it seems that many are feeling a great deal of added stress these days. If Verbena Sky can provide a fun diversion to someone as they scroll through our website, that makes me happy. A new pair of earrings can brighten someone’s day. A new leather bag can bring confidence to someone’s job interview. My goal is to make sure that leather bag is a really gorgeous one!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Operating a business is never a smooth road – no matter who you are or how many resources you have. The easiest part is the initial set up of the business. From there, entrepreneurs are challenged almost every day. The struggles are not just financial and not just to get vital pieces of work done. But the entrepreneur needs to learn what she is good at and what she must hand off to others. Success will be elusive otherwise.

Key issues are always: How do you find more customers? How do you communicate your brand and how often and through what channels? How do you decide to work with new partners and how do you decide which partnerships no longer make sense? Often there is no clear answer because companies like people are all different. Figuring it out is like a big fun puzzle. For me, all of these challenges are part of the journey.

Please tell us about Verbena Sky.
Verbena Sky is an online fashion boutique. We are handbag and jewelry enthusiasts! Our focus is on affordable luxury. We like luxurious basics made from natural materials, such as linen, silk, cotton, alpaca, wool, and semi-precious gemstones. Our curated selections include fine genuine leather goods, real sterling silver, and gold. We also have some products made from eco-friendly and vegan materials. The emphasis is on the customer who is seeking stylish, beautifully made pieces in addition to trend-setting items.

We specialize in carrying items from independent fashion designers. We are constantly seeking exciting and unique styles from smaller brands and those who specialize in “slow fashion” — the opposite of “Fast Fashion” which has low-quality mass production. We work with brands who make items by hand, who only get their materials from quality sources, and produce small batches of well-made goods.

Although we have partnerships with some large national brands, Verbena Sky is a small company and we believe in supporting other small businesses. We are proud to work with independent brands, artisan handbag makers, jewelry designers who work in their own studios, and other small businesses.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I had to start over, I don’t think I would have done anything differently. But I have learned that it is important to stop and take a high-level look at the business to make sure you are on track. Don’t do it every six months. Don’t do it every week. But it is helpful to do it every couple of months. Despite loving many aspects of your business, it is important to be objective to make sure you are developing the business in the best way possible.

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