Getting Started: Opening a Business with Your Best Friend

A conscious decision to succeed and never let business get in the way of their solid friendship is all it took for R&B songstress and Atlanta housewife Kandi Burruss and her friend Peaches Chin to open a boutique together–TAGS Boutique in Atlanta. Though Peaches, the day-to-day business half of TAGS, was able to make the being-friends-as-well-as-co-owners detail  a non-issue,  a will to succeed beyond business and her extensive experience in retail and celebrity styling didn’t prepare her for how fast the success of the boutique has taken off in its first year.

While out of the country, Peaches set aside time to talk to about the rapid success of TAGS and mixing business with friendship. As part owner of TAGS, what do you do?

Chin: While Kandi is the face of the business, handling all the marketing and promotion, I run the day-to-day operations, including the buying, sourcing new lines for the latest and trendiest styles, hiring staff and making sure our customers are always a priority.

You have prior experience in retail and styling. What exactly does your experience include, and how instrumental was it in preparing you for opening TAGS?

Before TAGS, I owned and operated my own retail store for ten years called Runway Fashion. I had two locations in Atlanta with celebrity clientele, and that’s how I met Kandi and several of the artists I ended up working with as a stylist. From there I started my own styling company called Fashionably Loud and worked with rappers T.I., Three 6 Mafia, and Young Jeezy, just to name a few.

Runway Fashion was very instrumental in preparing me for TAGS. When I opened Runway Fashion, I had no experience in being a boutique owner.  But over the years, I learned the do’s and dont’s of running a retail business. After a successful ten years, I decided to close the stores and pursue fashion on a more intimate level and started styling on a regular basis. Runway Fashion was my training wheels for TAGS.

What was different about opening TAGS?

Kandi is such a great down-to-earth individual, and her fans really support her. I was overjoyed and overwhelmed with their response and support of TAGS; but I wasn’t ready for it. Customers came in looking for Kandi a lot–and that was good. I just didn’t know TAGS would catch on as fast as it did.

Initially, you had some worries about going into business with Kandi because of your friendship. How did you get past your concerns?

My main concern was being consumed with business and forgetting to be friends. However that has not happened. Before moving forward, we talked several times over dinner, and we decided that this was going to be a good partnership and that each would focus on their strength in growing the business. Sometimes when you partner with a friend, everything becomes about the business. You don’t talk anymore, and you lose that friendship. Kandi eased my mind, and I eased hers, and that’s how TAGS came to be.

We’ve heard of business partnerships between friends that didn’t turn out well, but what is the good that you’ve found to come of yours?

There are several pros, but the main one is you know the person and can talk candidly about everything. Then there’s the fact that we’re making money together while maintaining our friendship.

What’s a typical day like for you?

On a typical day, I’m in the store interacting with our customers and making sure our products and inventory are fully stocked and displayed correctly. I monitor our Facebook and Twitter sites as well. I am also working to expand our online business.

Your approach, “luxury for less,” is an ideal one, especially with people spending smarter. Is it safe to say the recession worked in your favor?

True, people have started spending smarter and we wanted to capitalize on this new wave of shoppers. “Luxury for Less” definitely appeals to all [types of] people–from the business professionals to the housewives, as everyone is always looking for affordable luxury. So the economy has had no negative effect on our business as it is steadily growing.

Retail can be a tough business! What’s working for TAGS?

Our focus is always on customer service. I feel this sets us apart from most boutiques. Our motto is the price brings you in but the service brings you back! Also our inventory is trendy and edgy with a touch of class. We also host several customer appreciation parties in-store, and Kandi gets a chance to meet and mingle with the customers.

What can we expect to see from you and Kandi in the future?

We are looking to expand with a second location in 2011. In addition to our TAGS t-shirts, we have added TAGS signature scented soy candles, TAGS body sugar scrubs and more body products coming soon. We also plan to expand our online business, offering more variety including plus-size.

Thinking of partnering with your BFF? Peaches suggests 5 tips!

  1. The No. 1 rule is to know your role, and give it 100%.
  2. Always maintain good communication.
  3. Honesty and trust is essential not only for friendship, but business too!
  4. Be yourself and speak candidly with each other.
  5. Be flexible and open to change.

 Peaches, who just completed opening a boutique for Toya, of BET’s Tiny & Toya,  in New Orleans,  is currently working on launching a shoe store in March.