Good customer service — a customer may be unhappy with a product, but if the retailer is willing to work with and offer a solution to make the customer happy that customer is 100 times more likely to be a returning customer for life!
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kayla Veillion. The founder of Southern Taters, a baby and children’s clothing collection inspired by traditional Southern styles, Kayla resides in Morgan City, Louisiana. Even in challenging times, Southern Taters is thriving with Kayla’s expert insight on what styles parents will love and purchase.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Sure! It all started when I had my first son. I would purchase sweet pieces for him to wear from online retailers all of the time. I love the classic baby look. When he was 7 months old I decided, I would try my hand at designing and that’s how I got started! I am very fortunate for how fast the business has grown.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I think the most interesting story since starting Southern Taters would be when a friend of mine was visiting a hospital in Tennessee. One of the nurses asked her if she knew of the brand Southern Taters since she is also from my hometown. She of course told her yes and that we had worked together in the past! It’s just such a small world and I was truly humbled by the story when she told me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
When I first started we worked out of a spare room in my house! I actually remember making my husband tape all of my packages by hand and tape all of the shipping labels one each package. It took us forever and he hated me for it! We soon figured out that you can purchase shipping labels that are stickers and poly mailers with tear-off adhesive tops. We still laugh about this.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We are currently working on the new launch of our app with the App Store and Google Play! We think it will help make the ordering process 100 times easier for busy parents.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I would recommend setting boundaries for themselves. To try not to take work home (or designate a space in your home just for work if you work from home) so that you can enjoy your family and to put your phone down! It’s harder to do than it is to say, I know but setting boundaries will keep you sane and balanced.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am truly grateful for my husband. He is the one who encouraged me to take the leap of faith and open the business back in 2017. Since then he has encouraged me, stood by me, helped me with whatever I needed and been my biggest support system. I truly couldn’t do it without him. Since opening the first business, we have opened two new businesses, also clothing related.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Having my business has truly been a blessing to my family. We have grown so much in just three short years it truly is unbelievable. We have been so blessed so when we can we try to bless others as well. We donate face masks to hospitals courtesy of Southern Taters. Our supplier actually makes face masks so we purchased and donated around four thousand masks last year to local hospitals, nursing homes, and care facilities. This year we have already donated over 400 outfits to children in need here in our hometown and we hope to do more donations in the future.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
The pandemic has absolutely changed the world of online shopping forever I believe. I think people now realize the convenience of online shopping more than ever. I think the main thing retailers can do and should do to adapt to the new reality is invest in online advertisement. Advertise anywhere and everywhere you can that makes sense for your business. There are so many platforms that you can even utilize free or low cost advertising on. Facebook is the biggest! You can use it in so many positive ways.
In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?
I do believe that retail stores and malls will always exist. I do not currently own a storefront so I can not speak from experience, but if I did I would make sure I had products in store that I knew you could not purchase online and brick & mortar exclusive designs. Being able to see a brand in person and assess the quality of craftsmanship is also important. Many customers enjoy the in person, social interaction of shopping in stores so I would be sure to make every shopping experience for my customers one they enjoy.
The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers? Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
I would advise for retail and ecommerce companies to continue being consistent. Consistency is key I believe. Consistent presence, social media, advertisements, consistently making new products available to purchase and most importantly consistent turnaround and ship times!
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Learn to separate your person and business life. — If you are having a bad day, the customer should never know.
2. Good customer service — a customer may be unhappy with a product, but if the retailer is willing to work with and offer a solution to make the customer happy that customer is 100 times more likely to be a returning customer for life!
3. Respect — always have the utmost respect for yourself, your business, and your customers.
4. Help — offer help in any way that you can to that customer. Be sure that they feel comfortable asking any and all questions pertaining to the products they are looking to purchase.
5. Keep a positive and upbeat environment for the customers to shop in. In my line of work, we are strictly on Facebook. All of my customers are in a private group and we always make sure to post positive things to keep the customers engaged. We do not ever make negative posts in the group because our customers feed off of the energy you put out. We keep things upbeat and I think my customer base appreciates that so much!
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could start a movement, it would certainly pertain to help children. A movement to educate our children of the future so that when they are old enough to make a change and a difference, they can! Something to help empower the powerless.
How can our readers further follow your work?
We are active on Facebook — you can find our VIP group there: Southern Taters: A Small Town Smock Company VIP
We are also active on Instagram — our handle is @southerntaters
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!