We've Made it to the Finalists!

Valhalla - Small Business of the Year

In March, Valhalla was nominated for the Tampa Chamber of Commerce's Small Business of the Year Award in the Start Up category by the SBDC.

The award is based on four criteria: ethical business practices, business goals and planning, operational management, and innovativeness. Unlike other awards, it's merit based rather than based on the popularity of the business.

We recently discovered that Valhalla is one of five other businesses that will move on to the final phase of the competition, a site visit! The first phase was a series of essays and then a presentation and interview.

Danielle was especially grateful that Melanie was there for the presentation because she has an extreme fear of public speaking and really froze up during the presentation but Melanie saved the day and performed perfectly. Actually, she KILLED IT!

We may need some help with thee final phase from our members but we not exactly sure what the  site visit will include but stay tuned. We should find out on August 1st what to expect and then we'll discover who the winner is in September.

We're hoping you are excited to experience the journey with us. You can help by cheering us on and helping us celebrate our victories to have gotten this far.

100 Member Boat Party

 Our membership is about more than sustainability, personal styling, and good deals.

Our membership is about more than sustainability, personal styling, and good deals.

 

On April 29th, Valhalla is celebrating having 100 members by shutting down the store and taking our members out on a boat ride.

We’re not your average clothing store and we don’t act like it.

Yes, you read that right, we're taking all of our members out for a party on a boat! We love our members and would like nothing more than to celebrate this momentous occasion than by parting on a boat.

Our membership is about more than sustainability, personal styling, and good deals; we're dedicated to building relationships with our members. And what better way to do that than by sipping champagne on a boat?!  We're not your average clothing store and we don't act like it.

We'd love for you to join us on Sunday, April 29, 2018 for our 100 Member Celebration. RSVP via Facebook.

Not a member yet, what are you waiting for?! Come in to get started today.

Shop Local

Seminole Heights Retail Locations Struggle with Slow Sales.

You may have heard the story the Tampa Bay Times did on Seminole Heights restaurants facing struggles because residents are afraid to leave their homes.

Well, retail businesses in the area are feeling the strain as well. For example, on Valhalla's busiest day of the week last week, we made $2 in total sales for the day. Sadly, we're not the only one facing such a steep decline in sales.

Supporting local business, especially in hard times like these, is an important thing you can do to help build your community.

According to a study done by American Express, homes near areas with a high proportion of small, local retailers saw a rise in property values 17% higher than growth in comparable areas with proportionally fewer independent retailers.

Last month Valhalla kept 79% of costs within the Seminole Heights community

According to the Civic Economics Study, about 68% of money spent in a local community stays within the community. David Boyle of the Community Supported Agriculture Program says, "Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going." When money is spent at big box stores, "it flows out, like a wound."

Shop Local Seminole Heights

At Valhalla, we strive to do better. Last month we kept 79% of costs within the Seminole Heights community. If you expand to look at Tampa as a whole, 89% of our expenses were kept within the community - about 20% more than the average small business. We also believe in supporting other women, 40% of our expenses last month went to supporting woman owned businesses and women in our community.

Things you can do to help:

  • Go out and shop local! Instead of getting a face cream at Target, pick it up at Cleanse Apothecary.
  • Organize a girls' day out shopping event. Shopping is always more fun with a lot of friends!
  • Make sure you're following your favorite local shops on social media.
  • Tell your friends about our great retail locations. Go to your favorite retail locations' Facebook pages and invite your friends to like the pages.
  • Make sure to shop local on Small Business Saturday.
  • Organize a group shopping event around Small Business Saturday.
  • Purchase gift certificates as way to help spread the word about your favorite retail location.
  • Share this article about the importance of shopping local. 
  • Use social media to tag yourself using a product from a local retail location.

#ShopSH

Our Solar Experience

The owner and founder of Valhalla made the decision to switch to solar power the day after the infamous anti-solar amendment 1 failed to pass.  She found it a significant way to use her dollars in protest of the unscrupulous advertising and lobbying efforts the oil industries had used in the state to convince voters that putting restrictions on solar was "great" for solar.  - In other words, she wanted to give big oil a big middle finger.  The fact that it's cheaper and much better for the environment didn't hurt either.

 

Danielle Describes the Process

"It was much more simple than I had imagined.  I hate paperwork - I know, as a former Office Manager, paperwork should excite me, but in truth, I've always loathed it.  I called up 3D Solar and they sent out a sales person to my home who helped me work up the numbers and apply for the loan.  It took probably less than 20 minutes."

 

Why you should take plunge

Really, I can't think of a single reason why you shouldn't. Putting the environmental benefits aside for a moment, solar just makes financial sense. I've switched out my electric bill for a 12 year loan - the loan payment is almost the same as my monthly bill before solar. After my loan is paid off, I'll have no more payment but my solar panels, with a 25 year warranty, should be producing solar for at least another 13 years. That means I should expect to save about $25,000; more if the panels last longer than the warranty.

 

Things to keep in mind

In Florida, you are required to be connected to the grid regardless if you have solar panels or receive energy from the electric company.  This requirement has two implications:

  1. You have to pay a monthly "grid connection" fee (you're already paying it). This fee can't be waived or credited away.
  2. If your grid looses power, you do to. You can add on a battery pack that allows you to save the power you produce.

 

What to know more?

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3 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Environmental Impact

Some within the clothing industry believe clothing is the number two polluter in the world, right next to the oil industry.  Because the clothing industry is incredibly complex: long supply chains, manufacturing, clothing construction, shipping, and the disposal of the each item, we may never know it's full impact on the environment. 

There are easy things we can do today to lessen the environmental impact: dispose of our unwanted clothing sustainably, change the way we consume, and when we do purchase clothing, purchase from the used market.

1. Dispose of unwanted clothing by donating. 

Only about 15% of textiles are donated each year, the rest ends up in landfills.  An outstandingly low number when you realize what happens to donated clothing. The average American throws away over 80 pounds of textile waste per year.  These discarded textiles are typically made out of synthetic material that takes hundreds of years to decompose. 

Instead of throwing away textiles, donating them is the environmentally responsible thing to do.  Most thrift stores, including Goodwill, make sure that damaged or unwanted clothing gets recycled.  In fact, half of the clothing donated ends up recycled.  30% ends up as rags and 20% is processed into fiber for things like furniture stuffing, insulation, etc.  What happens to the other half?  Well, 20% is sold locally, 25% is sold overseas to developing nations, and about 5% is deemed unusable due to mildew.

Clothing Donations

 

2. Change the way you consume. 

With the advent of fast fashion, we are consuming more clothing that ever; 80 billion new pieces a year.  That's 400% more than we did in the 1990's.  Because we are consuming so many clothes, we treat them as disposable goods rather than the durable goods they are (or should be).

We need to drastically change the way we consume clothing.  Buying clothes because they're deeply discounted or because new styles are coming from H&M and Zara weekly is not sustainable, not to mention, good for your wallet. 

That's why Valhalla was founded on the principle of the collective closet.  Instead of each individual owning hundreds of items that are rarely worn, we can share a neighborhood closet of thousands of ever changing items; clothes that have a continuing life instead of being discarded after a couple of wears. The collective closet actually lets you consume more but in an incredibly environmentally sustainable way. 

3. Purchase used clothing. 

Voting with your dollar is one the of the most powerful and easiest way to make a statement about your values.  Consumerism is alive and well in the US and one of the best ways to reduce the waste from this behavior is to buy used when possible and when it comes to clothes, there are lots of used choices.  Buying used means that you're reducing manufacturing demands - and all that slave labor - and helping keep clothing out of landfills; a double whammy deal!

Ultimate Capsule Wardrobe

It's Spring, the time of year you reassess the items you accumulated throughout your life, specifically the items in your closet.  I'm going to tell you the secret to having it all: a clutter free closet, cash from unwanted items, and the ultimate: never saying "I have nothing to wear" ever again.  The secret: a capsule wardrobe supplemented with Valhalla's collective closet.

The Secret to Having it ALL
  • Clean, organized closet
  • Minimalist lifestyle
  • Turning your unwanted items into value
  • Access to a community closet of over 2000 ever changing items
  • Best of all, never saying "I have nothing to wear" ever again

What is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is where you ruthlessly cut your current wardrobe down to almost nothing; between 30 and 35 pieces, including shoes.  You can keep the accessories but the few items you're left with are the items you'll be wearing exclusively for the next few months.  You'll want these pieces to be items that pair well with other items; usually neutral colors.

Sounds boring right?

I like variety.  I know, that's not exactly the point of a capsule wardrobe. 

I like the minimalist idea of a capsule wardrobe, in fact, I've embraced it hardcore.  I only have about 15 items of clothing but I religiously wear something different every single day.  In my closet, I only have the "essentials" that work with other items; cardigans, camisoles, leggings, etc.  To supplement these essentials, I have a community closet, Valhalla, full of different items in different sizes (for the weeks I eat salads and the weeks I don't).  I don't have to have my closet cluttered up with items I'll only wear a hand full of times and best yet, I don’t have to spend money on buying clothes. 

How to do it?

Closet Clean-out

Start by taking every single thing out of your closet.  I mean every s.i.n.g.l.e. item needs to come out.  There are a couple reasons everything needs to come out:  1. How are you supposed to see anything with all the clutter? 2. You need to evaluate every item in there, might as well do it comfortably instead of hunched and crunched in the closet. 

I suggest placing it on your bed, that way you have no excuse to put it off once you get started.  If you're not finished that day you'll be sleeping on giant piles of clothes.  Ugh! 

Let the Sorting Begin!

You'll need to make a two piles:

L.O.V.E. Pile: this pile is only for clothes that look fantastic on and you will wear.  Not, "I might wear" or "I used to wear".  Straight up, this pile is only for "I'm going to wear."  This pile is not for items with sentimental value.  If you have a couple things that you feel you need to keep for the memories, take them and put them somewhere else; somewhere they'll be safe but not seen on a daily basis.

Sell/Donate: Get rid of everything that doesn't belong in the love pile.  If you don't love something, it doesn't deserve closet space.  Everything, including damaged or very worn items should go in this pile.  "Why donate damaged clothes?" you ask.  When you throw away clothing it ends up in a landfill decomposing at an astonishingly slow rate - Not good for the environment.  When you donate to a thrift store, about 50% of items end up being recycled anyway so why not let it be donated instead of ending up doing harm to the environment?  Remember: Valhalla purchases used clothing for store credit and will donate anything we don't take.

Donated Clothing

Notice I didn't leave room for a "maybe" pile.  A capsule wardrobe has no room for "maybe" items.  You'll need to be excited to wear every single item your closet.  After all, the point is to be left with a small amount of items that work well together and fits you in both style and size.

Winter Options

As we live in Florida, I suggest leaving no room for winter items except for one jacket and a coat (if you have one) in case you travel somewhere cold.

A traditional capsule wardrobe should comprise everything you'll wear for the next few months or longer and nothing else so it's essential that all the pieces work together to give you the maximum variety in composing outfits. 

Capsule Wardrobe + Valhalla's Collective Closet

Having access to Valhalla's collective closet, I keep only things that are essential for supplementing my rentals.  I usually don't even wear my own clothes at all since I typically choose to wear a dress from Valhalla but if I choose a tunic, I'll pair it with my own leggings.  Or if I know I'm going somewhere chilly, I'll throw on a cardigan of my own.  It keeps my closet clutter free and makes getting dressed in the morning oh so easy!  

Keeping It within the Community

Starting a Business Costs a Fortune

Starting a new business takes practically a fortune to get it off the ground, especially starting a brick and mortar store.  Luckily I was able to use a number of small, local businesses which allowed me to put a large portion of that fortune back into our community.  Giving back to the community we live and work in has been a passion of mine since I moved to Seminole Heights 10 years ago.  When you spend your dollars at a small business, about 70% stays in the local community.  This means that the money you spend helps to keep people employed within our community.  We were lucky enough to have opportunities to spend with small, local companies in our start up phase and we will continue to do so as we continue operations.

For every dollar you spend at a small business, about 70% stays in the local community.

Worries of a Startup

I knew that I was planning on starting a business that no one had ever started before.  Which sounds great, but in reality, as the founder, I was constantly worried that this just wouldn't work.  Thoughts like "if no one else has thought of this,  it must be a bad idea" played on a continuous loop in my brain.  Luckily, the folks at USF's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) assigned me a business adviser that read my business plan and gave me the confidence to get the ball rolling. 

Help Along the Way

Blind Tiger in Ybor provided me with a much needed space for working on my business plan and just general planning.  I spent many long days and nights (and weekends too) working away in their co-work space.  As an added bonus, I made some great connections and friends. 

Just across the street from Blind Tiger is Corral and Gallagher Attorneys at Law P.A. who helped me with an invaluable referral for carpentry work; Hard Tack.  - I know, strange that I got a carpentry referral from lawyers but what can I say, they know their local businesses!

The space wouldn’t be what it is today without all the hard work and long hours Nick Lorden at Hard Tack put into making Valhalla an interesting, fun, and functional space.  Hard Tack had full creative control; I have to say, the pieces Nick finished would not have looked half as great if I had any of the creative control.  Hard Tack designed, built, and installed the massive front counter, wall of plants, front window display, and the laundry sorting rack in the laundry room.  Nick even had the brilliant idea of designing the counter specifically to my height so I would be comfortable working long hours, knowing that I suffer from neck and back pain.

 Hard Tack's Counter & Plant Wall

Hard Tack's Counter & Plant Wall

Rustic Steel found and installed the reclaimed barn door and fabricated the steel frames of the dressing rooms which gives the store a very unique look and I think it adds a bit of fun to the dressing room experience.  I was a little afraid to approach Rustic Steel about the project because their work is always so artistic and different but they were happy to help.  The chairs in the dressing room came to us from D&D Antiques.  I absolutely love the gold velvet color. 

 Rustic Steel's Barn Door & Dressing Room Frame

Rustic Steel's Barn Door & Dressing Room Frame

Powerhouse Electric of Tampa Bay did the electrical work in the store - I know not glamorous but important just the same.  They were very helpful with suggesting placement of the lighting and completed the work exactly on time (even though they had a lot of work to do).

Corwin Design did all of Valhalla's print work: business cards and flyers.  I came from an office work environment where I was not so affectionately called the "paperless queen."  I have to admit, in the beginning I poo pooed the idea of using paper for really anything but I've realized that people expect to be able to hold on to the idea of your business and share it with others.  I used the flyers and business cards to spread the word about the opening of the store at Fringe Creatives' neighborhood markets and we're going to be using Fringe Creatives' artists to help fill our store with art you can purchase from locals.  The artists will rotate so you'll see new artists' work on a regular basis.

At Valhalla we are committed to health of our environment, after all, the idea of a collective closet was to help stop waste, so we have made a decision not to provide plastic, disposable bags to customers.  Instead, we offer cotton reusable bags which were purchased from Warhole Designs.  They also did a great job on the window decals displaying our logo.  

No Personal Time - Even for Little Things

Getting the build out done in only a month and a half was challenging.  It meant that I was painting, tagging, inventorying, and doing laundry pretty much 24/7 which left very little time to do anything for myself - namely feeding myself.  Luckily for me, the folks at Sulfur Springs Sandwich Shop and the lovely ladies at Above the Salt kept me feed.  

More people to thank

There are many many more businesses and people that supported us and helped Valhalla become what it has today.  From words of encouragement, recommendations, sharing social media, to telling friends the old fashion way.  Thank you to you all! <3

Valhalla Opening Soon in Tampa

Valhalla will be opening very soon and the best way to get the most value out of your current wardrobe is to in trade clothes you no longer wear for credit towards a membership. 

Get prepared now so you’ll be ready for when we open.

The best thing to do if you’re considering a membership is to pare down your wardrobe as much as you can, perhaps to an uncomfortable level.  Set aside blouses and dresses that still work for you for trade but keep essentials that go with other items like leggings, jeans, camisoles, and cardigans.  You’ll be able to take a casual dress you've rented with your membership into the evening when the temperature drops if you’ve held on to a cardigan and you’ll save one of your three membership rentals for something more important. 

Tampa Clothing Membership

8 Tampa Area Thrift Stores to Update Your Wardrobe

 Best deals on recycled clothing in Tampa

Best deals on recycled clothing in Tampa

Thrifting can be incredibly rewarding if you’re into treasure hunting and can be even better when you have some insider tips.  Whether you have time during the week or only on the weekend, there are deals to be had!  Go out there and snatch them up!

Wednesdays – Salvation Army

Salvation Army has half price clothes every Wednesday.  If you’re going to make a day of it, start with the one at 13910 N Nebraska, it has the best selection and seems to be bigger than the ones on S Mac Dill and Wesley Chapel.  Arrive at least 15 minutes before they open at 9AM to make sure you get a cart.  If you've still got energy after checking out, check out the other locations.

Thursdays – Sunshine Thrift

Sunshine Thrift does half price clothes days too but not as often as Salvation Army’s once a week.  Each of their three stores has a text code, found on their home page that you can use to receive regular texts which contain coupon codes for half price day which happens once a month at each location.  Make sure you text the code to opt in for the coupons otherwise you won’t be given the discount and they won’t let you text at the checkout to get the code or have a friend share it with you (I know, crazy strict with the rules).  Take a second and send them a text.  The limit is 100 items but unless you've really gone over board, you won't even get a tenth of that.

Again, the key here is to get there early to get a cart.  If you’re going with a friend and they get done early, ask them hold a place in line because it can wrap around the store on these busy days.  Buy them a popcorn for $.25 as a nice thank you. 

A bonus of opting in for coupons is when they have a back stock of certain items, the manager will send a text with a special discount for the day.  You might get a text letting you know that that day all women’s sleeveless shirts are $.50.  Yes, you read that correctly, offers can be as low as $.50!  They usually exclude tags that hang and only include stapled tags.  You don’t have to have be opted in to receive the discount but you’d never know when the deal is in effect as they only do it on an as needed basis.

Saturdays – Hope Thrift Stores

Hope Thrift Store sells their women’s clothes for $1 a piece on the last Saturday of the month.  The only exclusion is the formal dresses which are off to the side of the rest of the dresses so it’s easy to see which ones are excluded.  While their selection might not be as good as Sunshine Thrift or Salvation Army, the crowd is much smaller which can be refreshing and you just can’t beat $1 for a dress or jeans!  You can easily get 90% off thrift store prices at Hope on their $1 days.  At Sunshine and Salvation Army, the average price on half off day is about $4 or so.

Tips

There are many items that are damaged so you must be extra vigilant in inspecting your selections.  I strongly recommend trying everything on before you go home with anything.  You’re more likely to spot an imperfection if you’re trying an item on plus you won't be stuck with something that doesn't fit perfectly.  If you’re skipping this step, try folding each item.  You'd be surprised at how much you can catch doing this exercise.  At least make sure the zippers function, check out the armpits for damage or discoloration, and the hold it up to the light for the infamous grease stains in the chest area.  

Happy Thrifting!