Starting a business is never easy. It takes hard work, drive, and dedication. An entrepreneur is characterized by a passion not everyone possesses; a determination to succeed unique to her and that is inspiring to those around her. The entrepreneur lives and breathes her goals, her dream, her vision. Take as an example Roxanne Hauldren, a young entrepreneur from a small town in West Virginia who arrived in New York City with the same goal many come to this city with: to make it. Roxanne is the owner and mastermind of Shop with Rox, a business specializing in private shopping tours in New York City, and which has successfully escalated into partnerships with over 50 fashion designers and brands, and even prestigious hotel chains.
Roxanne welcomed us to her apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on a very cold morning of March. As charming as the first time we met her a few years ago during Intermezzo Fashion Trade Show at the Javits Center, Roxanne’s small-town girl spirit always shines through. This charisma and spark are characteristic of her. Two of the many reasons why her clients continue to travel from all over the world to experience her shopping tours. Roxanne makes you feel welcomed, cared for, listened to, and understood. The confident way in with which she carries herself and conducts her business is contagious and will translate into an equal boost of confidence in her clients. The moment you talk with Roxanne, you will realize she is not just a simple, small-town girl. This is a woman who has successfully built her business concept in an industry quick to chew you out. Over a warm cup of coffee, she had ready for us when we arrived, we sat with Roxanne to talk about her career and how Shop with Rox became New York City’s most coveted shopping tour experience.
Can you tell us about yourself, your background, and education?
Growing in up in a small mill town of West Virginia, daily life was simply predictable. I was involved with the local community theater from a very young age, taking music lessons and classes at an arts center. I was the typical teenager: caring too much about what I wore each day to school, hanging out at the mall on Fridays, or at high school football games, and spending most of my money on clothes, and hair tools and supplies. At seventeen, I started teaching piano and voice lessons to elementary students at a local music studio and working at the ticket counter of a concert venue on the weekends. I moved to Ohio for college, and attended Youngstown State for music and theater, and graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts. This was a very broad program. We were required to learn other trades such as custom design, makeup, lighting and scenic design and construction. I was not the best a sewing, but absolutely loved the process of creating customs and transforming into another character.
When did you decide to move to New York City? How was your arrival here? Any challenges or surprises?
Moving to New York City after college was always part of the plan since I was 16. I sold my car in 2009, and with that money, I took that leap of faith! I moved into a sublet with five roommates in Williamsburg. People I met off craigslist. Don’t tell my mom! (She laughs). Later I started bartending, and moved in with two new roommates! More craigslist!
In 2009, during the recession, getting a job in NYC was extremely difficult. An open call for bartenders was usually full of college educated people who had lost their jobs – bankers, teachers, nurses, etc. I probably interviewed with 20 different restaurants that year! At the same time, I was auditioning, teaching acting and voice lessons, doing off-Broadway shows, working brand-ambassador gigs, and even had a brief stint singing for wounded veterans! I was doing it all! I was determined to not only make it in NYC but also to pay my rent! (She laughs).
Obviously, you come from a creative background in the arts. How did the idea for Shop with Rox come about?
Before every audition, I would go out and search the sale racks at small boutiques trying to find something perfect. This helped me learn how to put an outfit together that would not break the bank. It occurred to me then that when people visit New York City, many of them do not know where to shop at besides the big retailers. Most tourists want to shop! Many come to New York City only to shop. That’s when the light bulb went on: I love shopping; I love clothes, and I love putting outfits together. These were the beginning stages of the Shop with Rox experience!
Can you tell us more about these beginning stages?
Technology has made starting a business much easier today. However, the struggles of having your business take off will always be there during the beginning stages. Many people thought I was a total scam! When dropping off my business cards at stores or hotels, the staff would sneer at me. I used my visiting friends and relatives for practice, and to perfect the Shop with Rox tour experience. Nevertheless, my business went months without reviews on Trip Advisor. It was disheartening at first, but I pushed on! I was focused on making this business grow.
Moving on from those struggles, what was it like when you got your first client?
Oh my! I was so excited! My first real clients were from Paris. They filled out the Shop with Rox online survey to book the tour, and can you believe that I almost did not take the booking? We all have this little, evil voice within ourselves that no matter how hard we try to fight it, sometimes it tries to make us feel less than what we are; to feel insecure about ourselves. At that moment, after months of trying to make my business take off, that little voice came to life: “Why would people from Paris want a small-town girl to show them where to shop in New York City?”, it said. “They are visiting from a Fashion Capital. How can a West Virginia girl show them the Fashion Capital of New York?” But, once again, I pressed on!
These clients had read I lived in Brooklyn. At the time, Brooklyn was becoming New York City’s “it” neighborhood. They wanted to see Brooklyn and shop locally. I met with them, gave them the shopping tour of Brooklyn, and even bought them a cocktail at my favorite local bar. They were delighted! To my surprise, they rated my tour 5 stars on Trip Advisor. At that time, the personal connection and sense of experience people seek today when shopping was a new concept. I was ahead of the game!
How has your business grown, and expended?
That first year was a lot of trial and error: from how to properly price my services, to how to approach brands, and hotels. Since the beginning, I knew I needed something to set me apart. When I began offering Garment District Experiences, I started to build partnerships with stores and designers in the area. Securing these first few partnerships was difficult as my business was still small. Nevertheless, as more partners came on board in New York City, I was able to form new partnerships with incredible and talented designers and small businesses. I have been able to travel the country and abroad in search of new brands and experiences. This growth has allowed me to partner with amazing hotels as well, and to create unique retail and fashion experiences throughout NYC, and the US. Now, I also offer consulting services to designers and brands.
Today, besides partnerships, I can count over 500 loyal clients from all over the world, with different backgrounds and lifestyles. From magazine editors to entrepreneurs, fitness gurus, and stay-at-home moms, Shop with Rox has become their tour experience of choice when visiting NYC.
What do you love most about your career, and what motivates you to keep on going?
Every day, I wake up to the opportunity of designing unique experiences for my clients. I love creating these unique experiences for people, and for brands alike. It is also very interesting how personal the entire process can become. It is fulfilling when your client finds that special outfit that makes her feel beautiful, and confident in her own skin.
Can you provide advice for up and coming entrepreneurs in what you think is the most important thing they should know when entering the unpredictable world of fashion?
Know your client as well as you know your best friend. Know where they work, the restaurant where they eat on the weekends, and where they vacation. Get to know them inside out so that you can offer the experience they are searching for. Always follow up on them, send thank-you notes, and be appreciative of their business. Remind them always how appreciative you are of them. Remind yourself daily that competition out there is tough. You must always stand out in your client’s mind.
What is next for Shop with Rox, and Roxanne Hauldren?
The growth of my company has allowed me to learn so much about the consumer, and the retail world. I continue to learn daily in order to bring my client the best of me and to offer an unforgettable experience. In the upcoming year, I plan to bring the Shop with Rox experience to different cities throughout the country. – GM
Camera: Nikon D850
Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
Strobes: Profoto B1 x 3
Modifiers: Profoto Beauty Dish Reflector 20.5″ and Profoto 5′ rfi Octa Softbox