Coop & Spree Founder Brooke Richman on Her Tips and Tricks to Running a Successful Brick and Mortar

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Hi Brooke! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business:

I’m a 36 year old living in NYC and the owner of Coop & Spree, a multi brand contemporary women’s and children’s retailer which also sells jewelry, accessories, wellness products, novelty goods and more. In addition to an NYC based brick and mortar store in the Noho area of NYC, we operate an e-comm site which ships nationwide

What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?

The opportunity to network and befriend like-minded business leaders who are female founders.

What made you take the leap to start Coop&Spree?

Courage, passion, a strong work ethic and commitment in real time during my late 20s, but I knew since I was little that I would have my own clothing store. Since my father is an entrepreneur, I’ve had an insane passion for retail/fashion/sales since I was literally in pre-k.

What was your background prior to starting your own business? Have you always been involved in retail?

I graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008 with a BA in US History. I then worked at Citigroup in the sales & trading program as a Credit Sector Specialist where I covered high grade and high yield retail companies and REITs. I realized that finance wasn’t my passion but the retail companies I covered were – so I left Ci to work as a buyer at Theory & Helmut Lang in their retail department. It was at Theory where I realized that I was wanted to finally take the leap and start my own retailer – but with multiple brands and a variety of luxury services that would make us niche – but i didn’t feel ready at 25, so I obtained my MBA at Columbia Business School where I focused on retail and entrepreneurship and wrote my coop & spree business plan; coop & spree opened 1 year and 2 months post graduation.

So Brooke, did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Yes – my father and brother are both entrepreneurs and my dad ingrained in us both since little that : “you always want to be your own boss “. The ability to control your time is a priceless commodity

When launching a new business, marketing is so important! What was your marketing strategy to get the word out?

Word of mouth via my Upenn and CBS networks as well as hiring a professional PR team for the launch.

Entreprenistas overcome challenges every single day. What is the biggest challenge you have encountered along the way?

Professionally: dealing with unreasonable and inhumane landlords (learned to always research in advance the landlord and also try to find someone who is a tenant to get the inside scoop). Personally: dealing with 2 chronic diseases while also trying to be present for both my employees and clients; creating a life outside of work without feeling guilty (this was just practice and realizing per the above, the better I feel as Brooke – and the more I do that makes me happy and gives me joy beyond coop & spree = the better boss I’ll be/ the better friend I’ll be and so on

Brooke, you have lots to celebrate! What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

A few things: 1. our ability to pivot during the pandemic: until march 2020, coop & spree by design was solely brick and mortar; I then moved to my childhood home in CT and built from scratch our -ecomm site which has been the crux of our business 2. the amount of money we’ve raised/donate to various non-profits specifically aimed at helping inner city Black girls and youths via sports/educational programs/mentorships (almost 6 figures) 3. The success of my employees post coop & spree – watching them soar into new roles or industries is extremely rewarding and makes me very proud 4. My academic success at Upenn (Summa Cum Laude and a Rhodes Scholar Nominee) 5. Opening coop & spree in 2014 while also getting diagnosed during the pre-launch time with both a chronic kidney disease and an autoimmune disease

So Brooke, do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I believe in it but I’m still working on it; I’m a big believer in self care via exercise (you can’t pour from an empty cup and movement is truly medicine; the more time you pend on improving yourself and your well-being mentally and physically, the better boss you’ll be.. the better friend / sister / child etc etc_; I have my own inflicted no social media / no texting etc. policy when I’m doing whatever method of movement I’m doing (i only permit myself to use a smart device to listen to music), so that I’m fully present.

What’s a piece of advice you can share that you wish you’d known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?

1. Always have one side of your business card as ‘white’ (vs black) so someone can write on it (things they don’t teach you in business school or in college) 2. Managing employees is as much about them as it is about you; upfront, ask them about their preferred communication styles and how they best receive feedback/criticism; be adaptable and know that you have to alter your approach and communication style to fit each employee’s 3. Know the difference between single member and multi member LLCs

Entreprenistas deserve to celebrate all victories – big or small! What have you achieved recently that you’d like to celebrate with our community?

coop & spree was listed as a winner in this year’s Inc. Magazine’s Best of 2022 businesses due to our efforts in alleviating child poverty (both monetarily and with time/mentorship)

So Brooke, what’s next for your business?

The launch of my new podcast, coop convos (airs feb 2023)

 Learn more about the Entreprenista League and join today!

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