A day after being laid-off from her job as a sales manager about two years ago, Juliana Hall was out pushing her three-year-old son in a jogging stroller, trying to clear her mind while escaping from her woes when it dawned on her.
She had a business idea. Open a new and pre-loved clothing, toys and gifts store and call it Hippo Kisses.
“It just popped into my head out of nowhere,” Hall says. “It literally just happened in five minutes.”
So Hall, who walked in commencement in 2006 as an undergraduate majoring in International Business Management, decided to go back to Dominican to earn her Masters in Global Strategic Management. She did a capstone on a restaurant idea she plans to implement later, but Hall took out a loan and opened her first Hippo Kisses store in downtown Novato.
In March of this year, she moved it to 1026 Machin Avenue, doubling the her store’s size that now allows the shop to carry children’s furniture, a larger variety of maternity clothing and gifts as well as a more diverse selection overall to keep up with demand.
“Knock on wood, I think this is probably recession-proof because of the type of store it is. My business model is that most everything in here is almost 50 percent of what it would sell at retail. It’s basically a discount store but I hand pick every single item in here.”
Hall has found success before. She worked eight years as a mortgage broker and also as a fitness instructor six mornings a week. She was able to purchase her first home at age 21 and her second when she was 24. Then she lost her job and her marriage dissolved.
“But I sailed through it and what kept me going was my son and getting my Masters and knowing that I could do something else,” the 28-year-old businesswoman says. “I’ve pretty much always been in business for myself but never thought I would own a retail store.”
Never one named Hippo Kisses.
“I think a lot of people are born entrepreneurs but the thing about getting my Masters was that it helped me open my eyes to thinking more about my target market,” Hall says. “The reason why this store made more sense after being at Dominican is because I thought of it in terms of being a niche.”