Today we’d like to introduce you to Theresa Thompson-Renfro.
Theresa, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
En Concordia is that perfect intersection of a forever goal (operating a boutique centered around plants and all the good things and fun people that come with them) and just being really, really over putting it off any longer. Like so many other dreamers and slightly ADD creatives, I kept waiting until the perfect opportunity came up–some magic space in time that would scream “NOW.” Seriously, the entity en Concordia was trademarked and filed as a California Corporation in 2009, and I opened the doors in early 2015. Not exactly fast track. But it went from storyboards to a storefront at an astoundingly fast pace given how long it took me to jump out from behind other entrepreneurs.
If I did one thing correctly or at a minimum in my own favor, it was to treat the concept with enough respect to put the fundamentals in place even when I was in the doubting phase. I made time to research and refine the brand and set its goals even though I hadn’t set a drop-dead date for opening the doors. I wouldn’t be operating en Concordia as it is today if I hadn’t at a minimum orchestrated a plan even when I was being told brick and mortars are dead or that I’d never be able to pull it off with two young kids in tow. There are always doubters and, until you’re not one of them, you won’t give your dream wings.
Fear is contagious and, if you’re thinking of getting a brand off the ground, I’d advise sharing your ideas with only the very brave and the nonconventional parties in your posse. The actual time from ‘GO’ to ‘OPEN’ was under four months. I secured the property for en Concordia the day it came up for lease and beat out multiple parties who wanted the space–some of whom are now my neighbors on the block. I believe in being ready for good fortune and luck did, indeed, come into play–I was driving by while a ‘For Lease’ sign was being taped up in the window.
I had been looking (probably more like shopping and eating) in the Point Loma area for over a year with the voice roaring in my head to get off my ass and do this, and I took that moment as the sign I’d been waiting for. I’d say the rest is history, but our story’s not over. We’ll always be evolving through collaboration and in tandem with our community’s evolution.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Has it been a smooth road?
Uh, no. Did I mention, no, because it’s so no. Loads of road burn. For one, banks don’t like women. Can I say that? Look at the statistics for Small Business Loans. Vagina hats and protests are cool, but there so much practical work to do. It’s only been around 30 years since women couldn’t get a business loan without a husband’s signature, and banks still hold back when it’s a women-owned business.
Yet, we account for the majority of small businesses and small businesses employ most Americans. So, this is an area that needs some attention and a whole lot of dialogue. So that’s road burn number 1. Road burn number 2–I started a business in what was an economically depressed part of town: not the neighborhood, but the business district. If you’re starting a brick and mortar in an established San Diego neighborhood, you’ll probably face the same issues, since the 90’s big box explosion and regional malls ate up our Main Street Villages. You’re creating a business and being a force for gentrification at the same time.
There will be issues with roads, traffic, city leadership, bigger brands jumping on your train, lousy brands jumping on your train, unifying adjacent businesses and getting in touch with your consumer in an age when paper ads are pretty useless, and not everyone likes social media. If operating your business and serving your demographic is like getting a warm massage, the nitty-gritty that is outside your control is like getting a full body waxing. Entrepreneurs are by nature optimistic, risk takers and these pragmatic factors can be a buzz kill. Like going 100 miles per hour and then slamming into rush hour traffic—in a ball gown—with a hot date waiting for you with hours left before he turns into a pumpkin. Throw in Human Resources and multiple State of California agencies and some days just aren’t fun. Gratefully, the struggles have been outside of the brand and the in-shop experiences–we’re here to create a fantastic experience, and we do it well. If brand and experience were part of the struggle, I’d get off this ride, because that’s where all fun lives for me in this journey.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
En Concordia resides in a serene space with the intention of harmonizing a duality a good portion of the community struggles with: we must consume goods for a daily living, yet, we want to make sustainable choices that support real people and honest experiences. We have something for everyone if you’re that someone who values a beautiful aesthetic, quality over quantity and likes to know that their purchases support an actual person or another small business.
We’ve won accolades for our clean beauty offerings, and we host Cocktails & Clean Beauty Nights every 2nd Thursday of the month, gathering to hang out among the plants with local holistic estheticians and talk skincare. We host workshops with florals in conjunction with AHR Florals and DIY Saturdays. And we hold gardening classes and food tastings. We’re a retail space and a community destination.
We’re proud to put beautiful, natural products out there without focusing on gender or even age, although we love our tweens and teens. Usually. If you have one, you’ll get the joke. If you don’t, then just know we love tweens and teens. And we’re proud that we don’t have the place where the men hang out–we are the place where the men hang out. And the women. And the dog people. And the plant people. And your 2-year-old. And that sets us apart. We’re people over things, but we really, really like great things made by real well.
What were you like growing up?
What was I like growing up? Tall. Strong willed. Academically successful. In trouble often and regularly, because Catholic schools. Always on the Student Council. Varsity La Crosse. Fake ID at 16. Bi-coastal life of San Diego and Washington, DC. Loved plants and being outdoors. Thrived on city life. Fairly un-parented so long as my grades were high and I was in by curfew. Never bored for long.
First job at 15 at Johnson’s Flower Center on Wisconsin Avenue above Georgetown. Loved to cook. Government internship at 16 answering phones and greeting visitors in a Senator’s Office in The Russell Senate Building–this was more of a privileged punishment orchestrated by my parents after switching all the locks in the Sophomore locker room with my BFF since 3rd grade and getting suspended. So, so much bad hair and weird shoe choices. Told to go to Law School. Didn’t. Studied Applied Linguistics. Tall. Happy.
- Address: 1021 Rosecrans Street San Diego, 92106
- Website: www.enconcordia.com
- Phone: (619) 677-2866
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @enconcordia
- Facebook: en concordia