America at work
How this Small Business is Bringing Paris to You, Creating Jobs Along the Way
Cristian Isbrandtsen | December 22, 2017

Like most people who travel to visit Paris for the first time, Le Village Marché owner Angela Phelps fell in love.

And the feeling never left. Six years later Phelps decided to leave her previous careers in sports and entertainment behind to open a Parisian-inspired home décor & gift boutique in the charming Village at Shirlington in Arlington, VA. With the success and demands of customers around the area, a second location opened in June of 2015 in the Cathedral Heights neighborhood in Washington D.C.

From beautifully beaded chandeliers and elaborate soaps from Marseilles to letter-pressed cards and French tea towels, Le Village Marché shares a unique blend of the old and new, reminiscent of a stroll through a Paris flea market. Both locations are a treasure trove of unique gifts for any occasion throughout the year.

At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one question we had for Le Village Marché involved how the holidays impact the sales and future projection of their store and the small business economy. The U.S. Chamber and MetLife recently released the Q4 results of the Small Business Index. The latest index found that, when it comes to small business expectations during the holidays, with the exception of retailers, a majority of small business owners report that the holiday season is not a “make-or-break” time of year for them.

Where this becomes a Ho-Ho-Ho for some, and a Ho-Ho-Hum for others comes down directly to the small business retail industry, like for Le Village Marché.

The Q4 Index reports that more than half of retailers (55%) view holiday sales as “very important” or “somewhat important” to their overall annual profit. While many outside of the retail and hospitality industries note that their businesses routinely close during the holiday period, small business retail stores rely heavily on this time of year to drive their end of year sale projection goals.

Free Enterprise sat down with Angela Phelps to discuss her journey in becoming an entrepreneur and how her adorable, Parisian-inspired store is preparing for the holidays.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in launching your business and how did you overcome it?

To be honest, I didn’t have many challenges early on because Shirlington Village is such a great neighborhood with customers that support their local businesses.  But probably the biggest challenge was the learning curve.  I left my career in media and PR to do something completely different, but I knew it was what I was supposed to be doing in life and was determined to make it work.

What’s are some major lessons you’ve learned about being an entrepreneur through your experiences at Le Village Marche?

 Being able to shift, adjust, and be flexible when markets or trends change.  You have to be true to your core and have a clear focus, but be willing to be flexible to adjust with changing times.  Also, the ability to turn lemons into lemonade.

You can make it through anything, as long as you keep moving forward and stop looking in the rearview mirror.  Not only were they good lessons in business, but also in life.

 How important are the holidays for the growth of your business and sales?

The last two months of the year are everything to us.  We spend six months preparing for November and December. We spend all year going into debt and with any luck, we’re able to get completely out of debt by December 31st, only to begin again.

 With the importance of the holiday season, does Le Village Marche do anything differently during this time of year, hire more workers, conduct holiday sales, feature new products in store, etc.?

We certainly increase the amount of product and double up on staff during the Holiday season, but also host in-store events and have sales from time to time as well.

What does it mean for you to create not only your own job as an entrepreneur, but also to create jobs for others?

I love being my own boss, but two of the most rewarding aspects of my job are creating local jobs and providing a service to the community. Everyone loves to go to a place that makes them feel good, and our old-fashioned approach to retail, where we greet our customers as guests in our home and get to know customers by name, builds community.

In this fast-paced, rat-race city that we live in, local businesses play such an important role in creating communities. When customers shop local, we businesses are able to create more local jobs, support local schools, churches, and non-profit organizations through donations, and our tax dollars stay here.