The 10 Year Challenge: Business Inspiration
Recently on Facebook, people have been posting their 10 Year Challenge – a photo taken 10 years ago versus today.
A decade ago The Antiques Diva & Co was almost 1 year old. In fact, there was no “& Co” as I was a one-woman firm. I had just finished pitching my book – The Antiques Diva Shopping Guide to Europe – and ultimately the book was rejected. I was so disappointed. And I thought maybe my career as a Diva was going to be short-lived. It was a global recession. No one was going to Europe. No one was buying antiques. And no one was reading books.
I had just started offering buying tours and we had only a handful of clients. Our biggest struggle was buyers at the time simply didn’t know mine was a service they could hire. They didn’t know to Google ‘Antique Buying Tours’ because they didn’t know such tours existed. The way clients would find me was by accident if they Googled ‘antiques in Europe’ and stumbled upon my blog. Every email I got from a new client began with some thing along the lines of “Oh My God – I didn’t know this service existed! I’m so glad I found you!” It was exciting but… there weren’t enough clients finding me randomly online to actually have a real business.
The Antiques Diva & Co was 1 year old and I felt like I was failing.
And then a friend sat me down and he said, “Toma, there is no shame in quitting. You need to accept that this idea is not going to work. Stop wasting your time.” And then he said the stinger words… “It’s not a good idea.” He wasn’t meaning to be an asshole – though clearly he was acting like one – he genuinely wanted to help me. This was out of the goodness of his heart and he believed this was not a good idea. He believed I would not succeed. But as I sat there at a café in the Latin Quarter in the shadow of Notre Dame talking to him, watching his mustache – which needed a trim – wiggle as he talked, bread crumbs from a bite of baguette clinging to his upper lip as we ate lunch in Paris.
I knew one thing…
He was wrong.
I knew that I simply could see what he couldn’t see.
I could see where The Antiques Diva Brand was going.
He was in the proverbial forest in a place that was dark and scary with bears surrounded by trees which were covered in creepy crawly things. Meanwhile, I was soaring up above, seeing the majestic landscape lush with foliage and the fields and horizon up ahead. The colors were amazing… and My God there was a beautiful sunset up ahead. But… admittedly there was a headwind and I was being pushed back a bit by the wind. I definitely needed to flap my wings a little harder to fight against that gust which was pushing me back – but I was moving forward. I could see what he couldn’t see.
I always can see what others can’t see. That is my super power.
When I was 5 years old I discovered the TV Show Dallas. I wasn’t allowed to watch it but I would sneak a peek from my cracked open bedroom door after dark. I became obsessed with glamour and jewelry – it’s no surprise nearly 40 years later I started my own haute couture jewelry line the TCH Collection. As a child, I would cut paper diamonds and glue them piece by piece to my clothes and wherever I walked, a cloud of paper followed me around like Kate Spades quote “A trail of glitter follows wherever she goes.” My parents would get so frustrated – my dad would lecture, “Toma, stop being such a PigPen,” picturing the cloud of dust that follows the Snoopy character. And when he said this, I would get soo soo mad! “These are paper diamonds!!! 💎Can’t you see what I see!?”
I’ve always been able to see what others could not see. And when I see something so clearly – I fight for it like the world depends upon it. If you believe it – anything is possible. In that moment when Mustache Man said, “This is not a good idea.” I thought, “Game on buddy.”
I had a vision while I was flying up over those trees that I was going to build an empire. I was a one woman firm. But I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I needed help. I needed people who knew more than me.
I may not have had many clients, but I knew that I know things other people didn’t know, and I know people who know more than me, and I know that together that we could help those people by giving them access to our contacts and my Diva Lifestyle. When I started the company I thought it was for people like me who merely liked antiques; what I didn’t realize was that I was building a B2B business serving primarily the antiques trade.
After analyzing my client base, I realized that I have 2 very specific demographics:
1. Antique dealers who needed to increase their profit margin and inventory quality and selection – these were people who were already successful, but they were ready to take their business to the next level by buying overseas. And our job was to give them a hand-up on the path they were already heading. I liked these clients and we could fast-track them to success.
2. But the clients I liked most were the 2nd demographic. They were mostly women, and they were starting a new career. They had already been successful in their first career. It was usually something super practical – like a banker or accountant or a lawyer. Or maybe they had given up their career years earlier to stay home with the kids, to raise a family, and they were ready to have something of their own, something that fed their soul, something that represented them. These were the people I could help.
Why I Do What I Do
A couple weeks ago I got a private message on Instagram, it started:
“I’m sure you get 100s of messages and I don’t want to sound like a stalker or a fangirl but I love what you do. You’re amazing. I know you’re very busy, but… I am wondering if I could talk to you? While I’m not currently in the antiques industry, I have a strong interest in it. I’m at a point in my life where I want to do something more. I’ve always had an interest in interior design and I had a shop for a while. I feel I have a natural talent for many things, but none of them generate income. And I’d like to change that. I would like to support myself and not depend on my husband for that. Any advice about getting started in the antiques industry would be appreciated.”
It’s not really just about antiques. I have a fabulous life – super glamorous actually with amazing travel and more champagne than should be legal. Let’s just say being a Diva does have its perks. But… I don’t do it for the 🍾 champagne. I do it because I saw a need for this service to exist. There were people who wanted to know what I know and I could help them.
Over the last 10 years, the business has changed. The team has grown from 1 to around 20 at the moment. We are now in 16 countries and 3 continents. We don’t just offer antique buying tours. We offer a Training and Mentoring Program for Antiques Dealers – a training program to teach new or nearly new dealers how to become antique dealers. We give them an Antiques Diva Education :).
What Would You Ask Me?
Here’s something I want you to think about… is there a question you would ask me if you could? One of my #1 responsibilities in the company is to talk to incoming clients and to help them determine where they should shop, for what and when. I chat all the time with clients about their marketing plans and repeat clients know that they can always call me to bounce ideas off of me; and when I’m out and see things that remind me of a client I send all sorts of tempting texts and ideas.
If you’ve been dreaming about a new career as an antiques dealer – or perhaps simply need to fast-track a career you’ve already started selling antiques – then I would love to schedule a phone call with you to help you make your dreams come true.
Top Interior Design Influencers Who Are Making It Happen
In mid-November, I received an email with urgent in the title. It was from Kimberly Wray of Furniture Lighting and Design Magazine. I gave a giant yelp and my kitten Fortuny – who had been sleeping peacefully on my desk – jumped with a start.
“We are doing an article on the top interior design industry influencers who are making it happen in 2018 and I want to interview you.”
When the article came out Dec 28, 2018, I sighed and felt a little victory. This is me. I am a just a girl from Oklahoma. I didn’t grow up with any money. I think my parents simply struggled to pay the electric bill. Buying luxury furniture wasn’t a consideration and most of our furniture was hand me downs, vintage or secondhand. But my mom had fabulous taste. She knew the importance of angling the chair just the right way, and good lighting, lamps were always on and scattered around the house. She painted her own paintings and arranged bouquets of flowers and she grew the flowers herself or plucked wildflowers out of a field. Food was always readily available and no matter how many strays my dad brought home for dinner (which was a nightly occurrence) she stretched the food and there was always enough to seat one more. We didn’t have a fancy life but we lived well. Life was beautiful.
Antiques Diva Is A Lifestyle
And for me, that’s what it’s always been about… living gracefully. I got into antiques because I feel they add elegance to a home. I like the patina, the sense of history and the story. When you buy antiques you don’t just buy antiques – you buy a story. Antiques help you travel to other places and other times, if only in your mind.
Moving to Venice
Several years ago my husband of 20 years and I separated. To be honest, it was devastating for me. I couldn’t emotionally process it so I threw myself into working too much as a solution. It was good for my company growth but it wasn’t good for me on a personal level. And so I decided to change. I decided to reevaluate what my priorities are.
I needed more balance, less work, and definitely more personal time, which meant I needed to work more efficiently and effectively. I also realized I wasn’t happy living in Berlin. So I thought about all the places in the world I could live and my happy place was Venice.
A few photos from my move down the Grand Canal…
One year ago I loaded up a 40-foot container and my truck drove over the Alps. It took 3 boats, but I arrived at my new home in Venice on a flotilla going down the Grand Canal. My mover Alfredo Rubelli even tied my desk chair to the front of the boat so I could sit on the chair and wave to tourists as we passed them by. It was surreal. But I had arrived.
Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch
Speaking of thinking like a Diva – Aspire Design and Home Magazine just published the best article on me that has ever been written. In they shared the definition of a Diva:
a woman who exudes great style and personality with confidence and expresses herself without letting others influence who they are.
On January 20, The Antiques Diva & Co held our 6th annual Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch co-hosted by Aspire Magazine and Marché Dauphine. Each year we welcome guests from the international design community during Paris Design Week to a festive brunch at Les Puces before a day of antiques and vintage sourcing and #DesignInspiration. The article was published to promote the party I co-hosted with Marché Dauphine and Aspire Magazine.
Check out our Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch party pics taken by photographer Joachim Pelletier …
2018 was devoted to Balance. And it was hard work, but I achieved that goal.
My Goal for 2019
2019 is dedicated to re-engaging in a personal level in my company. I believe the company needs more of me – more of my leadership and more of my voice and vision.
And I’m doing that by going back to the basics. My company started because I wrote a blog titled The Antiques Diva. People liked my blog and demanded that I take them on antique shopping tours. Somewhere along the line as I was growing the company, my voice got lost in the day to day madness. So I thought about it and I wondered, Why not go back to where this all started with my voice? This year on the blog I will be blogging less, but the blogs I will write will have more depth and more meaning. And drumroll… where did this company begin? It began because I wanted to write a book – so I’m starting over. I am writing a book. It’s not a travel or shopping guide as it once would have been, but it’s a book about me – telling my story – how to think like a Diva and live the #DivaLifestyle.
Thanks for following along as I share my journey. My word for 2019 is Ready. I’m ready. Ready. And it’s going to be a great year.
Toma Clark Haines
The Antiques Diva