Samantha Myers Let's Dress Up

Samantha Myers and her partner Judy Famigletti run Let’s Dress Up, a fairy tale themed play and birthday party space for kids. For over a decade Let’s Dress Up has lived in a brick and mortar location in New York City, a feat that is not lost on the duo, with Manhattan rents at often astronomical prices. But when the pandemic hit last March, the fairy tale themed parties came to a screeching halt along with so many other in-person events. In the year since Myers and Famigletti count themselves lucky to have survived. They managed to get a PPP loan and to learn how to adapt to the times: digital parties, renting out their space to others, collaborating on events with other small businesses and doing everything in their power to stay afloat in uncertain times. As Myers says, “You have to get creative!”

Myers’ story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:

My business partner Judy Famigletti created the idea for Let’s Dress Up from her childhood memories of playing dress up. The vision was for a magical little world where kids could imagine, dream and play. She had two hockey playing sons and created an entire alternate fairy tale universe. It is truly reminiscent of a different time and is a welcome respite from todays busy (and electronic) world. I joined the fairy tale three years ago after a twenty year career in the financial services industry.

Success to us is running a profitable business that delivers a best in class customer experience. We are perfectionists with our sights set on lofty long term goals like having multiple locations. At the same time we realize that sustaining a retail location in Manhattan for this many years is no small feat. So we also like to celebrate the day to day achievements. We have been known to toast ourselves over everything from being mentioned in an article and selling out a session to getting a great review and organizing the basement storage space.

[Related: She’s Helping Children Stay Active & Connected, Virtually, During COVID-19]

Our biggest success to date is surviving COVID-19. We have pivoted to add virtual offerings, updated our physical space and educated ourselves on everything from financing to social media. Getting a disaster loan was a huge win for us. We had never had any debt on the business so we take it very seriously, but it has allowed us to sleep at night over the last months. We then worked hard to develop digital offerings that are up to our standards. We know it is a very crowded space at the moment and have made sure our experience is unique and interactive for the kids. We also made the decision to offer free ideas and resources to our parent customers, which has generated goodwill and helped us stay productive and top of mind.

Our biggest challenge is getting the word out and marketing on a shoestring budget. Historically, we have loved to get out in the community and have a table at school events or pop into to story time at our local library. Of course now, we are looking more digitally and have turned to free tools like Google My Business, and social media, which offers a great low cost entry point for advertising. We have educated ourselves on the various platforms and how to use them. We have also made connections with several other local kids businesses, we have rented our space out, co-hosted classes and cross marketed events with them and it has been great to collaborate. You have to get creative!

[Related: 3 Covid-19 Tax Breaks, Financial Relief for the Self-Employed]

My mom has always been my role model for work ethic and drive. She is the voice in my head that pushes me. It may surprise people to know that many of the things l learned in my prior career in Financial Services have translated very well to being an entrepreneur. There are many people I admire, but I really like to take little pieces from all different, and sometimes unlikely, places and apply them to my own life.

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