This week’s shop keep of the week is Emily from Ardent Market. She tells us all about how to run an ecommerce business that feels good and connected to her community, work-life-balance, and her favorite Ardent Market product right now!
Tell us about yourself!
I am the owner of Ardent Market—a curated store of handmade goods and vintage finds for home, body, and being. I believe in independently owned businesses, and I strive to cultivate a holistic and inclusive retail environment for customers and artists alike. I currently reside in California with my dogs and spend my free time crafting energetic playlists, sourcing vintage treasures, hosting Martini Friday, and studying Astrology + Tarot.
Before we dive into Ardent Market, I’m dying to know your big 3 (Sun, Moon, Rising) and how you think they show up in your work/personality✨
Cancer Sun, Aquarius Moon, Sagittarius Rising
So what were you doing before you started Ardent Market?
I’ve spent almost 15 years working for various small businesses, and I would daydream about having a business ‘someday.’ My first real job was at delightful independent retail called Eikon Home. The owner, John Martelli, taught me everything I would need to know about buying, merchandising, sales, and customer service. I still call him my mentor. When it closed, I took some time off to road trip the US on my own, and that adventure was the tipping point for deciding to launch a business of my own. Over 35 states and 12,000 miles, I found the purpose for a small retail—something curated from indie brands and artists. Before I launched AM in 2019, I worked for a large home furnishings store (I hope you won’t hold that against me) and ultimately realized it was a now-or-never moment. I owed it to myself to learn from a large business and know that I could honor my small business values and still provide customers with quality goods that directly impact communities and the economy.
How long have you been in business?
It will be three years in July! Time flies!
What is your proudest moment so far as an indie retailer?
I am so proud of how the shop has taken shape. I came from a very tangible background, so shifting my craft (and the things I love the most about retail—visuals, merchandising, and relationship building) was a struggle. I am so proud of myself for launching, even though I can’t remember why that was such a block. I am blown away by what I’ve learned, the new skills I’ve picked up, and my love for product photography and SEO. Ardent Market was a much bigger pivot than I expected, and I’ve taken everything in stride (after a few tears, lol).
Do you have a team or are you doing it all yourself?
No, I’ve worked very hard to build systems, carve out some routines, and take days off. With some help from Janine at Feel Good Retail and Maggie Saunders of The Now Is Golden, I have actual (and flexible) boundaries with my work, take the time I need, and change my mind when I need to. It sounds ideal, but it was a struggle to get here. When I launched, I effectively torched everything else in my life. There was only this thing I was doing, and everything else took the back burner; it wasn’t cute. Within those first two years, I obliterated my body, mood, and relationships (shout out to my incredible family and friends who were so patient with me.) Once I started to work in more systems, I found the right resources, practiced asking for help, and triaged everything in my daily life, I finally felt like I could do it all, and I could do it without burning everything down wake of my ambition. It still takes a lot of mindful practice and the ability to prioritize. The most significant difference between 2019 me and 2022 me? I found the power of choice. Freedom in autonomy is the best gift small business owners have, and I think we (collectively) forget.
What is the thing that keeps you up at night?
There is this scene in Gilmore Girls where she is opening the inn, and she wakes up from a dead sleep and calls herself on the work answering machine with a list of things to remember. It me. My notes app is nuts. Most things keep me up at night. Besides scarcity, I worry the most about whether people feel seen, appreciated, and safe at AM. Without the face time with customers and creatives, I lose out on a lot of feedback that I would get just by seeing how a customer interacts with the product on a shelf or whether an artist is looking close to burnout. I like to think that indie retail is more like an ecosystem, so not being in person puts extra stress on my cancer home-making sun. I believe this is why I can’t give up on IG yet—the DMs help with this.
How do you connect with your customers and community? 💖
I think in this business, you get what you put into it. Algorithms aside, you have to be able to meet people where they are, and if they take the time to come your way in a very noisy world (especially online where everyone is vying for their attention), you have to be willing to make that connection. Maybe it’s a DM, an email response, a review, a card reading, a pitch, a subscribe or follow, a purchase—there are so many ways to be invited to share with people and connect with them. You have to care about their experience and respond with intention and empathy. I am generous with my time and attention, especially on platforms where I can have direct contact—like IG DMs. I also feel a little freer in the newsletter, and I share more and more about myself and my beliefs around intentional living or just navigating being a human. I encourage people to get a hold of me and reply. I always try to connect with artists and makers as much as possible too—everything at AM centers around great relationships. I am still working on this because ecomm takes a little more work. I don’t have it all figured out. I recently asked for feedback from our community, and there was a strong response for me to share more and offer more BTS and video content. I’m here to give the people what they want!
Where do you see your business in the future? Give us the big dream, baby!
I would love to see AM in the flesh! haha A beautiful brick and mortar with a strong team, no limitations on inventory/artists, and the opportunity to host events. I would also love to go on more buying trips, have more BTS content, and give the online shop a “you’re along for the ride” vibe. Slowly but surely, I am getting there!
What’s one habit you have that keeps you feeling good?
I do not work on Mondays! I will not hop on a call, check my email, pack an order, answer a work-related text, or write an Instagram caption. It doesn’t get done on a Monday if it is related to work. I gifted myself Mondays in 2021, and I’ve been pretty good about it. I wake up, ask myself what I want to do that day, and follow-through. It’s done wonders for the business and well-being.
We don’t like to pick favorites, but what’s your favorite thing in your shop right now and why?
The Yam Hoop by Yam. I wear these hoops every day; I am utterly addicted. Everything Morgan Thomas makes is incredible, but I bought myself a pair of these to shoot content and have not stopped wearing them. They are the perfect gold, go with everything, and are light as a feather (unheard of with quality chunky hoops); I cannot stop talking about them. And I want everyone to own a pair.
I am loving afternoons working outside with the dogs and an audiobook! I am listening to ‘We Should All Be Millionaires’ by Rachel Rogers for the umpteenth time. And I think it’s safe to say I’m in my Affogato season. haha It’s the perfect pick-me-up that feels deeply indulgent.
Where can people find, follow and support you?
Anything else you’d like to plug / promote? (no shame!)
AM is almost three! There will be some fun things happening in July, so hop on the newsletter to make sure you get your invite to our favorite month of the year!
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