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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 23, 2009 12 years ago

Sole Proprietor

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A college student turned tragedy into triumph by maintaining some core business principles.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

A college student turned tragedy into triumph by maintaining some core business principles.

Tatyana Sharoubim knew some day she was going to take over her dad's high-end shoe store business, a company he built with her in mind.

That day came much sooner than Sharoubim expected however, when her dad died unexpectedly in late 2005. A 20-year-old college student in Orlando at the time, Sharoubim was facing her first major business decision: Should she drop out of school to run the store, which was in Raleigh, N.C.?

“I was lost,” says Sharoubim, now 23. “I was in limbo. I didn't know what to do.”

Sharoubim decided to keep the store open, but with an Internet generation twist befitting her age. She turned the store, T. Georgiano's, into a Web site-only enterprise, using the North Carolina brick and mortar location as a warehouse.

The site, www.tgeorgianos.com was a hit, finding a niche in the exclusive world of luxury shoes. The site was so successful that by 2007 Sharoubim had dropped out of Rollins College to run the business full-time.

Then, in late 2007, Sharoubim and her boyfriend moved to Sarasota to launch a new store, the second coming of T. Georgiano's, a name derived from Sharoubim's uncle and her first initial. The couple opened the store downtown, on a trendy street near Whole Foods Plaza.

Sharoubim's boyfriend, Joe Seidensticker, who co-owns the store with Sharoubim, grew up on the Gulf Coast and a lot of his family lives in the area. Seidensticker recently opened a new restaurant in Sarasota with his father and brother.

The new store, in conjunction with the Web site, continues to be successful. Sharoubim says annual revenues are approaching $1 million, despite the economic swirl that has hit the luxury marketplace hard. National chains such as Nordstrom's and Neiman Marcus are talking price cuts and sales, for instance, actions once thought to be unthinkable in the luxury marketplace.

But Sharoubim says her store has been able to survive the recession through two key strategies: Keeping the product line exclusive and constant marketing.

On the former, Sharoubim, who nearly attended design college in her native New York City before going to Rollins, has a big hand in the design of the store's shoe collection. She consults with designers in Europe regularly to figure out the next big trend before it's big. All of the store's shoes are imported, and Sharoubim makes sure to keep the inventory low-volume but high-end.

The result is a store full of shoes, boots and accessories that start at $200 and go all the way up to $1,800. “We have a little bit of everything here,” says Sharoubim. “We kind of cater to any individual, age group or occasion.”

The economy has really only impacted the store in terms of how much a customer buys in one visit, says Sharoubim. “Instead of buying five shoes at once,” she says, “they buy them all over a few months.”

Sharoubim relies on the marketing facet of her strategy to build such customer loyalty. She has been utilizing www.facebook.com to generate interest in the Web site and locally, she has been ubiquitous in sponsoring dozens of events in the Sarasota area, from small charity dinners to super-sized benefit galas.

Those are the events where she can boost the brand in front of a captive group of potential customers.

“That's one of the best things we can do in this economy,” says Sharoubim. “I think it's crucial to be at these events because those are the people that have been loyal to us.”

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