Kate Riddle, Tantrum

Tantrum is based in Northside and sells clothing, cosmetics, gifts, toys and more. The business recently received a new sign through CoSign, a philanthropic design contest whose winners each receive a free sign for their business to help elevate its street presence. The first two rounds of CoSign have benefitted more than two dozen Northside businesses, and the next round will focus on businesses in Covington.

How would you describe your business to a stranger on a short elevator ride?
Loads of handmade, fair-trade and just unbelievably cool stuff at really fair prices.
What have you learned while getting your business up and running?
When you work for yourself, there is no time off. Even my days “off” are spent on research and development—like finding new lines to carry, general store operations, housekeeping, bookkeeping or just catching up with whatever I couldn’t get done the day before.
With two kids, a household to run and not enough cash to hire any employees, that first year of business was the hardest thing I have ever done (aside from childbirth). But it was also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. All of the effort I have put in is starting to come back; I have two employees now, and am thinking of opening a second shop.
How did you become involved with CoSign?
I was approached about participating last year, and honestly thought, “I’ve only been open for about a year. On the off chance that I go under in the next six months, I want someone else to have the sign.”
This year, things were different. The shop is doing very well, growing rapidly. When James Heller-Jackson (A very motivated do-gooder in my ’hood) asked if I’d be a part of it, I felt like it was time. I figured if we got the sign, it was a good omen, a literal sign from the universe.
How have you benefitted from CoSign?
The true benefit of CoSign is that it gives my business true validity on the avenue. That professional sign adds an element of professionalism to every facet of my business. My sign could be the difference between Tantrum becoming a long-standing and well-loved establishment, or closing up in a couple of years.
I started this shop with the idea to help transform the neighborhood; I want to help make a difference, and I think CoSign can help me do that. The sign I had before was one I made with a lot of help from my friends and my own two hands. I was proud of it, but it just wasn’t very visible.
On the day of the unveiling (November 29/Black Friday)—I did have quite a few people mention that they stopped because they saw the sign—and we experienced a 30 percent growth on our Small Business Saturday sales. That’s huge!
Our customer base has really expanded in the last six months, so it’s hard for me to say that those numbers are directly because of the sign, but I’ll take it.
Your target shopper is "the urban family." How do you define that?
Well its a term I sort of invented. I think our “urban family” is anyone in the city. One of the ideals I have is that every family matters, and I mean anyone and everyone: the infinite combinations of people in our own city and also the families of folks who are paid fair wages for the work they do to create all the lovely things we carry in the shop.
What kind of professional background do you have?
I worked at some big-name retailers as a teenager, Michaels and Target. After I had my daughter, I worked for Leslie Scott at Ali’s boutique.
My shop is actually in the same space that used to be Ali’s, and Leslie was a huge supporter of my idea for the shop. She was there the night before we opened, steaming clothes and helping my get everything just right. After I worked for Leslie, I worked in Clifton for a while. I managed Pangaea Trading on Ludlow for a couple years. I went to college for business and marketing, but I actually dropped out after my first marketing class. It seemed evil.      
What’s next for you and your company?
My next step is a second shop. I’m already looking for the right space. It will either be a second location for Tantrum in a different neighborhood, or a new store concept right here in Northside.
Interview by Robin Donovan