Nancy Colalillo is one of my favorite people, fearless in the face of just about everything. Her entrepreneurial spirit brought an exciting book store to Las Vegas several years ago. After she sold that successful enterprise, she went out on a limb and opened Paper Trail, a card and gift shop. This venture has been so well received, she has now moved to a bigger space – 166 Bridge Street – and expanded her card and gift product lines. There are darling baby items, a card for every occasion, gift books, gift wrap, lots of gift ideas and plenty of new merchandise. This locally owned and operated business is a jewel of a shop.
For those of you who don’t know Nancy’s background, here is a brief bio in her own words:
Born and raised in the Garden State, just one atlas-page away from New Mexico. Graduated Georgetown University School of Foreign Service with a BSFS in International Economics, and NYU with an MBA in marketing. Early career in Washington, DC included working at the Imperial Embassy of Iran (Press Office), the National Schools’ Public Relations Assn.(editorial assistant), and the US Department of Labor (Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance). Left DC to join the family business due to my father’s health issues. Learned supermarketing from the ground up, from Produce to HR, Floral to Meat Room. Sat on various coop buying committees, including Produce (vice-chair), Seafood, and Floral (chair), and the Consumer Affairs (chair) and Labor Relations committeesk. During a 2-year hiatus from the supermarket industry, worked at a New Jersey advertising agency creating and implementing large scale special events for food industry-related clients. Followed a dream and landed in Las Vegas in 1994.
ORP: As an entrepreneur, what do you think are the three critical skills to achieve success?
ORP: What ignited the spark in you to start Paper Trail?
Nancy: The sidelines that I offered at Tome on the Range for 18 years were no longer available and folks were asking for them. When I learned that 161 Bridge Street was for rent, I figured I couldn’t get into much trouble in such a small building. That’s the short answer!
ORP: The move to 166 Bridge Street is complete. What does this mean for Paper Trail customers?
Nancy: A broader selection of gift items and greeting cards, and the space to browse and enjoy.
ORP: What will the move to your new location enable you to offer that you didn’t have before?
Nancy: I’m working on an expanded kids’ selection, particularly infant to preschool, which will include (surprise) books! I’m also scouting items suitable for shower and wedding gifts, and fun, funky, just-because gifts. Like the sign on the window says, there will be more of “what tickles nancy!”
ORP: You’ve more than doubled the size of your boutique shop. How creative did you get to fill the space with merchandise?
Nancy: Trust me, buying and filling up space is not an issue! Finding the right mix is the challenge.
ORP: What is it about being in business that appeals to you?
Nancy: Damned if I know! But seriously, in this town, one of the most appealing things is the support and collegiality of the independent business community. Plus, I am unemployable. I have a brain and a big mouth and don’t hesitate to use both. Many bosses don’t want that from a female employee, or at least not when I was entering the workforce. There’s a lot to be said for answering only to yourself and your customers.
ORP: It’s one thing to start a business. Keeping it going is the test of success. How do you keep fresh ideas flowing to energize yourself and your employees?
Nancy: By being curious and critical. Busman’s holidays are crucial. See what others in your business are doing, both right and wrong. See what other unrelated businesses are doing that could apply to your business. And always think like your customers; see your business through their eyes. My father always used to say that it was important to walk into your shop through the front door.
ORP: Who is the biggest inspiration in your life and career?
Nancy: Every nun who ever taught me, particularly at my all-girls high school where it was crystal clear that women could achieve at every level, and my father. My dad tossed a coin and ended up joining a group of independent grocers that would become the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the country, Wakefern Food Corporation. He was a butcher with an eighth grade education who took chances, always believed in himself, and set goals by saying, “How high is the sky?”
ORP: Aside from money, what motivates you to succeed?
Nancy: It has nothing to do with money. My retail ventures in Las Vegas have been about creating retail spaces that add to the quality of life in Las Vegas. What I love is the validation I get from customers who enjoy what I have to offer and let me and my staff know.
ORP: Add anything that will be helpful to customers and any other web presence you would like to promote related to your business.
Nancy: Our official grand opening will be Friday-Saturday, Nov. 11-12 and is a joint celebration with Unikat Fine Jewelry, which has also moved to the north side of Bridge Street – again, like me! Paper Trail is currently open M-Sat, 11-5. I’ll be working on a website, but in the meantime folks can find and like us on Facebook. I’m usually on KFUN’s Over the Back Fence on Wednesday mornings with others from Las Vegas First Independent Business Alliance. It’s a great way for folks to hear about what Las Vegas businesses have to offer and what is going on in the larger community. And I’m working on a telephone number!