We had the good fortune of connecting with DeAnna McIntosh and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi DeAnna, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Entrepreneurship and retail have been in my heart since middle school. Growing up I was heavily involved in DECA competitions, obsessed with fashion, and was forever doodling my business ideas in my hot pink notebook (which I still have!). That led to me attending the Fashion Institute of Technology to receive my degree in International Fashion Merchandising Management. I’ve now been in the fashion and retail industry for over 14+ years having held various corporate retail roles such as a Buyer, Strategy Manager, and Merchandising Director! I founded The Affinity Group International after seeing a major knowledge gap in most small product-based businesses’ strategy – merchandising. Merchandising should be the core of every product-based business, (it literally is for all major brands and retailers) so you can see how a huge chunk of their business and profitability is missing without this knowledge. My company teaches and consults with brands and retailers how to run their business with the strategies and tools of billion-dollar brands, but with the innovation and agility of a small business. We do that through our Revitalize Retail Program, 1:1 consulting, and through group coaching inside our online + offline community, Retailing Evolved.

What should our readers know about your business?
What sets The Affinity Group International (TAGI) and our community Retailing Evolved apart from others, is that we provide the retail and e-commerce strategies that large corporate retailers and brands use. There are so many Consultants, “Gurus”, and Experts out there, but I always tell Entrepreneurs that it is SO critical that you are taking in advice from people who are speaking to you from a place where you want to be – NOT where you currently are. For example – if you are a Boutique Owner of one store, getting advice from another Boutique Owner with one store will keep you on that same level. They haven’t experienced where you want to be, so you will be learning right along with them, and things will certainly be “missing” that you aren’t getting the answers to. You want to consult with someone who has 10 stores, or someone like me, who has managed Billions of dollars and thousands of stores. That is the unique value we provide for our clients, as well as the extensive network that my corporate career has afforded me. I am most excited about our new initiative, Diversify Retail. It is a path forward for open conversation, self-reflection, and most importantly, strategic action to increase diversity in all facets of the retail industry. It’s a way for us to be that bridge between where the industry is now as far as diversity, and where we want to be. To get to where TAGI is now, I wouldn’t call it easy by any means. Things are constantly evolving with us, as they should be, so that we stay ahead of trends and continue being leaders in our field. A big lesson I’ve learned is to start with the minimum viable product or idea, and then just get started and continue building from there. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect to get started, nor to get clients. You should absolutely have quality standards for your work, but that can’t get in the way of you just getting started. One thing I think that we clearly communicate to the world, and that we stand by every day, it’s that retail is not dead – it is evolving. The companies who survive will be the ones that evolve with it (and we help you with that).

Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
When friends come into town, we definitely go on a food and retail (of course) tour! I always take people to brunch at Sun in my Belly or Flying Biscuit, and then Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours, So Ba Vietnamese Restaurant and Miss Goji Korean BBQ for dinner. If it’s a NY friend, I take them to Two Urban Licks so they can catch the NYC vibes, Atlanta style. I also love to take them to Ponce to shop and then walk the Beltline, do a mini photo shoot at Westside Provisions, spend time at the Aquarium (before middle school I wanted to be a marine biologist) and catch the latest movie at CineBistro. One of my new favorite things to do is take a fragrance-making class at Indiehouse Fragrances in Alpharetta!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate this shoutout to my parents. Without them, not only would I not be the person I am today, but I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to truly chase my purpose. I grew up in Chesapeake, Virginia, where there is no fashion industry or even fashionable places to shop, and most kids went to college to pursue “traditional” careers. Imagine the look on my parents’ faces when I told them I wanted to major in fashion! I remember spending so much time in the library doing research on different careers in the industry so I could show my parents that I wasn’t crazy for thinking I could make a living doing something in fashion (everyone else thought I was). Even when they had so many people in their ear telling them not to “let their only daughter go to school in crazy New York all by herself”, they trusted and believed in me enough to let me do just that. And not only did they let me do that, but during my junior year, they even let me participate in the FIT study abroad program where I spent an entire year in Florence, Italy studying fashion. Those experiences have absolutely shaped who I am personally and professionally and I don’t know who or where I would be right now without having done those things. One day I hope to give my future children the same trust, drive, and ambition that my parents gave me. It truly changed my life.

Website: www.theaffinitygroupinternational.com www.retailingevolved.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/theaffinitygroup
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deannamcintosh/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/theaffinitygrp

Image Credits
Images by Carlisa Georgeanne Creative Co.

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