Franklin, Tennessee mother and daughter duo Suzy Mills and Chelsea-Skye Netter are more than just family: they’re best friends. And for the past year, they’ve been business partners, too.
Their retail shop, Sanctuary South, is a home furnishings and gift store designed to, “Create comforting spaces for people.” Mills and Netter always dreamed of opening a shop together. With Mills background as a realtor and Netter’s experience in interior design, the pair felt 2016 was finally the year to make their dream a reality. “Once we found a space, we worked for months to get it just right,” Netter says. “We put so much thought and care into everything, from the lighting to the artwork to the walls.”
The store’s opening was delayed by several months while dealing with contractor delays on electric and foundation work. It ended up coinciding with Netter’s wedding. “I absolutely don’t recommend getting married and opening a store in the same week!” she says. “That was definitely the craziest few months of our lives.”
While sales are important, Mills says she and her daughter opened the store with an even higher purpose in mind. “We want our customers to feel peace and comfort when they’re in our store,” she says. “Welcoming someone into your store is like having someone into your home. It’s an honor and a blessing to help customers shop for milestone occasions like births, weddings and anniversaries.”
Mills says part of being a successful shopkeeper is listening and anticipating customers’ needs. “Sometimes, people come into our store and they just need a hug, or they need someone to lift them up in prayer because they’ve just lost someone special or been through something really difficult. We never know who’s going to walk through the door next or what they’re going to need. But it’s a really powerful thing to have the ability to impact someone’s day—and maybe even their life.”
It’s more than just a store, it’s a sanctuary
The store is something of a sanctuary itself: tucked in the small Franklin community of Westhaven, the shop has become a gathering place for locals. “We’re always popping champagne to celebrate something or someone,” Mills says. “We love being part of our customers’ lives and sharing in their important milestones.” It’s also not uncommon to see dogs pulling their owners into the store — Netter seems to know every pup in the county by name. “Establishing our store as a dog-friendly shop was really important to me,” she says.
Netter says the best part about working with her mother is “getting to see my best friend every day.” She says the toughest part is when the two disagree on items to bring into the store. “We’re both so passionate about what to offer!” she says. “We carry larger southern vendors like TAG and Napa Home, but we also showcase products from amazing small vendors like Jerry & Julep stationery, the Art of Shari Lacy, 1818 Farms soaps and lotions, and more. We love to look for products and companies that have stories behind them,” she says. While the store focuses mainly on home furnishings, accessories, jewelry and baby items, there are no hard and fast rules about what to bring in. “When we see a product we love, we take a chance on it!” Netter says. “That’s part of the fun of running a store.”
The duo agrees that their main piece of advice to anyone considering launching a new business is: follow your passion. “It’s true what they say: if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” Netter says.
Mills adds, “Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know. There were lots of things we’d never done before running this store—dealing with inventory, credit card payments, and all kinds of other logistics. We’ve found that, as simple as it sounds, the best way to get help is to ask for it!”