Mike Cavallo

Co-Founder of Painted Tree Boutiques

Mike Cavallo and Corey Gillum met first through church as Corey’s children were in the youth group Mike was leading. When Mike was ready for a change, he reached out to Corey who owned a business brokerage company in Little Rock, AR. After brokering the sale of a local flea market, the two had the idea to open their take on the concept, focusing on providing a space for creators, artisans, designers, and boutique owners to come together under one roof to share costs, customers, and ideas. In 2015, they opened their first location in a suburb of Little Rock in a 27,000 sq ft building. Rather than filling the space as quickly as possible, they chose to be selective about the small businesses renting space in the store, ensuring each shop owner offered unique and quality products in a well designed environment. Described as an Etsy marketplace and Pinterest catalog come to life, Painted Tree Boutiques became a retail shopping experience specializing in gifts, home decor, and boutique clothing while championing thousands of people to live out their entrepreneurial dreams.

Believing we’re better together, our mission is to create opportunities for local shops, artisans, creators, designers and decorators to follow their dreams and thrive together in a community of like minded people. On it’s own a shop might struggle paying rent in a great location, but together, we can afford prime locations in high traffic shopping centers. On it’s own a shop may struggle to pay rent, utilities, insurance, payroll, security, software and so much more, but by sharing those costs with hundreds of others, each shop pays a fraction of those costs. Most importantly, on it’s own a shop might never be discovered by a shopper, but when its combined with hundreds of other shops to create a massive and truly unique shopping experience with merchandise you can’t find anywhere else, a shop can truly thrive.

Where did the idea for Painted Tree Boutiques come from?

As a result of the sale of a local flea market, we came up with the idea of providing a space where creators, artisans, designers, and boutique owners can come together under one roof to share costs, customers, and ideas. In 2015, we opened our first location in a 27,000 square foot building in a suburb of Little Rock. To ensure each vendor offered unique and quality products in a well-designed environment, we selected small businesses carefully rather than filling the space as quickly as possible.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Every day is different. At this point we have a great team running the day to day operations, so we spend the majority of our time on growing the business.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We try to begin with the end in mind and work backwards. We have a goal to reach 200 stores in the next five years, so we tried to imagine all the roles we would need on our team at 200 stores, and then at 100 stores, then 50. This helps us plan what we need to do now to prepare for the future.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The focus on supporting local, small businesses excites us most. We love entrepreneurs and have built a business around supporting them in the retail world.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Almost daily, Corey and I stop to think through the “why” of what we do in every decision and aspect of the company. We are always asking is this the best way to pursue our purpose.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Hang in there. Just keep going. It’s going to be ok.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

You can open a business or start a new service without everything being perfect. You can perfect things along the way. Just jump and get started.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Question the why. Why are we doing it that way? Why do our customers trust us? Why do shoppers choose us? Why are we using this software? Why are we hiring this person? Why aren’t we doing that? Equally important is the question, “Why not?”.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

We’ve always said, “Get the business, then figure it out.” There have been many times where a look ahead was daunting, but we decided to get the business first and trust that we’ll figure it out. This has led to exponential growth in our business.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In a two year timeframe before starting Painted Tree, I had 10 different business cards. Eight were businesses I started that really didn’t work out long term. But in each business, I learned something that I’m now using in this business. Just keep throwing things at the wall until something sticks.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I downloaded an app called adobe fill and sign on my phone so I can sign things from anywhere. No more scanning or waiting until I could get back to the office. I can literally sign documents on a plane, in the car, or at lunch.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We recently started using monday.com and it has been a game changer in seeing where we are as a company and what tasks are left to do. Whether monitoring tasks in different teams, sales leads, construction processes, or even revenue, Monday has been a game changer. We can see the health of our entire business on one platform.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Start with Why by Simon Sinek has inspired so much of what we do behind the scenes. It’s really the philosophy behind our marketing, our growth, and recruiting good people and customers.

What is your favorite quote?

Whenever you are engaged in doing anything at all – from the most simple task to the most complex, have acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm.
Echart Tolle

Key Learnings:

  • Support local businesses
  • Never give up
  • Stay organized