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.

How did you get started in this business?

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.

How do you make money?

Painted Tree rents space to local small businesses who design , decorate, and merchandise their shops in our store. We care for and run the day to day operations of the store for them so they can manage their business on their time. We complete sales, hire and train the staff, pay the bills like insurance, sales tax, water, electricity, and many others. We collect all of their sales, and once a month cut them a check minus their rent and fees.

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

We were profitable within a few months of the first store opening although it took some time to recoup the initial investment to build out the spaces in the store.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

Early on we wondered if the model would allow us to last longer than the first few years as excitement waned, but as it turned out over time the stores became stronger. Then Covid shut us down across the country and we thought we were through. We decided not to charge rent to the hundreds of small business owners under our roof even though our landlords were charging us rent. When we opened back up, the shoppers returned and our shops were able to whether the storm. We spent the next few months working out payment plans with our landlords and we were able to survive and then thrive.

How did you get your first customer?

Before we opened to the public, we recruited a few shop owners to join us who we knew would fit well in the style of store we were creating. Many of them are still with us to this day.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?

Social Media has been key to our growth. Not only can we reach the right people in the right areas, but the word can spread organically as people invite friends to shop at our store or even rent space to open their own shop in our store.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

The toughest moment was when we were forced to shut down and layoff all of our employees when Covid shut us down across the country.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

Our success stems from our shop owners collectively offering unique and quality products in well designed spaces. We offer the opportunity and collectively we are all able to thrive.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

Hearing stories of shop owners who are able to pay for their kids college or retire early because of their earnings at Painted Tree is the most satisfying feeling in the world. We’re in this together, and when they win, we all win.

What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?

Looking ahead, we are most excited about creating opportunities in new locations across the country for budding entrepreneurs and small business who are ready to take the first step to follow their dreams and open a shop of their own.

What business books have inspired you?

Start with Why by Simon Sinek has inspired so much of what we do behind the scenes. StoryBrand by Donald Miller encapsulates our marketing strategy.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

We actually decided to purchase a 60” wide format printer to make our own signs and banners. We love being able to quickly design and print banners for special events and sales for a fraction of what we would pay a sign company.

What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?

We actually decided to purchase a 60” wide format printer to make our own signs and banners.  We love being able to quickly design and print banners for special events and sales for a fraction of what we would pay a sign company.

Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?

I am afraid that our plate is too full at this time to mentor.


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