Cosma and Rye
I’ve known Gisele Cosma, owner of Rye Clothing, for more than 20 years. We met during my brief and colossally unsuccessful career as a salesperson at Gambit Weekly. I was in awe of her as week after week I saw her effortlessly close deals. Also, in a world known for its competiveness, she was amazingly gracious by almost daily sharing leads and guiding me to where cold calls might prove more productive.
In 2010, after an almost 20-year career with Gambit, Cosma turned her talents and skills to starting her own business.
“I’d always said I wanted to start a little store and fill it with pieces I love,” she says. “I had a great book of clients and I wanted the challenge of being my own boss. Fashion is thrilling, but it’s being in business and making the sales that I find exciting.”
Rye Clothing offers women's contemporary lines at a variety of price points and includes apparel, accessories and handcrafted jewelry. Cosma started the store off the Maple Street corridor, but now is proudly a part of the Magazine Street scene.
“Magazine Street is the largest shopping center in New Orleans,” she says. “It’s New Orleans’ Main Street. It’s where visitors can find New Orleans culture and interact with locals. If you walk up and down Magazine Street you will be walking past locally-owned small businesses.”
Cosma also sees her store as a concierge service. She and her three person staff often direct shoppers to the best places to eat.
“I also often run clothes to people if they need them for an event,” she says. “I want to be my clients’ extra arms, ears and eyes.”
While her business has grown over the past seven years, Cosma points to another kind of growth she feels is just as important.
“I’ve really grown as a person,” she says. “I’ve always been sales-driven and business oriented, but my biggest growth has been personal. I now understand every boss I’ve ever had and I appreciate the ones who mentored me. When I see them I just hug them around the neck, pat them on the back and say, ‘Thank you.’”
Cosma does worry, however, that there are unrealistic expectations put on small businesses by our city government.
“We lack the infrastructure to support local business,” she says. “The fees and taxes continue to go up. We need to find that delicate balance so small business can do more than just barely survive.”
She stresses that to be successful in a small retail business one needs to find ways to monetize the following factors: local, visitors and e-commerce.
“You are losing potential if you don’t market to those three things.”
Gisele puts in very long hours but she loves what was she does and wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m competitive with myself,” she says. “I’m always trying to be the best me and I’m always saying, ‘Let’s see if I can do better.’”
4223 Magazine St.