In 2013, soprano Suzanne Vinnik was contacted by another soprano looking for a way to clean out some gowns from her closet that she had worn for previous concerts. Suzanne likewise had experienced the same issue with her over-stuffed closet in her one bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side. As a true fashion forward diva with a love for all things stylish, Suzanne knew firsthand the realities of needing to look your best when performing onstage, and not being able to repeat gowns, which often resulted in expensive shopping bills. To compound this issue, closet space in major metropolitan areas is at a premium; most New York City closets do not allow for the high volume of clothes a performing artist needs at a given time or access to them if one is on the road performing frequently.
Suzanne decided to create a small private Facebook group called the Opera Diva Dress Collection, and invited a dozen fellow singers to join the group so they could trade, buy, sell and rent gowns from each other on a connected platform. During the first week of the group, Suzanne sold and rented out several gowns from her personal closet. Her own investments in style and fashion began helping her pay for expenses in between performing opportunities. She reached out to other established performing arts organizations to see if they would be interested in putting together website with resources, goods and services with the needs of singers in mind. She was met with a lot of enthusiasm met with unreturned phone calls and emails. After taking meetings, her dream of creating this site was crushed when developers told her how much something like this would cost to create as there were not other established peer-to-peer marketplaces at the time…especially ones created by 20 somethings living in NYC who happen to sing opera and had no clue about tech or business.
In 2015, Suzanne revisited the idea of starting a website as the Facebook group was rapidly starting to grow. Upon the advice of a friend who was a singer turned entrepreneur, she applied and was accepted into a mentorship program. Mentors in the program would often refer Suzanne to other people they knew who were experts in different areas of business that might be helpful as they believed in this project as the number of singers rapidly grew during this period. They taught her legalities, strategy, wireframes, pitch decks, and everything in between. She quickly realized that she could cut a lot of costs by doing things herself and accumulated several new skills which she’s been able to impart on other divas starting businesses. One of her greatest investments of time and education was in photography which began out of the necessity to take photos of merchandise and creating visually appealing content.
In early 2016, Suzanne was introduced to soprano Sara Duchovnay by her best friend Clay Hilley. The pair quickly connected over their love of fashion and deep desire to be financially secure while pursuing their operatic careers doing something that was satisfying while on the road performing and during downtime between singing engagements. Sara understood the worlds of opera and fashion because she lived them having operated a resale business on a different platform. By the end of the night, Suzanne knew that Sara was the business partner she was seeking to transition this social media community into a reputable business. Sara had the knowledge of fashion brands, unique perspective, confidence, calm focus, compassion for others and general “hutzpah” that made her the ideal business partner. While they were not friends when they went into business together, the pair of divas have become an inseparable duo who are frequently invited to speak, give interviews and publish articles together on topics such as the new wave of entrepreneurship in classical music, collaboration over competition, fashion trends, issues women face in opera and the importance of body positivity.
On September 12, 2017, after a summer of around the clock work from sopranos Sara, Suzanne and their guardian angel/summer assistant Errin Hatter who relocated to New York City to help them realize their dream as well as the efforts of “Techie Diva” Maya Kherani who developed the site through beta-testing; SHOPERATIC.COM launched! Within just three months of operation, the site facilitated over $100,000 in gross transactions. Shoperatic LLC operates as an altruistic business and its core values will always be dedicated to embracing the collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit of the performing arts community. Shoperatic LLC will continue to facilitate individuals leveraging the value of their pre-existing industry-related goods and services and act as a centralized location for discussions, content, and other related offerings today’s performing artist needs to succeed.
With Vibrato, Legato, & Love
Gowns provided by Tosca New York
Photography: Mati Bardosh-Gelman
Makeup: Kelly Smith Slawson
Hair: Olivia McKeldin