Charming Charlie

Charming Charlie’s Owner Talks About Growing Business

Founder Charlie Chanaratsopon was seven years old when he started his first business with video games.

“I would take the games and lease them out to my classmates for a dollar a day,” he said. “I didn’t realize you’re not supposed to do that, but got in trouble with my teacher in my class.”

But that didn’t stop his entrepreneurial spirit.

“Being very proud of being from Texas, I grew up in Houston. I went to Episcopal High School,” Charlie Chanaratsopon said.

Eventually, he went to business school at Columbia in New York. He says his parents have had a big influence shaping his path to success.

“They do silver jewelry manufacturing to department stores,” Chanaratsopon said.

Watching mom and dad grow their business from the ground up, it was only fitting for Chanaratsopon to follow in their footsteps.

“The main thing was parlaying that into what we do today at Charming Charlie,” Chanaratsopon said.

The doors to that first store opened in 2004 when Chanaratsopon was in his early 20s. Today, Charming Charlie has grown exponentially to 236 shops across 36 states.

Lessons learned along the way?

“Always cater to your core customer and never alienate them, because they have other choices,” Chanaratsopon said.

From red to blue, yellow to coral, some say the secret to Charming Charlie’s success is color.

“One of the customers came out and I’ll never forget. She says, ‘You know, it would be really easy if you merchandise your store by color. It would be easier for me to shop,'” Chanaratsopon said.

So they tried it in their next seven stores and then…

“236 stores later, we merchandise by color,” Charlie Chanaratsopon said.

The numbers don’t lie.

“We drive a lot of traffic to the stores. On average, we’ll do 4,000 women per week, per store,” Chanaratsopon said.

Another accomplishment to add to Chanaratsopon’s resume — father. Eight-year-old Taylor is also the inspiration behind Charlie Girl, another division of Charming Charlie, catering to girls ages 5 to 11.

“We have a great relationship. We’re very close,” Chanaratsopon said. “At her eighth birthday party, we had a Charlie Girl party, if you will. All the party favors, have accessories, jewelry — it’s a lot of fun,” Chanaratsopon said.

So what is Chanaratsopon like when he’s not wearing the suit and tie, running one of the fastest growing businesses in the country?

“I love what I do. When I say it, I can say it with so much invigoration. I love what I do, and it never really turns off,” he said.

Originally Posted:

Charlie Chanaratsopon

Rosy Conversation with Charlie Chanaratsopon

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Charlie Chanaratsopon, Founder of Charming Charlie.  Opened in 2004, Charming Charlie is a women’s fashion and accessories brand with over 270 stores across the United States.  In 2015, he was named by Forbes as one of “America’s 40 Most Successful Young Entrepreneurs.” Charlie is a first generation Thai-American who graduated with an MBA from Columbia Business School.  He generously spoke with me about the emergence of the Charming Charlie brand as well as the ever-changing landscape of the retail and consumer market. Charming Charlie is most notable for its unique strategy in organizing merchandise by color.  My experience speaking with him was a pleasure and I am very pleased to share my interview.

Bianca: What prompted your realization that accessories would be your business? Did you have a sense of assuredness in your vision to supply the market in the way that Charming Charlie does now? Was this because of a lack that you saw in the industry for affordable fashion accessories?

Charlie: At the core, I’m an entrepreneur, and love buying and selling “things” since I was a kid. I’m from Houston, Texas, and grew up in an entrepreneurial family. As for Charming Charlie, I knew that I didn’t want to focus the brand on apparel, as it is a highly competitive and generally difficult category to compete. I was thinking about what product mix to curate for the brand, and after studying other retail concepts, I realized that there was an opportunity in accessories. Charming Charlie could be the one stop for women’s accessories.

Bianca: I love the namesake aspect of Charming Charlie – a reference to you! How did it come about? Likely because of your charming personality?

Charlie Chanaratsopon: This is a good story!  I never imagined we were going to have stores all over the country, and just wanted to quickly come up with a name and get started. So, I hired a marketing firm and explained that we were going to be selling this type of product and that I needed a name. I recall the first few names that were suggested, and I only remember the awful sounding ones like “Accessory Buffet, ” “Accessories City,” or “Funky Monkey.” I asked if we could explore other names and one of the marketers sitting in our meeting looks at me and says, “What about Charming Charlie?”  That was really catchy and easy to remember, and that was it!

Bianca: The color coordination concept is fabulous; some artists would say that color becomes a color when it’s next to other colors (the way in which colors affect other colors). Did you consider from the company’s inception that color organization would be an essential part of your brand’s identity?  I remember being struck by how great that was when I shopped in the store.

Charlie: When we had three or four stores, I asked myself, “How do we maintain differentiation/innovation, and give the customer what they want?”  I was standing in a store on a Saturday and speaking to customers. One of our customers told me, “You should present the product by color, it’s how I shop.” We first tried the color coordination in one store. We received great feedback. We then took the three front tables and color coordinated them; the customers loved it. Since then, color is such an important pillar of the brand, and all stores changed to be merchandised by color.

Bianca: Trends, fashion, and timeless style are all integrated into the brand so well, does the design team gain inspiration from a combination of current trends in the market and occasion-oriented wear (i.e. cocktail party, everyday wear, etc.)? There really is something for everyone and it’s a good mix of timeless and trendy!

Charlie: Merchants/buyers need to constantly stay on top of trends and fashion, but most importantly know the brand’s core customer.

Merchants stay on top of trends by following influencers/brands on social media, going through magazines, working with our product partners, attending fashion shows, gaining inspiration from luxury brands, and shopping at other retailers. These activities help merchants quickly bring relevant to trend beautiful product to customers.

Bianca: What points in the history of Charming Charlie do you consider most notable? It has scaled remarkably; I read on the company website that there are ~260 stores?

Charlie Chanaratsopon: There are all sorts of milestones, but something that was very special for us was when we first expanded outside of Texas, opening in other states in the US and seeing women smile and their positive reaction as they entered the store; whether it was a woman in Georgia or a woman in New Jersey, seeing that Charming Charlie was not just a local phenomenon. It was really rewarding and exciting to see the brand resonating across the country.

Originally Posted:

Charming Charlie’s Founder

Charlie Chanaratsopon was not trying to start a fashion retail empire when he founded Charming Charlie in 2004. The first-generation Thai-American was working on developing and investing in shopping centers in and around Houston and started the fashion accessories retailer, which now has over 350 stores, as a way to keep retail space filled.

Charlie Chanaratsopon

It nearly folded in its first few months, but Charlie Chanaratsopon decided to keep it open an extra few weeks, and in that time its popularity with suburban moms exploded. The discount retailer expanded furiously amid the Great Recession, as Chanaratsopon and Hancock Park Associates, a private equity firm that came on board in 2007, convinced worried landlords to give them favorable lease terms. — Scott Klocksin.

Charlie Chanaratsopon

Richest Entrepreneurs Under 40 Net Worth

Charlie Chanaratsopon runs $550 million (sales) accessories chain, Charming Charlie, known for its bright, colorful array of scarves, jewelry and handbags. He founded the retailer, named after himself, in 2004 as a side business to fill out Houston shopping malls he was developing. He now has 350 stores across the United States.

Charlie Chanaratsopon is the first generation in his family born in America, after his parents immigrated from Thailand in 1974 and eventually started sterling silver jewelry import business that sold to some department stores. Always entrepreneurial, Chanaratsopon ended up in the elementary school principal’s office after charging first-grade classmates $1 a day to rent his Nintendo games.

Charlie Chanaratsopon

Thai-American entrepreneur and investor

Charlie Chanaratsopon is a Thai-American entrepreneur and investor. He is most notable for founding Charming Charlie, the colorful 290 national chain of stores that sells women’s jewelry and accessories.

With the launch of Charming Charlie, Chanaratsopon created an innovative concept that brought high-style and unrivaled value to the women’s jewelry and accessory categories. Combined with a unique product and merchandising strategy that is centered on a broad assortment of color, Charlie Chanaratsopon created an entirely new and fun shopping experience that did not go unnoticed.

Charlie Chanaratsopon
Charlie Chanaratsopon


In 2010, he was honored with Ernest & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award in the Retail category and in 2015, Forbes named him “America’s 40 Most Successful Young Entrepreneurs.”

Chanaratsopon is also the co-founding partner of Quantor Capital, a multi-family office focused on private investments and investment advisory. The co-founder/managing partner of CJS group, a real estate investment company, and a venture partner at Torch capital, a consumer-focused venture capital fund.

Charlie Chanaratsopon has a BA from Loyola Marymount University and an MBA from Columbia Business School. He is also an active member of YPO (Young Presidents Organization).