I like variety in my schedule. It's flexible. That's what I like about owning my own business, which involves giving shopping tours.

Usually I get up at 6:30 and start slowly with a nice healthy breakfast. I straighten up at home a bit and play with the cat. I'm single so when I get up in the morning I don't have to help anyone else get ready. I am just not a morning person. I admire those who are.

I usually work at home one or two days a week if I don't have a big event. Otherwise, I go to my downtown office in the Fashion District.

Once I get there, my focus is marketing and promotion, or planning if there is an event coming up. Then there is the day-to-day administration, like checking e-mails and helping people pick the package that is right for them. I'm a one-woman shop, so I'm busy.

Within the next six months I am going to pick up some more people because the volume of business is rising.

I spend a great deal of time preparing marketing materials. The Web site is the crucial component, of course. I update it periodically.

I network with other entities that are complementary to my business and could cross-link on my Web site. For example, I have a link on the Fashion District's Web site, which attracts a lot of attention. It has brought me a lot of business. I have a deal with Ciudad restaurant for a fixed-price menu, which is on their Web site.

I do a lot of phone work talking to people. I do research on the fashion industry and trends. I don't consider myself a fashion expert so much as a shopping expert. That's why I need to have my office downtown; I want to be a part of the Fashion District. I need to know what's there and what is new.

I spend a lot of time building relationships within the Fashion District and also in the Melrose area. That way, stores offer benefits to my customers. I invite them to give me brochures that I can show customers.

I usually lead three to four walking tours a week, anywhere from a mother and daughter to six girlfriends to some people from an office going out together. I just do one in a day, occasionally two. We leave at 10 or 10:30 and wrap up by 2 or 2:30. Usually we take a couple of stops for food or rest.

I try to work in a mix of stores and products: costume jewelry, shoes, apparel. I customize tours to the people in the group each day. If they are moms out for fun, I show them stuff they will be comfortable in. I ask them as much as they are able to tell me and I read their style a bit. I take them to stores that will have what they want. Most people leave with purchases.

I also do large tours. I had a college group from Florida coming for Fashion Week. Every minute of their day was planned from buses to snacks to stops. I bring in freelance tour guides to help with big programs like this.

There is a seasonal pattern to my tours. I'm much busier for holidays, back to school and spring shopping.

A typical day can be a mix of a lot of things. This business means having three pots on the stove and stirring each one at the same time. Even if I wanted to work insane hours, it would be difficult to do. I leave work between 6 and 7 because that's pretty much when the Fashion District closes. "

Christine Silvestri
Urban Shopping Adventures

Good Read: "When Elephants Weep" by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy
Origins: San Francisco
Favorite TV Show: "It was 'Everybody Loves Raymond' but I don't know what I'm going to do now"
First Career: Acquisitions editor at a college textbook publishing company in Chicago
Degree: Comparative Literature from UC Davis
Cuisine: Italian and health food. "I have a lot of allergies so I have to cook a lot."

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