I am extremely excited to share this post with you. Some boutique owners may think this is business suicide but I believe in what I do so much that I would love to share. Being a small business owner is extremely difficult, especially in a small town. Every interaction you do will be watched and scrutinized. The odds are not on your side as it is. Published on Bloomberg 8 out of 10 businesses go out of business within the first 18 months. Forbes even published an incredible article addressing why businesses fail and this statistic. If you are in business you should check it out here!
The number one reason
"Not really in touch with customers through deep dialogue.
Listen -- in my mind entrepreneurs must walk 1,000 miles in the shoes of their customers. Not 10. Not 100. One thousand."
The good news for me is that I am a huge shopper. I have been since I could walk. I have shopped at thousands of boutiques around the country and in a few parts of the world. I love to shop. Which is a good thing considering I do it almost every day. This takes me to my next topic.
How do I find the designers that I carry at the boutique? Very, very carefully! I go to several shows a year, meet with the designers or the designer's reps. I look at the product they have and choose styles I love. I thus far have been to Style Max several times and Magic. I've gone with several people and love taking the girls I have at the boutique with me. Here are some pictures from the awesome times we've had. You can click on each of the pic to see the posts :)
This is a pic from one of the first Style Max I went to with the beautiful Natalie from Fancy Farmhouse. We split a hotel, celebrated a great dinner and shopped for new designers to bring to our shops.
This was from our trip in January to Stylemax again! I took both these girls because they helped me so much with the holiday season. I treated them to a hotel stay, night out in Chicago and a shopping day.
This girl has been a huge help to me at shows! She's been to every show with me but one. She generally talks me out of some crazy purchases and into others.
I loved this trip probably the most so far! We stayed in a fabulous hotel downtown Chicago, had a great night on the town and then shopped until we dropped two days in a row! Bristol and Laura are both models for the store and Crystal the photographer.
But as fun as it is this is a serious thing also. Shopping makes or breaks your business. You need to not only choose the right styles that other people will like and buy, you also need to be able to pay for these items before they even come to you! You have to have the money upfront before they send you a sample. Starting in the industry is extremely difficult because great designers want long history of ordering and proof of your business licensing. I have been working to get the great brand Three Dot in since I opened a year ago! I have already received samples and loved them! A small selection of their line will be in stores by the end of June. So now let's break down a step by step of how I find designers for the store.
What is my shopping algorithm to find a designer?
1. Meet the designer and brand
I generally do this at a show. If this is impossible because the designer is small and can't make it to the show, I will call and talk to their reps to learn more about their business.
2. Buy a sample of their product.
I try a small selection of their clothing and make sure I wear/wash their clothes as well. I like to know how the products stand up and how my market likes them. If you are a regular customer you know I am constantly asking how the quality and fit of something is. Why do I do this? Because my goal is to help people dress well with quality clothes at great prices.
3. Buy the season's selection
A lot of clothes from these designers are produced in small batches and I do not have the option to reorder. In a lot of cases I have to preorder for the next season. I do this with my established brands by looking at their online selections. If it is a new designer I will look at their products at a show.
Before I put out the clothes I inspect each one while steaming it. That way I insure each item represents my brand. The only downfall ever is makeup! Sometimes when people try things on they get makeup on it and only 50% of the time I can revive the product. The other ends up having to go to my closet.
After that I watch how the brand does and if customers like it! Finding great designers is probably one of the key parts of opening a boutique. I do 100% return refunds for anyone who is unsatisfied by the products because I go through all this work to bring them on I stand behind them. Plus if one of the designers is not of the quality, I want to be the first to know so I don't reorder them again.
John has told me it is risky to write this out. He thinks, "Well, anyone will print it and follow along, then have a boutique." But this is far from the truth! I know from experience. Running a business is extremely hard work. There is a lot of labor behind everything that you see. I put in between 60-80 hours a week pouring my heart into my business.
If you ever have any questions about any of the designers I've brought on and how I've found them, please let me know! Also, if you ever have any issues with quality I want to be the first to know.
Thank you for reading this whole article if you've found this part. I know there's a lot here! I appreciate each one of my customers so much and I hope I can serve you well with helping you find your style.