Alright ladies, I'm finally going to spill some tea on the most frequently asked question I never respond to - how do I open my own boutique?
I get countless emails asking to pick my brain on the subject and I frankly just had to stop responding to them. So if you are one of these people - don't take it personally, I'm currently screening everyone. The most logical explanation I have for this is there is just not enough time in the day - once I am able to shower and respond to my friends on a regular basis, maybe I'll be more open to the idea. But if I'm REALLY being honest, I don't really want to tell you. I get the whole "we're all in this together" mentality, but at the same time, it's pretty safe to assume the CEO of Walmart and Target don't get together for coffee and chat business ideas. I have put SO MUCH of myself into building this brand the past year and the thought of sharing those strategies I have spent so much time on with strangers is just not something I am comfortable doing. I have struggled with the "abundance" mentality my whole entrepreneurial career and it's something I am continuously trying to work on. Plus, it's not like I have this golden nugget of wisdom for immediate success no one but me knows about - work your booty off and never give up.
So with that being said, I'm going to do something a little scary for me and give you some general tips for opening your own boutique in an attempt to put some good abundance juju out into the world, I hope you enjoy the content and get inspired!
1. Read this book and join this group. I don't teach or mentor ladies on entrepreneurship because I'm a really crappy teacher. I can compartmentalize things in my head but when trying to explain them to an outsider, I fall flat. So why not learn the basics about boutique ownership from someone who rocks at teaching it? Emily Benson has a ton of experience in the fashion and more specifically fashion boutique industry and now solely focuses on being a mentor and resource for aspiring boutique owners. Grab her book The Ultimate Boutique Handbook on Amazon and then join her group The Fashion Truck Tribe to connect with boutique owners all around the world. There are also more resources than ever on websites like Pinterest - just search boutique resources.
2. Start small. When I first started Curvig, I was releasing a few items each week and ordering only two in each size - four if I thought it was REALLY cute. Now I typically build to 8 in each size, all the way up to 30 depending on how popular I think the style will be. So don't go overboard on inventory until you have a better idea of the demand. Boutique customers love seeing new things, and you can't buy new things if your investment is tied up in clothing sitting on your rack for months.
3. Scope out the competition. While I may get a bit stressed when someone messages me directly, I am perfectly fine with aspiring boutique owners lurking in my Facebook group and on my website to see what I'm doing, because that's what I did and continue to do when looking for new ideas. I love to see how different boutiques run their businesses, from how they package their orders, how they handle the return process, how they handles sales, etc. And if they post something I think is cute and I don't know where they got it - I buy it! And I expense it as product research lol. Anything I post publicly is public information and free game. Now, a few caveats I feel like I shouldn't have to say but will anyway:
- Don't copy something exactly, and definitely don't use another company's images - that's a sure fire way to get sued. For example, if I saw a company using my exact return form word for word, I'd be annoyed - but the idea is itself came from checking out what other boutiques were doing and creating something of my own inspired by those brands I liked.
- If you are in another boutiques Facebook group, be respectful of their space and don't you dare message members from their groups about your boutique. How this isn't the most obvious statement ever blows my mind, but it happens.
- Don't be tacky and return items after you've checked out the brand tags - you're better than that.
4. Presentation is E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. This should probably be number one, because it's the most important in my opinion. If design and marketing are not items that come naturally to you, you should hire them out from day one, because if people don't view your brand well, they aren't going to buy from you. I have a background in marketing and some intermediate skills in graphic design and still hired out someone to design my logo/brand standards and website design. Freelancing sites like Fiverr are really helpful for this if you want to stay on a budget, but having a continuous point person who knows your brand is even better. Another huge area of presentation is photography - using the stock photography supplied by designers makes your boutique look like every other boutique out there, and to succeed in this industry you need to set yourself apart. Try and find a local photographer you can pay in clothing until you get on your feet, or you can join team #noshame like me and use a tripod and a remote. I took a photography course at a local art school and it totally was a game changer for my photography.
5. Surrounded yourself with like-minded people. I felt like I was constantly hearing "you become the five people you most hang out with" and wanted to up my game in this department, but was seriously stumped. I have a hard enough time finding friends as an adult, now I have to make that even harder by finding people who have the same life goals?!? But I have found a lot of success in surrounding myself with like-minded people in a non-physical way, whether that is listening to business podcasts, reading self-development books, or through niche Facebook groups. I absolutely love Jenna Kutcher's Goal Digger podcast, as well as Rachel Hollis's Rise podcast. Some of my favorite books are You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and of course Girl, Wash Your Face.
There you have it! My top five tips for starting your own boutique. Go out and follow your dreams ladies, life is too short not to!