There were several boutiques in my area, but those that carried plus sizes were few and far between. If they did have plus sizes, they tended to shove them all the way to the back of the store and there was little variety.
I started my social media pages about three months before opening in order to start a buzz around town. Fortunately, I also purchased a good website. My goal when we opened was to help every woman who walked in the door find something that made her smile. Maybe it would be an outfit that would make her walk into that interview feeling confident or perhaps it would be an outfit that made her feel like she could strut her stuff on a date. The goal was just to make her feel beautiful.
We have been doing just that ever since we opened. We celebrated our one-year anniversary on Nov. 1, 2019. That was also the day I launched the website. For the first several months it was a work in progress, but little by little we had some sales come in.
Fast forward to March 19, when our whole world changed. Within the first 30 minutes of our governor’s news briefing, we knew we would not be opening back up for at least a couple of weeks.
My heart fell to the floor and I became numb. How in the world was this going to work? My entire business plan went out the window, and I knew I was going to have to turn to video sales. But in all honesty, I was scared to go on camera. I had gained some weight over the last couple of months and I use the word “um” a lot!
That night, as I sat on my couch with a bottle of wine at my side and my computer on my lap, I started doing research. I watched about 10 Facebook Live sales that evening. Before I went to bed I had made three Facebook Live events. I decided I would do a Live sale Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Each sale was at a different time and would have a different theme. The plan was to sell the clothes that I had in stock so if we were able to open back up again we could have the money to purchase more inventory.
Little did we know two weeks would turn into a month and then two months. I got into a routine. Plan, conduct a Facebook Live, invoice, ship and repeat. Each day the rules changed. Each business did things differently. I have been so lucky to have such amazing customers.
My original intention in conducting the Facebook Lives was to make money, but in the end they were wonderful opportunities for my customers to see me and for me to talk to them. I am a goofball in real life. I giggle at myself, talk to myself and enjoy life. I don’t look like a boutique owner. In fact, if we ran into each other on the street you would see a girl in jeans, tennis shoes and a graphic tee … and if it’s cold enough I will be wearing our signature Shirley Cardi.
I am as real as I can be on my Lives. I let my customers into my life. I have cried, I have laughed, and I have been embarrassed. I do use the word “um” a lot. However, in the end, my customers have embraced me for who I am and what I stand for.
I am not married, so I am my own sole provider. I have three cats that depend on me and I need to make sure that I can put food on the table. When COVID-19 hit I was so lucky to have such a strong bond with my customers.
We had a decent March, an amazing April and May is looking pretty good, too. The moral of the story is hard work pays off. I had to face my fears and pull up my big girl panties. I could never have made this work if I had let fear take over.
I look back at the beginning and I was scared, nervous, confused, angry, and had every other emotion that a small business could have. I dug my heels in and prayed a lot. I talked to a lot of other business owners as well. Each day the rules change. I just keep pivoting.