When I opened my boutique six years ago, my vision was small. Wait, not small…blurry. I knew I wanted to be my own boss, so that I could decide my hours, be able to get my kids on and off the bus, and not have their lives interrupted by my ambitions. I worked 10-2 p.m. a few days a week, and as the kids grew, so did my hours.
After a few years, I started to see the vision more clearly. As I got to know my customers, I started to realize what I wanted my boutique to become. I wanted it to be a place where women could walk in and immediately feel at ease. No sales person chomping at the bit to serve them, no loud music drowning out the sound of their voice. No, I wanted it to be a place where women could come, toss their coats and purses down, and wander freely – have a cup of coffee or tea, music playing in the background – I wanted it to become a place where women would leave feeling better about themselves.
So I began to plan. I found designers to created fashions in sizes Small through 3X. I set up a coffee bar with a wide variety of teas, coffee, hot cocoa and cider. I stocked a mini fridge with waters, juice and soda. I brought in muffins or home baked goods and left them on the coffee station for the taking.
And I talked with my customers. I got to know them. I got to know their lives, their husbands and friends, their pets, their kids…
When customers walked in, I wanted them to enjoy the space, as much as I enjoyed creating it. But more importantly, I wanted them to feel good about themselves. To feel good. Shopping for clothes can be a stressful event. Women tend to look at their flaws. And sometimes, they won’t even try on something out of sheer fear.
But my goal is to help women understand their beauty is not defined by their clothing. It’s how they feel in it. If I can find the perfect top, or skirt, or dress…something they may never have even picked up…if I can find them a necklace or hat…and I see a smile form as soon as they see themselves in the mirror – that’s the win.
There’ve been plenty of times when a woman will come out wearing something, and I’ll see a puzzled look on their face. They’ll spin around, they’ll approach the mirror closely, and eye-themselves judgmentally. And I’ll say to them, “unless YOU love it, don’t buy it. I don’t want it to sit in your closet and take up space. You have to love it.”
I would rather not make a sale, than someone walk out not feeling 100% confident in her choice.
My customers have become friends. When they walk in now, they’ll come around the counter and hug me. Their kids will come in and sing songs for me. Their husbands will come in, sit down in one of my comfy chairs, and enjoy the space, as their wives and I catch up. It’s been an amazing journey.
But last night, a customer shared a story with me, that nearly brought me to tears. She came to my store a few months back. She was feeling less than self-confident. She was not sure coming to my boutique was a good move, but her friend had told her about it, and she was in the neighborhood.
She walked in, and was greeted by my mom. My mom has been helping me out for the past few years, so I can head out and get the kids off the bus.
After a few minutes, my mom saw that she was looking lost, walking around and touching the clothes, but not trying them on. This customer shared with me, that she started to panic. She was hoping to just come in, walk around, and leave. She didn’t want to be noticed.
But my mom saw something, felt something. She picked up a denim skirt, and somehow convinced this customer to try it on. So she did. And it looked and felt good on her, so my mom grabbed a sweater. An outfit was suddenly put together, and this customer, who hadn’t been feeling good about herself at all, suddenly smiled when she saw herself in the mirror. The words my mom spoke to her, the help she provided, made a difference. And she told me last night, as she shared this story with me, “coming to your store, and the way I felt when I left, carried me through.”
And when she was complimented on her outfit by coworkers and family, her confidence soared.
As she told me that story, I felt tears welling up. That has been the goal all along. To make someone feel better about themselves, than before they walked in. My mom had done that for her.
My vision has come to fruition, and I feel incredibly blessed.
It’s so not about the sale.