If you want to become an Entrepreneur and get the answer to “how to start a boutique business?” keep reading.
(or if you want to just jump straight to working on your store launch plan with me LIVE and in the flesh for 3 hours, or get instant access to store planning content, head here)
In 2019, I became a full-time entrepreneur. It wasn’t a result of me making “the leap of faith” that is glamorized on Instagram.
It actually happened suddenly, and quite frankly, traumatically.
I then told a very important person in my life I wanted to start a new business, completely separate from The Affinity Group International – which I had been operating as a side hustle to my full-time job in corporate retail.
It was finally my chance to open the business I’d been planning since middle school.
That person told me to buy an existing business and use the profit from that business to later start mine…..
How would you feel and what would your response be?
I immediately said that made zero sense. I’m not wanting to start a business “just to do it” or because it was what everyone else is doing (aka the current craze on social media).
I had a specific vision to execute that was inside of my head.
If I’d still be working on someone else’s vision by purchasing an existing business, I may as well go back to corporate retail.
And this is how I feel about that.
Chain retailers are failing because they lack innovation, vision, and quite frankly, passion. All you have to do is spend a day at their retail corporate headquarters to quickly see that. Many chain retailers have forgotten who their core customer even is. Retail is truly evolving.
Not to mention, if I put all of my money into buying an existing business, that leaves little for me to start mine – and who knows how long it would take for me to have enough business funding from this existing business to branch off and execute my own vision?!
What has been evident in these months of being a full-time entrepreneur, is that starting a business and staying in business requires vision, a strategic plan, support, and resilience.
Of course, I’ve been a business owner for 5 years now and already know this – however, it hits a bit differently when your business is your sole source of income.
Being a full-time entrepreneur truly shows you what you’re made of.
To have a successful business, you must believe in and stay true to your vision.
People will constantly give you their opinion on your business strategy and what direction you should take your business next.
Why did you initially start your business? What were you so passionate about that you were willing to give up so much to pursue it? You absolutely cannot forget your answers to these questions, your “Why”. You must filter the information you see and read online and that people speak to you.
If something doesn’t align with your vision, the results won’t align with your purpose.
Generally, people mean well, but use discernment. And don’t hesitate to turn down work or sales that are not the right fit for you. It will only cause you more stress and inner turmoil.
Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, you will find yourself heading towards survival mode. Your income isn’t steady, and you’re scrambling to figure out where your next paycheck will come from, and Lord when?!
Operating in survival mode causes you to make rash decisions based on emotion that you will regret later.
You could be tempted to spend money to do any and everything you think will increase your sales, like giving up money by discounting your services. Heck, you could be tempted to add services that don’t make sense to your target customer. You may even completely disregard your target customer and try to serve any and everyone who will give you sales.
When you are true to your vision and what drove you to start your business in the first place, success and money follow.
To successfully start a boutique, you must have a strategic plan.
If you have ever heard me speak at an event or have worked with me, you know that “strategic” is my buzzword. Can you be successful without a plan, yes. But will it take you years or even decades longer, cause loads of unnecessary stress, and countless amounts of wasted money from experimenting? YES.
Having a strategic plan means that you have taken the time to thoroughly review your business operations, evaluate what did and did not work, and have a plan to drive more sales.
When unplanned things happen within your business, you are able to quickly course-correct because you have your business management drilled down to the most minute detail. You’re clear on your sales goals and can adjust your plan accordingly to make up for sales plan misses or wins.
You know exactly how much money is available in your open-to-buy (your buying budget) so that when you attend trade shows you aren’t overspending. You know your target customer and why they shop with you, so when sales are down you can come up with an action plan to course correct.
Having a business plan enables you to operate with focus because it revolves around your vision, your business history and your business trajectory. It keeps you from the downward spiral of survival mode.
PS – if you are thinking about starting a boutique, and your first thought is about how to find wholesale vendors or the best fashion trade shows to attend – you have to take about 20 steps back, and here’s why:
- You can’t start to think about the products you will carry before you know who your target customer is, or you will waste money on products that won’t sell (before you’ve even launched), and you will waste a lot of time looking at any and everything to figure out what you want to buy because there’s no target customer in mind.
- You can’t think about what you’re going to buy before you’ve laid out your store financial and inventory plan. The amount of products you buy depends on your sales plan. If you need to hit $20k in sales, you will likely need to spend around $10k in inventory.
- To register for a trade show, your business has to be set up legally. You must have a sales tax and use certificate, usually a company business card, and for some, if you’re a new business owner and haven’t launched your store yet, you need a letter of intent from your bank or lawyer or show that you’ve spent at least $1000 in wholesale invoices.
- You want to have a good understanding of the retail industry and how it works before you attend a trade show – it is an industry trade event. A lot of boutique owners looking to buy wholesale products first think of a trade show like they’d think of a mall. You go, shop around, place orders for what you want, have fun, take lots of selfies! Yes it can be fun, but its’ primary purpose is for business. There are buyers from large retailers attending to place orders, people come from all over the world to do business. There’s industry lingo you need to know so that the wholesale vendors know that you’re a serious business owner and there to do business, not “window shop”. They’re there to make money!
- Also, there are plenty of brands and wholesalers who won’t sell to exclusively online boutiques with no brick and mortar store. Watch my IGTV for more on that. You’re probably thinking how right?
- You have to apply for wholesale accounts with some vendors. It’s not like shopping at a mall. You have to “audition” for some vendors for them to even entertain you carrying their products in your store!
As you see, there’s so much more to the retail industry than what you’ve found on Instagram, Google, or Youtube.
That’s literally why I created the Storefront Discovery Intensive, so I can make sure you know the big answers to your questions about your store BEFORE you spend anything towards launching. Answers like….how much money you will have to invest into inventory, marketing, how much money you’d need to make in the store for you to quit your 9 to 5. You know, the burning questions on your mind.
Could I just give you some tips and send you on your way, and not explain to you all of the above? Sure, but then I’d be like “everyone else” making things seem so simple and easy…..until you try to do it and find out the opposite.
I’ve been in the retail industry for 16+ years. It’s my heart and soul, so everything I do revolves around making sure that you succeed in this industry!
To have a successful business, you must have support.
Being an entrepreneur is a constant test of your mental health. You cannot do this alone, no matter what social media tells you.
Make sure that you have an accountability partner that will be by your side through this entrepreneurship journey. That person may not end up being someone in your family or one of your friends.
Your family and friends who aren’t entrepreneurs just might not ever understand your struggles. You will honestly have to accept that. Sometimes you can show people better than you can tell them. An entrepreneur is truly a special type of person. Someone who isn’t an entrepreneur won’t understand:
- Why you would leave your “stable job” for living paycheck to paycheck
- You choosing to leave a 40 hour work week for a 70 hour one, for less money
- Spending your entire life’s savings on a “maybe” or “hope” that when you start a boutique the business will be successful
- You living a no frills lifestyle so that your business can grow
Luckily, there are plenty of entrepreneurship communities you can join, filled with people who “get you”. These communities are found through Facebook groups, local chamber of commerce, networking groups and events.
You may also need financial support through a lender or investor during your business journey to fund your startup or to provide working capital as you scale the business.
Not to mention, having a mentor, or business consultant in your field is an invaluable asset. You’ll actually save money because they will provide the exact strategic answers that you need.
To start a boutique, you must have resilience.
Entrepreneurship is hard. Beyond hard, it’s a brutal, emotional roller coaster.
You will find yourself asking yourself on a regular basis, “What does it take to start a boutique”. Translating to, “What more can I possibly give”? You will question yourself and your sanity for even wanting to be an entrepreneur in the first place. Sometimes you may even be on the fence and want to shut it all down.
That’s where your support comes in. There is nothing wrong with expressing your frustration and you should let it out. The key is to not let that continue for long, and to pick yourself up and keep moving forward.
You will get knocked down so many times, but you must keep going.
One of my biggest tests of resilience was when my funds were tight. I made the hard decision to shut down my business credit cards and all business expenses that weren’t completely vital.
The fancy client registration software I used had to go. Paid networking / meetups that typically were more fun than business had to stop. I couldn’t spend any money on ads to bring in clients and had to get resourceful with grassroots marketing. Preventing myself from going into survival mode by forcing me to utilize the bare minimum needed to run the business, was my priority. I made sure the amount of money coming into the business was more than the amount going out. I also updated my business plan to ensure I could turn the situation around.