Y’all. It’s been a whirlwind!
If you’ve been following me on my business pages, you’ll agree this is true. The boutique, my salon, and my new education role has been moving along at a fast pace, and for all of those things, I’m very grateful. Get ready for a blog post dump of sorts!
The boutique got its start during COVID. It didn’t take me long during my three month stint of staying home and spending a lot of time crying that I had all of my eggs in one basket. My only source of income was to stand behind my chair relying on that my chair was always full to bring in the money that I needed to sustain my life. This was EXTREMELY uncomfortable for me. I felt useless, wandering about my day feeling that I had no purpose. As pitiful as that sounds, it’s a fact.
Thankfully, between tears, I realized that I’m not the type of person to live in that position for very long. Since I had plenty of time on my hands, I decided to get to work. The first step for me was to brand myself. I’m not really sure why I felt it so important to do that, but somehow I did. While researching Pinterest for ways to do this, I came across a $37 online course about creating brands. It seemed like a low risk investment so I went for it. As it turned out, it opened the doors to the boutique.
During this course, I went through the steps of figuring out exactly what my salon brand looked like. For my brand, it became evident to me that what I wanted my brand to reflect was comfort, trust, and my clients leaving the salon feeling better than when they walked through the door, especially coming back from Covid uncertainty. The course walked me through deciding brand colors, brand fonts, but also products and avenues of making sure everything that I did from there aligned with my brand. It also encouraged the idea of thinking outside of the box on ways to expand the brand without having all of the eggs in one basket, which is exactly what I had been struggling with.
The next step was to put ideas into action. I created the logo for Hair by Carrie after a few trial and error “looks”.
Then came the biggest challenge; diversifying my business. So what went well with making people feel beautiful? What could I add that would be different enough from “salon” but not seem like it was out of left field? I finally settled on unique clothing that couldn’t be found easily anywhere else. From that moment on, I began researching vendors and settled on a vendor site online that housed different brands all in one place. I decided on a couple of tops that I believed my clientele would like and I started a wishlist.
Now, this was the hard part because actually hitting checkout button was very hard for me to complete. I had zero income coming in and unemployment was a complete disaster. I wasn’t able to act right away, which was both good and bad. It kept me from starting a boutique on an impulse, but it also kept me from taking a risk on something that could be lucrative and get those eggs in different baskets.
Nonetheless, the right thing for me to do was to wait until I knew I was going to be able to reopen my salon. The boutique became something that would help me build back my business faster once I was able to reopen. Fast forward a week before my salon was able to reopen and unemployment FINALLY (and I mean FINALLY, with VIGOR) came through. I was able to order my wishlist.
Never having done this sort of thing before and opening a new category of my business during COVID, I thought I would just order some shirts and they would ship out right away, and I’d hang them up and sell them. So simple. Little did I know that the products themselves would be delayed and it wasn’t until I was back open a month would I learn that lesson- vendors have shipping promptness ratings and some of the ratings aren’t that good. Of course, I picked a vendor that was shipping slow. Not only that, I learned the valuable lesson of putting all of my eggs in one vendor basket; not a good idea.
After a wait, the shirts arrived and I put them on a rack and on the website that I had created for my salon during COVID (another project to keep busy) and it seemed like all was well until I learned that others in my office space had an issue with me moving my business forward. While I don’t feel it’s becoming of me to go into an all out blast of this situation, I will say that I felt as though I couldn’t win. I didn’t understand how anyone would try to thwart another’s progress and in that moment I was reminded that not everyone has the same heart as me, nor are others driven as much as I am to see their own personal business expand and succeed. It became quickly apparent that I needed to move out from that space and get creative. Thankfully, my landlord was willing to help me a little and I decided on taking the risk of renting a completely separate space in the building despite having another two years on the original space.
At the same time my good friend Tearra decided to come on board and be a partner in the boutique. So, I was again redoing a salon space but also adding a bigger boutique space to what I was already starting. That’s when The Fika Boutique was born. That name was actually thought up by Tearra and is Swedish for slowing down to enjoy the little things in life- something I generally stink at, but it was the perfect name for the brand.
So on I went spending day and night painting, planning, and working to get the heck out of my old space. Here’s a little look on how it initially took shape:
You would think it would be time to just kick back and just enjoy it. Yah, that never seems to work out well for me. The business model actually worked. Clients were enjoying having unique clothing at the ready for them to shop while they were getting their hair done and the website we had created was gaining traction.
Then came the moment that Tearra, through no fault of her own, had to step away from the partnership. It was fight or flight on the boutique end for me and I decided it was worth fighting for. While I knew that it would be a lot to do on my own, I was feeling the value of what it meant for others and it was giving clients the feeling that I wanted for them; they were feeling unique and stylish.
The time between where it was then and where it’s going now was hard and I’ve felt mostly like I’m out of balance since. Who knew that a boutique could be so much darn work. I was, somewhat, back to the drawing board to figure out how to streamline the whole process and that process of streamlining has generally been very time consuming.
One thing, though, after having my own businesses for this many years is that it humbles you enough to know that going to the people that have already done what you want to do and following their model works pretty well. I’ve since hired a business coach who has given me the opportunity to find information I need to structure the boutique business and make it more efficient.
That‘s when I started to look at how I was going to get creative with an expansion. I’ve always had the mindset that if something is growing you grow with it or you lose it. That seems harsh, but I believe it’s true. I remember having a conversation with my business coach as I was looking at buying a trailer to expand because of my current brick and mortar lease:
My coach: ”What scares you about buying the trailer?”
Me: “Nothing.” My coach: “Really? What if someone tells you it’s a completely stupid idea and it’s going to fail?” Me: “I’ll do it twice to prove them wrong.”
She was dumbfounded at my complete lack of fear, and I’m so grateful that I was born with that in me. I overthink a lot of things but starting businesses isn’t one. That’s when my newest project was born; the boutique trailer.
Since I’m currently a one man show, it seemed advantageous to add taking my product line to guests instead of always having guests come to me. That idea became clearly evident at a Farmers Market in downtown Mt. Carroll. It was a bit of a disaster, but it was worth every minute seeing the potential.
Transparency time- I’m very type A. I like all my ducks in a row. I like things orderly, well displayed, above and beyond- anything people like me like. That first market two racks broke, the clothes went straight to the ground, and I spent a few days spot cleaning garments. Ain’t nobody got time for that, and my business felt unprofessional. That didn’t sit well. It was time to again think outside of the box and I began thinking about buying a trailer to turn into a boutique.
A couple of weeks after the idea came to mind I found a little 6x12 foot trailer that seemed a perfect fit. I was able to invest without financially draining myself and I felt I could put my own spin on it to make it special and unique.
I’m not sure why it felt this way, but it felt like the trailer was way more work than the salon build was. I’m not sure if it felt that way because utility trailers aren’t made to be boutiques, but dang, I thought it was never going to get done. Now that it is, though, it’s something that I’m very proud of and it’s perfect for my little growing business.
Again, you would think I would sit back and enjoy the fruits of this labor, but let’s be honest, I roll very differently and who knows where it will go from here.
Now, if only this was the only iron in the fire, but it’s not.
Next Stop... The salon... coming soon.