If you’re new around here, you might not know that in addition to this little corner of the internet, I own a women’s boutique with my mom. I wrote about it back in this post, but a lot has changed since then, like adding a storefront and my mom joining in. We just celebrated our one year anniversary for the storefront this past May. It truly is like both of our dreams come true, but just like any job, being a boutique owner means we face struggles too. (I’ll save that blog post for another day.) Along with struggles, people are super curious about our what our lives are like owning our own boutique so I thought I’d tackle that in a blog post!
To be honest, I knew I’ve wanted to write about this even before I came back to the blogging world. Lately when people ask me what I do for a living, I’m quick to answer with, “Boutique owner by day, blogger by night.” Both of those occupations seem to be quite the spark of conversation, and I’m usually followed up with lots of questions. Here we go…
So you own a boutique, that means you basically shop for a living, right?
HA. Had to get this one out of the way first. Really? Let’s just think about that one for a second. My immediate response would be with a few choice words, but my mother raised me better then that, so instead I try to laugh it off and respond, “No, that’s what a personal shopper is. I run a business.” A boutique is just like any other local, small business. We are in it because we’re passionate about it. But, alas, we are also in it to make money.
A business is a business, no matter the category it falls in. Not only do we have to source all of the great product for our customers, we also have to shop on an average of three seasons ahead, keep track of said orders, have money to pay for said orders, work on displays, keep the shop clean, manage social media and find new ways to attract customers, plan events and pop-ups, pay bills, keep track of accounting… Ah, the list goes on and on but those are just a few of our daily jobs. The hardest part on top of all of that? Actually make a profit!
How did you decide to open a boutique?
This dream of ours my friends has been a long time coming. As a little background, I grew up in the restaurant industry. My parents owned a bar and grill and marina my entire childhood. Once my dad passed, my mom stepped away from the family business and began bartending at a handful of local happening spots. I started working in the restaurant industry when I was 13 bussing tables and hostessing at a family friend’s restaurant. My mom claims she threw me in that young to grow thick skin. (If you ask me, that didn’t work.) I worked in the industry until I graduated high school. It was about my sophomore year that I realized that was not the job/industry for me. I envied my mom for the 40+ years she spent in the hospitality industry, but y’all, I was not cut for that cloth. It taught me so much, but ultimately it pushed me away from my hometown. It wasn’t until college that I realized I’d love to come back and live here, just not doing that for a living. (Which looking back on, that ideal seemed a little far-fetched for most since we live in a resort town.)
Meanwhile, I fell in love with SCAD, and decided to study Fashion in college. I first thought I wanted to major in Fashion Design. I took sewing and pattern-making classes throughout high school, along with fashion sketching from a professor from Salisbury University. Once I started taking these courses at SCAD, I really wasn’t loving it as much as I thought. A peer recommended researching the Merchandising program, as it was to no argument I loved the Fashion part. I had found my place. My people. My purpose. I graduated with a degree in Fashion Merchandising & Marketing, and moved home until I made a decision about my next phase of life. I had no idea that life pretty much already knew what I was going to be doing, I just needed to realize it as well. Once I moved back after graduation, my mom had an opportunity to retire. This was along the same time I was launching an online shop.
Even further back, my mom studied Fashion Merchandising before she made her trek to our little beach town. She worked as a visual merchandiser and opened new stores for several department stores in the greater Baltimore area. My mom missed this so much that she decided to work for a local boutique on the side for a little. From the age of 14 to 18, I spent my afternoons styling windows and choosing pieces alongside my mom. I thrived. I looked up to her so much, and will forever cherish getting to do that together. It made us quickly realize that at some point in our life, we would love to own a boutique together. Fast forward, meet Magnolia Rifle Boutique. 🙂
How do you like working with your mom?
We get asked this a lot. And I completely understand why! In all honesty, I couldn’t imagine doing this job with anyone else. When I hear friends talking about business partner horror stories, or just business stories in general, I am so thankful for the partnership my mom and I have. (In and out of business!). It’s been just her and I in life for a long time. We have a special kind of bond because of it, and I’m definitely a stronger woman because of it. Do we argue? Have disagreements? Of course – maybe even more than the average mother/daughter out there. But the best part of being in business with your mom is that she forgives easier. We have both made mistakes, we own them, learn from them, and move on.
The funniest part I find is how different we are. We work very hard to blend each other’s styles, unique vision, and talents into one business. My mom is a vibrant, people-centric, entertainer, who believes you can never wear too many accessories. I, on the other hand, relish behind a computer screen, and spend most of my time focusing on curating the perfect brand. Our styles in clothing vary as well. She’s as extra as it gets. (In a good way… most of the time.) I still find it funny when friends or family members come in to shop and have to point out and say, “Well this is clearly a Pam pick.”
How do you keep it all together?
Another ironic question. WE DON’T! Trust us. We just try our hardest. The biggest lessons of this past year has been to give ourselves AND each other grace. Plus, we just hired our first full-time employee who has been a HUGE help. We call her our fairy godmother most days. 😉
Where do you find all the items you sell?
We attend a ton of tradeshows, mostly in NYC, plus there are online wholesale markets and websites where we buy from. Not to mention, in any downtime I have I am constantly researching, Instagramming, etc. in order to find the latest and greatest. We pride ourselves on carrying things that not everyone else does, so in return that takes some extra time in researching and curating.
What are you going to do when the baby comes?
One of the biggest perks of owning your own business? You get to make the rules. As of right now, I will be taking some time off to spend at home with him until Black Friday. That’s not a ton of time, but I’m sure I’ll still be working when I can here and there. Harrison, my boyfriend, also owns his own business so he is planning on working from home for the foreseeable future. This will help a ton! We also have an amazing support system and tribe behind us. We can’t thank our friends and family enough for the outpouring of love they’ve already shown this little babe and he hasn’t even entered the world yet! But yes, we are planning on having Colton around the shop for the first year. He will attract all the ladies 😉
What’s your #1 piece of advice for someone who wants to start their own boutique?
This is a good one… and probably could be its own blog post. But, I’ll try to sum it up. First up, I’d advise that you make sure you’re in it for the right reasons. It might look glamorous, but this job is a hell of a lot of work and we, as boutique owners, wear a hell of a lot of hats. You have to be in it for more then just the love of clothes. Remember when I said we don’t just shop all the time? That leads me to my next piece of advice. Make sure you have a solid base of knowledge on BOTH the fashion side of the business AND the numbers side of the business. The key to a successful boutique is the balance of the two. (And if you lack in one, OUTSOURCE IT! Trust me, it will be worth the money.) Lastly, I would tell them to never quit dreaming, learning, and evolving.
Did you like this post? I would love any feedback as I am introducing new topics to this blog. Did I miss any of your questions? Drop them in the comments and I’ll get back to you ASAP! Thank you again for reading and if you made it all the way to the bottom, kudos to you. I am in constant awe of all of you for your support and helping me live my dream everyday when it comes to this blog AND our shop. Make sure to check out Magnolia Rifle too while you’re at it!
Photos by Nate Bittinger