I started my online clothing boutique in 2017 after a short stint selling LuLaRoe. I don't like admitting this to people since so many women have gotten burned as business owners themselves or as customers from the crappy quality of their clothing. And as many may know from the Netflix Docuseries, working for LuLaRoe was a complete shit show. Growing up Catholic, I knew a little bit about cults but it wasn't until working for this multi-level marketing scheme that I truly understood how brainwashing worked. Granted I had already escaped the ultra conservative landscape of a religious upbringing, I was able to see LLR very clearly for what it was. I never bought into the ideals, the predatory mentorship or the crazed gatherings. I just stayed home with my kids, sold some stuff online and worked with my neighbor Gen.
Working with Gen was one of the best decisions I had made. She was my business partner and my perfect compliment. Gen liked the mundane office work like invoicing, pulling reports and emailing customers while I liked the social aspect like social media, content creation and photography. We worked really well together and we both had kids that came first- so we often worked around each others schedules and were still able to maintain having a family and working part time for a crazy ass company.
It wasn't long until I got fired from LuLaRoe. I mean... are you surprised? The mouth on me got me regular emails about cursing while selling their products. So when the final email came, Gen and I pivoted and within a week and a half Esme and Elodie emerged from the ashes of the LLR dumpster fire. We sold all our inventory at cost and never sent a single item back to corporate out of principle- knowing they were eventually going to go bankrupt from faulty business practices and corruption. It was a blessing getting fired because we didn't lose a dime and learned a bout owning a boutique.
We ran Esme and Elodie with our same customer base as LLR and it was great. We used Facebook to host Live Sales, try on new styles and do unboxing videos. We had full reign to purchase whatever styles we wanted, say whatever came to our mind and structure our business around our ideals and schedules.
Even though things should have been so much easier having more control of our business what Gen and I didn't expect was the after effects of working for LLR and the burnout we felt trying to close one business and open another was real. We were going to bed at 1am and waking up to care for our families and running on coffee and late night Taco Bell runs. It was a hectic time and we didn't take enough time to breathe and assess how we were going to run Esme and Elodie online long term. We didn't think about future planning of the company and soon we decided to close our partnership. Gen was ready to move on and after two years of being on our own, we sold everything again and this time the timing was perfect.Because 2020 brought us COVID!
By the time the pandemic came around, Gen and I were ready to focus on our families. We left the partnership on good terms and joked about how all the empty hangers we had from LLR would be sent with our kids to college.
After a year of homeschooling, I was ready to go back to work. I spent the summer studying to get my WA state teachers license since that was what my bachelors degree was in but the more I thought about going back to the classroom after an 11 year hiatus, the more I knew it wasn't the right choice for me. If i was overwhelmed having 6 children at home, how was I going to cope being around 30 kids all day in school after a worldwide pandemic? Hard pass- major props to the teachers who stuck it out.
As I questioned my what next, I decided to take my kids downtown Renton to try the new coffee place Boon Boona. As we talked towards the coffee house, I noticed a For Lease sign on a building and the sparks flew. This was the sign I was looking for. Instead of continuing to try and build my brand online, I was going to open a brick and mortar. I had enough merchandising skills to feel confident enough to do it. I went home jacked up on coffee and a dream.
Once I opened the boutique I had no clue what to expect. I had been a member of the Facebook group I love Renton and have always seen posts that boasted about the small town charm and how much residents loved their town. It was inspiring and a leap of faith off of some silly FB posts, but it was enough for me to take the risk.
Now being in business for over a year, I can say that it was the best risk I had ever taken. To build a community of women in person has been so rewarding. There is something about being able to help a woman in person, to read her body language and to greet someone with a smile. Don't get me wrong... my online followers are still around but there is something so special about being able to give a woman a hug when it's needed.
Social media has been a great vehicle for me to represent who I truly am as a person but being able to meet the women I talk to on the interwebs in person feels so much more fulfilling. It feels less transactional and more like a friend visiting. My business in person feels like the best version of itself.