Patricia of Bolero is not only an amazingly talented designer, but she’s also a close personal friend of mine. She represents the best of what small business has to offer: quality products, excellent customer service, constant innovation, and a special personal touch in all she does. Last year, we were privileged enough to have her visit the shop for a pop-up event, and in what is the best twist of 2018, she is coming back! Patricia will be at the shop on December 7th and 8th for another event complete with her latest collection. I will be posting the relevant details soon, but in honor of the upcoming event, I wanted to write a mini-review of a new Bolero Ezy tunic design.
After I posted about the difficulties we were facing as a business, the rallying cry of support from people whose lives were made better by the shop touched me on such a deep, emotional level that I can only describe it as love. Yes, I truly love all of you who so willingly gave your support, who shared the post, who encouraged others to visit us, who sent me personal words of encouragement and solidarity. You made my life better through your actions, and I have spent the better part of the week crying and smiling while reading everyone’s messages. My takeaway was that I not only made the right decision in fighting to keep the shop afloat, but also that I am very fortunate to be part of such a loving, caring community.
Today, I am checking my usual humor at the door and ripping down the curtains obscuring the view into the true state of our business: Last month, I planned to shut our doors permanently by the end of December. Usually when I contemplate closing, it’s in the midst of an emotional meltdown, all sobs or screams and half-serious intentions. The toll of small business ownership and a never-ending string of bad luck in the last four years more than once made want to quit and work a corporate job where life may not be better but at least it’d be easier. As the tears dried and my mood stabilized, I’d rush remorsefully back to the shop as if it were a sentient being whose feelings I injured with my idle threats.
First, my original intention with my post in, oh I don’t know, December was to get back on track from the travesty of 2017. I was going to cut out gluten and get my thyroid fixed and exercise and catch up on blogs and get better at bookkeeping and basically DO ALL THE THINGS. Intentions, amirite? On new year’s, I was toasting with family saying “2018 will be better! No more freak spider bites, no more bronchitis! Just getting healthy! RAWR!” And in all fairness to 2018, I have not gotten bronchitis or any insect bites . . . yet. Instead, a persistent cold became a sinus infection the last couple weeks of December that I powered through at the store, which obviously only made it worse. I spent my entire vacation on my couch sipping cough syrup and alternately complaining my house was either too hot or too cold. By mid-January, I could once again breathe through my nose and began work on the numerous projects I hoped to complete in what is traditionally a slower retail month. Success was slow and stressful, but I was starting to feel like maybe, just maybe, I was back in control.
As a small business owner, I love when I can spotlight fellow entrepreneurs to highlight the wonderful services and products they bring to our community, and today we’re combining my enthusiasm for shopping local with wine . . . and cheese . . . but mostly wine. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle the owner of Cork & Cow, a local wine bar and bistro, and we immediately connected over the shared struggles of owning a business and how a glass of wine in the evening is sometimes an absolute essential. She’s funny, knows her stuff, and owns one of the coolest spots in town. If you’re local or just visiting for some fabulous bras *ahem*, add Cork & Cow to your “must go” list. Did I mention they had wine and that today is a Saturday?
My wonderful friend Patricia of Bolero gave me a new Erica dress for Christmas/my Birthday, and immediately I knew it deserved a mini-review because of some pleasant updates. Bolero is headquartered in perennial summer state Florida, meaning many of the styles use lighter fabric and much of her early work was sleeveless. However, as the brand gained popularity, one critique was the lightweight fabric did not transition to cooler temperatures in moderate climates or the tundra (aka anything higher than New York . . . maybe even some parts of New York itself). Enter the new Erica dress fabric.
My Facebook status stream is pleasantly awash today in a flurry of hashtag ridden posts reminding friends to #shopsmall for #smallbusinesssaturday often accompanied by images with inspirational quotes about how patronizing small businesses supports a family, pays for dance lessons, funnels money into the community, and improves the economy. Small businesses are often passion driven and innovative, started by people who want to make a change in the world around them, but success is hardly guaranteed. Failure rates are high, and customers often assume the owner is rolling in the cash or “getting rich” from sales. Small businesses can lend you financial stability, but they can also place you on the verge of financial ruin, to say nothing of the tremendous strain they place on personal relationships. What you perceive as a successful business owner could be one on the verge of bankruptcy and divorce. We’re all faking it until we make it, but the problem is some of never will make it. It’s a hard path to walk, and small business Saturday at least tries to reward those who choose it.
Kristen Allen contacted me a few months ago about a potential Pop Up Shop at the store for her bust-friendly clothing designs, and I was immediately intrigued by what she hoped to offer customers. Bust-friendly fashion is obviously a subject about which I feel passionately because I have spent the better part of my life struggling to fit into clothing designed for a different body shape than my own. My first properly fitting button-front shirts came from Poland and then Campbell & Kate, and they opened my eyes to not only how sharp a tailored shirt looks but also how confident I felt wearing them. To see another entrepreneur bringing her own perspective to the industry, especially an approach which focuses on Made in the USA products, was fabulous, and I knew immediately I wanted to help however I could. As a result, we’re starting off with an interview where Kristen dishes on her motivations, her mistakes, and how fabulous it is to live in NYC, and then later, I will have a review of one of her classic shirts! Oh, and did I mention that if there is enough interest we’re going to host a Pop Up shop here? If you’re interested in seeing her come to NC, please comment, email, or message me because this is an opportunity I would love to take advantage of for our customers. Stay cool in the heat everyone!
Fussy Busty and I first internet-met a few years ago when she started her fabulous blog, and she has always been a warm, generous person. In fact, we were part of a secret Santa exchange one year, and she knitted me a coffee cup cover with the store’s iconic pears stitched onto them! Recently, she embarked on a new journey in her life as a work-at-home mom and small business owner. Fussy translated her enjoyment for sewing into a custom-clothing business for children and adults, and her adorable daughter is often found modeling the latest designs. Because so many of us struggle to find properly fitted garments, a business which offers the option of purchasing custom-made clothes at an affordable price is one I am keen to support. Not to mention, all of you know by now that I adore family-owned businesses, made in America products, and anybody willing to do something different in the clothing industry. Naturally, I am loving what Fussy is hoping to achieve here, but I especially loved how candidly she spoke about the trials of working from home and raising a child. Oh, and did I mention she made me a dress? A dress that channels my favorite writer even? It’s en transit now, and I’m totally doing this:
My recent collaboration with Bluestockings Boutique on small business ownership inspired me to explore one of the core elements of our discussion: the price of lingerie and how consumers perceive it. Do a quick search on Google (or your search engine of choice) for core bra styles from major lingerie brands like Panache, Natori, and Affinitas, and you may be surprised at how challenging it is to find discount pricing anymore. If the bra is black, beige, white, or a newly released fashion color, it is probably listed at full price, and if it’s not, wait a few days. Eventually, someone will report the infraction, and the item will quickly return to its original Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). But why have retailers all across the US finally agreed to uphold the same pricing schema despite years of competing for consumer dollars based on low cost? Simple. Manufacturers have grown tired of watching their carefully designed, high quality products be associated with low prices and discounts. Unlike many avenues of retail, intimate apparel remains fairly exempt from what’s known as inflationary pricing—a practice where the retailers and/or manufacturers inflate the price of a product beyond its true worth to allow for constant discounting and price-based competition. As a result, the suggested retail price on most items has been determined by the manufacturer to be a fair evaluation of the design process, fabrics, manufacturing, and associated retail expenses like rent, utilities, and the cost of a professional fitter. In short, there’s no wiggle room for lowering that price and maintaining a successful profit, particularly for boutique retailers. Enter the advent of MAP Agreements.