I can’t believe I am celebrating HoneyBee Boutique’s 5 year anniversary next week! I celebrate lots of special days with the store (Website Creation, Storefront, Expansion, etc) - but this is the OG Anniversary!! The day I announced and ordered my first ever pieces of clothing for the store and day I created our Insta! 5 years seems like a lifetime ago, yet it has flown by at the same time. How could a 19 year old already know what they wanted to do with their life? Crazy right? Well, it was kinda an impulse decision and was going to be just some side income at the time, but deep down I had always wanted my own store. I really didn’t think it would be possible and yet so early in my life at that. My story really begins in 2013, that’s the year I graduated high school and moved to college in Valdosta, GA. Clothing boutiques were beginning to pop up everywhere and you found so much cuter options for much better prices - I was obsessed. I frequented a few in Valdosta my entire freshman year and it’s funny because that’s when I recall it kinda becoming what I wanted to do after college, but didn’t see myself ever being able to make it a career (i changed my major 6 times and ended with what I started as - haha). I remember creating a doc on my computer with brands that I liked. When I’d come across specific pieces of clothing, I’d jot down the brand!! I also created a Pinterest board titled ‘One Day When I Own a Boutique’ 😂 - pinned was lots of chevron, bubble necklaces and bright prints (gotta love the changing fashions). Fast forward 2 years — I had decided not to go back to the College Dance Team I was on my sophomore year and was giving up something I had spent my whole life doing (dance) & I decided I was going to join a sorority that fall. During that May before my junior year, I was at home with a lot of time on my hands. I had a position working in a boutique and they let other boutique owners who sold from home sell in their store, that’s when the idea was brought to me and it began. - I GOOGLED EVERYTHING and HoneyBee Boutique was created (you can read about how I got the name in our 'About Us'). I hosted “stop & shops” (pop-ups) in my parents home that summer and created my website in August before returning to school. My clothes basically traveled with me back and forth from home to college. My boyfriend (now my husband) had an extra bedroom in his house that became my mini warehouse during those last two years there since my apartment was small. I hosted stop & shops to my sorority sisters and friends in Valdosta as well and then graduated in 2017. The week of my college graduation was the week I found out that I would be a store owner! I purchased an existing business in the location I am now that was also a boutique. It was fully furnished with racks, inventory, monogramming equipment - move in ready. So, one month after graduation I opened my storefront. 10 months later I was out of room and expanded the store, and here we are 2 years later!! The main reason for this blog post was to simply answer a question I get quite often from girls and that is “How do you start a boutique/business?” Well, here’s my thoughts and the best advice I can give with what I have learned in 5 years:
I GOOGLED EVERYTHING - I write this in all caps because I get this question a ton and it's my honest thought. It’s not that I’m afraid of competition or don’t want to share how, GIRL I ENCOURAGE YOU TO FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS! But I have worked so hard the past 5 years basically teaching myself what I know and money was spent on education for a Management degree to learn things I know and research I’ve done. It frustrates me when I get questions from people wanting me to give them step by step instructions when they've taken 0 time to look into it. I encourage people to chase their dreams like I did but for me to simply list word for word how to do what I’m doing is simply not going to happen. The worldwide web has so much more facts than I can give you and all I can say is RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH! Here is my advice that I tell each person who asks / what to know if you want to start a boutique or business for that matter:
- Research... there, I said it again. lol
- Have a business plan! Know where you want to be in 5 years! What goals do you have for the business? Is it a side hustle or a career for you? How much money are you wanting to spend?
- Be original - copying what other people do gets you no where! Customers like originality and not something that’s offered at every other boutique. The market is saturated with boutiques already and it’s going to take someone being original to make it out there, unless you just simply want to be another "same" boutique. Set yourself apart from the competition so your customers notice you!
- Work your butt off!! People think it’s just a ‘fun job’ of shopping 24/7, taking pictures, posting and keeping clothes. I love what I do and it is fun... but it’s not easy. There is WAYYY more that goes into it than you will ever realize and you won’t until you do it. (Taxes, licenses, payroll, employees, liability, accounting, marketing - tons of expenses)
- Have a budget. I bought inventory from what savings I had built up from when I was a child. I didn’t invest until I got my storefront because I purchased an existing business to combine inventory, fixtures, location, etc.
- Know that it’s not a 9-5 job. Expect to answer DMs 24/7. Creating marketing materials in bed at night. Posting non stop. All to please a customer so they come back. (I’m such a ppl pleaser) which leads me to the next.
- Customer service is everything & so are repeat customers. If this means anything to you, you go above and beyond!
- Know it doesn’t happen over night. - this one is so hard for me. I tend to dream big and compare myself to the big dogs and it makes me feel like I can do it all. I’m not there yet and that’s simply okay because it takes time. After 5 years, have I grown tremendously? - YES! But have I made it to the end goal? NO. - I constantly change my goals because my life changes. I have bigger priorities now that I’m married and now that I have a child! Prioritizing is everything in a business and for me it comes: God, Family and then business. I think you can definitely have both! I see women CEOs all the time with several children making it and they are my inspiration to push through! Check out Tori Gerbig or Diana Harbour on Insta when you have a minute.
- You’ll have the lowest lows and the highest highs. One week you’ll be doing record sales and think you are invincible. The next week you’ll have 2 people walk in on a single day. This leads to one week I’ll be extremely motivated, so creative and ready to make it big and the next week I’m ready to dip out of it all and quit. You never know what you'll get.
- No one, and I repeat NO ONE will treat or love your business like you do. You can try... but it’s not happening.
- It’s hard but worth it. My employees will probably tell you how "OCD" I can be about things. I think being a business owner in general, you need to have a little bit of that in you. You need to know what you want because being an indecisive person would probably be a catastrophe waiting to happen. You need to be able to make decisions on the fly, especially if a customers is right in front of you, Being a boss has probably been the hardest challenge thus far. It's always been hard for me to delegate work to others because I'd rather do it myself so it gets done the way I want it to and quicker. I have to stop myself a lot and say, "Kimberly, teach them how to do it so they can help you. It will take more off your plate." - it's sooooo hard for me!!
- Keep a close circle. Trust is a huge issue when you start letting people help you. People can be quick to stab you in the back, so keep a small & close circle of people you can depend on and trust.
A lot of the past 5 years have been learning on trial and error. I’m a person who doesn’t like to be told how to do something. I’m going to look for myself and do it and if I fail, I learn, try again and then have a sense of achievement for getting it right by myself. (It can be a total pain being this way and sometimes I do have to end up asking for help... ex: CPAs 😂). Lastly, there’s going to be competition ALWAYS. You will work hours creating graphics, editing pictures you've taken, writing policies, captions or shopping for inventory all for someone to copy and paste or screenshot and post it. It’s too easy for them. They don’t want to take the effort to create something new. You will have people who copy EVERYTHING you do but you can’t let it affect your game plan or attitude. You hold your head high, stay on path and know that you are 5 steps ahead of them always and just use the frustration to fuel your creativity! Look for inspiration and then make it your own- BE YOU and bite that tongue, keeping to yourself is always best.
Hope you find this helpful & remember to RESEARCH & GOOGLE - haha.