I have never been so excited and feel so blessed to have received all of your sweet and inspiring emails, texts, comments, and snaps as I was when I asked you all to send me whatever questions you may have for me! Enjoy, and any more you may have, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, you can read more about how I got started here.
And here is a look back at our first year being open.
"I'm considering starting my own business soon and have some marketing ideas in mind, but what marketing methods do you use?"
I can gladly say since opening May 1, 2014, I have not spent a single dollar on advertising. I use every free form of advertising I can and HASHTAG (#) everything! I also sell and promote myself, there is NOTHING wrong with that, and if you're passionate about what your selling it, sell it! I post on social media as much as I can, and other than word of mouth and Prissy, that is all the marketing I have used.
"What site do you recommend for blog hosting? Also, do you manage all of the technical blog stuff on your own (i.e. designing your page) or do you let someone else handle it? If so, any recommendations?"
I have used Blogger from day one. (www.blogger.com) It was the hosting site Aubrey Kinch worked with, so it's the one I went with...(keep reading to find out who Aubrey is).
I do manage all of our "technical stuff" from running our store website thru our POS Shopify to managing all of our inventory and putting every single piece of thing that comes in and out of The Retail Therapist into inventory. I take the pictures from my cell and upload from my Mac.
The only thing I have let anyone else do, is make my header and footer graphics and logo. I use Aubrey Kinch of Kinch Designs and she is AH-MAZING! I literally shoot her an email and she gets back to me as soon as she can with the most perfect graphics! Aubrey also created my blog layout years ago and that is how our relationship got started. We have not once spoken on the phone, but she just gets me and what my company stands for, and for that I couldn't be more grateful. I HIGHLY recommend her!!!
"What makes you look forward to tomorrow?"
UPS :) haha, joking, but that is a perk of "tomorrows."
The thought of waking up and getting to go to a pretty pink "paradise" is what makes me look forward to tomorrow! Seeing new customers that come in for the first time or old customers coming in trusting that I have what they're looking for makes me look forward to tomorrow. The store isn't ALL that I look forward to, but I look forward to knowing that no matter what, it will never let me down. I look forward to the day that I can have an "empire" to pass down to my children.
"What's the most rewarding part (for you) of owning your own boutique?"
My gosh, this is such a hard question to answer.
I would have to say the most rewarding thing about owning my own boutique is sharing it with my mom (and having Brennan there). I feel like when my dad tells people what his daughter does now it is something he is really proud of too. It is something we share together and something we both have dreamed of. The memories being made in that store are something that no one can ever take away from us. Yes, it is so rewarding dressing each of you, and taking tons of selfies, and going to market...but all of those things are nothing without the countless sleepless nights and all the steaming and arguments shared between mom and I...and we can't forget Brennan who is always put in the middle :) We lose him in the fall and I am devastated just thinking about it, because he is my right AND LEFT hand. But I know he too wants to make mom and dad and me even more proud of him than we already are. He wants to fulfill HIS dream.
"Online boutique vs. brick and mortar?"
There are good and bad things about both! I loved just being online, but I LOVE going to the store and interacting with people face to face. Online you can hide behind the computer and honestly never know a single customer. I love knowing my customers and shopping for THEM.
"What would you say was the biggest obstacle you faced starting you business and how did you overcome it? Also, what kind of place or events did you bring your mobile truck to?"
The biggest obstacle I faced was with myself. I constantly compared myself to larger boutiques (Hopes, Red Dress...) and I would get so upset when I had the same pieces and they weren't selling as well as they did on those sites. I then realized that they had been in business much longer than I had and that I too when get there when I was ready.
Prissy has been to a few motorcycle events. This past year, I wanted to bring traffic to the store so I have had her parked, but this summer we plan on going to some festivals and maybe some more rallies. People often forget she can't travel too far, I mean she is a 70's model, haha!
"How do you balance everything and the process of opening and running a successful store?"
I am not going to lie, it is hard. In college I just flew by the seat of my pants, which I still do (you have to remember when I opened the store, I was STILL in college), burt now it is all about balance and just trying to figure it out. I am learning it's okay to ask for help (thankfully my mom takes care of most everything for me, haha) and take time for yourself. You need that, to grow, to feel inspired, to just be.
"I am in the process of opening up my own boutique. Hoping to have it done by the end of April. Do you have any advice you can give me?"
Ah, what a fun time!!! I loved the moments right before we opened and making sure everything was right! Cherish these moments, you'll change the store a million times by April of next year, and that's ok!!! You will never get these days back...be sure everything you're buying furniture wise is an investment tho, don't just buy it because you think you'll need it. Only buy what you know will look good in your store, and don't let anyone tell you how to decorate it. If you don't make your deadline, that's ok too...you want it to be right and just not "there."
When you open...Be patient. Customers will come...There will be days no one shows, and days 12-20 people will show. That's what makes it fun and worth going to work for.
"What is your secret?"
I don't really have a "secret." I am just not afraid to ask for help or "support."
If you're too afraid to ask the people in your life for support, then you probably need better support.
Another secret of mine is anytime I have a fear getting in my way, I talk about it, to myself, out loud (as silly as that sounds). You will quickly realize how stupid those fears sound.
"How does a start up get their inventory? And how do you make it to market?"
When you first start up, you think you're know what you're doing, but you don't. I am two years in and STILL figuring things out. I don't think there is a real answer for this. You just save up, and you buy things you think are cute, and you go from there!
To go to market, you need a Tax ID, business license, all that fun stuff, and you have to fill out some information on their websites...they will confirm you and from there, you just get in your car (or on a plane), check in at market, and shop shop shop. Some things ship immediately and some you wait months on...it depends on how you set up your inventory. You must buy a pack of 6 tho, and normally they run 2-2-2, 2 smalls, 2 mediums, 2 large.
From Morgan (sorry for the length but so inspiring):
"You are such an inspiration and a great role model. I originally began going to school for veterinary while putting an even greater passion of mine on the back burner. After seeing you put your dreams into action I was motivated enough to entirely change my major much to my parents dismay. I am now majoring in entrepreneurship and loving every minute of it. I am currently beginning my own blog. I come from an extremely small town of approximately 2,500 individuals and blogging is a big step out of the box for someone around here and being passionate about fashion and wanting that as a career is unheard of. I eventually would like to incorporate an online shop into my blog and have my own storefront in the future. I am curious as to whether or not you would recommend a financial advisor? How much would you recommend investing in your startup? How do you find balance? Would you limit content on a blog to a few categories? How you you manage a mobile boutique? I know you started out setting up booths at bike week. Would you recommend setting up at different events, why, where, and how?"
Here is how I incorporated my blog into my boutique...
I have not had a financial advisor because I have two business savvy parents who have helped me every step of the way. If you feel confident enough to proceed without one, I would recommend it. You know what's best for you.
Start saving now. It costs way more to start up a boutique than you can imagine. Whatever you think, times it by 10 because thats what you're gonna need!
I found balance in my parents. My dad is a banker, and my mom...well, we like the finer things in life. My brother always says my dad is the realist are we are the dreamers, and that's true. There are things my mom and dad wanted me to do the cheaper way in designing the store, but we always found a balance. There isn't one thing I would change about the store.
I basically only share things I have time to share on my blog now, which is awful. But it isn't my source of income, and it was really only something to do in college...I say I am going to post more, and I will...one day :)
Managing a mobile boutique wasn't hard at first, because that an the online boutique was all I had...now with the store I hate taking inventory out of the store, so I just don't. I want people going to the store. I want it to be a destination place. If I had another me, I would have three separate inventories (one for my store, one for online, and one for Prissy), and travel ALL over. BUT...I don't, yet.
I got started in the Harley bike rally and I loved it. It was honestly one of the hardest, most rewarding weeks of our life. It fit with me because it was something my parents went to and I had went to bike rallies for years. They're good people and they like to have a good time. They're doctors, and lawyers, and business people who like cute clothes or wanted to take their wives or children something home (it always fell on Mothers day which worked out), and I was there to provide them with something not so "biker-babe." I think music festivals would fit with my store well, because I love music and I love carrying the lyric tees, cowgirl boots, etc... ---You need to figure out who you want to sell to and what your style is and go from there. You'll feel it.
"How have you gotten those Instagram followers? Pretty much where did you start to really grow your name and brand?"
HASHTAGS! I know I always say this, but it really does work. I always search hashtags to find things I am looking for. Hashtag what you would hashtag.
My blog used to be The Retail Therapist. When I decided to open the store, I sent all those followers there and rebranded myself and my blog to Whitney Rife. That is how The Retail Therapist grew faster than your average boutique, it already had a following.
"Has it been hard to establish an actual brick and mortar store in a fairly rural community?"
No. I always thought it would be and coming back to Tazewell I knew the online sales would carry a brick and mortar store. I always thought I'd never be able to have my dream store in Tazewell. I couldn't be more blessed to live in a small community who are so supportive of a new business and of my generation. They WANT Tazewell to succeed. We all do. YOU have to want better for your area. It doesn't matter where you're from or where you are. THAT is one thing that kills dreams more than anything, not where you're from. God didn't put these dreams in your heart for you to always wonder or put on a Pinterest board. They are there because you were given everything to see them through.
"What do you dream now?"
I dream all the time. I dream small things like owning a Birkin and my wedding day...and I dream large things like being a wife and a momma. I dream of where The Retail Therapist will go next, and I dream of building a home...just because I have accomplished one dream doesn't mean I will ever stop dreaming...
"Whats the best thing about The Retail Therapist?"
It's fun, it's pretty, it's HOME GROWN, and it's affordable. We want to inspire girls and make everyone feel beautiful about themselves. We have something for ALL price points. We are family ran from the GROUND UP and we have the best employees who are just like family. When you buy something from The Retail Therapist, you are putting money into my small town, my community, you're helping me go back to market and buy more cute things for you!
When I first started designing The Retail Therapist, I wanted it to be simply pretty and unlike anything Tazewell has ever seen. I have been very fortunate to travel and shop all over and can honestly say I love my store. I want every little girl and woman to feel like they are not in Tazewell when they come in, that they are treated so special and can not be scared to come in or buy the dress they love because it will break them, or the tee they can't wait to take on vacation. Young girls coming in the store to play dress up is my favorite thing to watch! I love getting on social media hours later and seeing selfies in my mirrors with inspiring quotes on them and reading the sweet comments left by members of the community. I can honestly say I believe my customers when they come in and shop, leave feeling better about themselves and that is what I, that is what we at The Retail Therapist live for. It's what makes me thrive to be the best.
Thank you for believing in me, in my store, in my family. Thank you for supporting my dreams. I hope each and every one of you dream and do everything you can to make them happen. It REALLY is worth it! Just remember, it's not always as glamorous as I make it look on Instagram. There are tears, and fights, and moments you want to give up, but it will only make you grow! Please, never hesitate to shoot me an email, it may take me a minute to get back to you, but I promise I will!
Love and best wishes to you all... (due "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts)
and don't forget to treat yourself to a little retail therapy.