The Fashionista is in: on being a shop owner

Advice from local shopgirls on the ups, downs and turn-arounds of owning your own clothing store.

Shannon Ryan

 

To every budding fashionista, owning a clothing store is an ideal job. To be able to curate your own collection, albeit designed by others, sounds like the finest way to execute your fabulous personal vision of what constitutes style. It sounds glamorously intoxicating from afar, but underlying questions about the good, the bad and the ugly side of the trade arise and advice from those who have succeeded would be beneficial.

This week, I sought that advice from two local boutique owners — Barb Heinrich from Local Motion (2813 S. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis) and Bridget O’Brien from Covered (1201 Lagoon Ave., Minneapolis).  With their knowledge in your closet, you’ll be one step closer to being a shop girl yourself.

 

Barb Heinrich, Local Motion

 

What are some of the benefits to owning your own boutique?

Well, I get to travel a lot and see the next season’s clothing lines — what’s going to be the hot thing for the season — before many others. And you get to make your own hours.

 

What are some downfalls?

Everything affects retail, so you have to be able to weather a lot of things that happen in society. Wars really affect people’s habits in buying clothes and so do fluctuations in the economy. You can’t predict retail; it’s so affected by outside things.

 

Is there any set of skills that’s particularly valuable to have when opening a store?

I think you just have to have a good eye and figure out who your client is going to be. And have a backup plan, too. It is a fluctuating financial business to be in. It’s hard to just rely strictly on one boutique to be your employment.

 

Have any advice for budding shop owners?

If you want your store to last as long as mine has [27 years], you have to be persistent and weather a lot of different stuff. I want to zero in on the caution scale, but don’t get too discouraged; be smart about it.

 

Bridget O’Brien, Covered

 

What are some of the benefits to owning your own boutique?

Having creative freedom. We [her two partners and she] decide everything that happens here, so having that kind of control and being able to execute what you envisioned is great.

 

What are some downfalls?

It’s so hard because you’re on your own. Growing a small business is an awesome opportunity, but it’s time-consuming and costly and there’s a lot more that goes into it. The business side, which people don’t initially think about, is a huge attribute.

 

Is there any set of skills that’s particularly valuable to have when opening a store?

You need to have good determination and drive, and you need to be able to manage yourself and others. And if you’re looking to open a store, you need to have a business background. But if you don’t have the eye for it — for fashion — your business is not going to succeed.

 

Have any advice for budding shop owners?

Know it’s really hard. It’s a business. One thing I can’t stress enough is experience, experience, experience; get as much experience as you can and have good support around you — financial and emotional. And hire people that know how to do things that you don’t. You need to be knowledgeable in every realm of the business.