There are a million reasons women start boutiques. Maybe it’s because you want to help other women feel beautiful. Maybe it’s more of a hobby for you – and hey, that’s okay. But I started Cheekys because I had to. I had a family of six to feed. One of my first designs was “Don’t Bullshit Me Darlin’,” and I live by that motto – in part because circumstances forced me to, and in part, because I find saves you a hell of a lot of time in life to just get really real about what works and what doesn’t.
Right before I started Cheekys, my husband had been injured on the job. We had about $7,000 in life savings, and we put our heads together figuring what business our town might need. Being in a rural Idaho town of 1,500, naturally, I thought we needed a tanning salon. Hah! Well, the tanning didn’t work out, but the cute, affordable handbags and jewelry I sold sure did! We pivoted and sold the tanning beds and ramped up our offerings of Western and country lifestyle apparel and accessories that regular people could afford. But ultimately, it wasn’t about what we sold, it was about feeding my family and giving my kids a better life than I had. That was my why. When you think deeply about your why, you may start to see why your hustle isn’t serving you. Here are four reasons I see often among the boutique owners I mentor.
#1 Stop Running
Competing in an imaginary race diminishes your hustle. In the early days of Cheekys, I noticed pretty quickly that whenever I started thinking about how I was going to grow my business, or how I’d do this or that, it all came from a place of competition and feeling like I wasn’t enough, or my store wasn’t enough. I was never a rodeo queen, but you know what, neither are my customers. Once I learned to embrace what made me authentically me, I was better able to connect with women who wanted to buy my stuff. I’m still not skinny, and I’m not doing a million dollars a month in sales (yet). I’m doing about $400,000 a month – which, when you think about it, is $600,000 away from $1 million, but I’m okay with that.
Anytime I put myself in this imaginary race and feeling bad because “so-and-so has this big of a building; she’s got her own label inside her dress” or “she looks really good in a leather skirt” it’s a trap. I can’t wear a leather skirt, and I’m probably never going to be able to, but there’s a lot of other stuff I can do well, so now I choose to focus on that.
#2 Be Like Greg
Part of figuring out why your hustle isn’t working means really evaluating your hustle correctly.
Have you ever said: “I feel like I just work all the time!” Maybe you really are working all the time, and you know what, good for you. But for others, maybe you feel like you’re working all the time, but actually you are starting at 7 a.m. and then taking your kids to school, and then you work until 11 a.m. and then you have some lunch or go to a yoga class, and then before you know it you’re picking up your kids from school again. So actually, you didn’t really work all day long – you didn’t even work all morning long! If you want to earn white collar wages, you need a blue-collar work ethic.
Think about your UPS man. Mine’s name is Greg. You think he gets “package delivery block?” Hell no, but I hear from a lot of people in our industry get “boutique block.” Greg never sends me a note that says he’s just “not in a package-delivering mood” or that he’s just waiting for an inspiring quote on Facebook before he finishes his route. Greg doesn’t feel like he’s just too emotional today to work. He’s not concerned about his job being fulfilling, because it’s his damn job.
Why are we allowed to have a block and no one else is at their jobs? Be like Greg. Get a system in place. Show up, get the boxes, and put them in order. Create a path. Don’t break from the path. Start logging what you actually do. When are you actually working? And if you haven’t sold anything today, why is that? Treat yourself like a UPS guy. From there you can actually evaluate your activities, and when you evaluate your activities, you’re going to start seeing sales. Stuff will happen. It’s absolutely impossible for you to work eight hours a day on nothing but your business and not sell anything.
#3 Build an Authentic Connection
I’m at the point in my career that I can help other people because I’ve figured out how to help myself. I employ about 30 people, and that feels better than anything. I mentor about 100 women boutique owners, taking them to the big markets and teaching them the ins and outs of importing and manufacturing. From the beginning, I built authentic connections with our customers, which formed the basis of how we operate all aspects of Cheekys. We take the time to get to know you and what you want.
Cheekys carries some extra smalls, but not that many, and we carry up to a 3X, and it is a true 3X. Same with jewelry – all our products fit real, plus size girls. And women tell me all the time that Cheekys clothes really changed how they view themselves. They love that they no longer have to steal some shirt from their husband’s closet, they can actually wear ours. That feels awesome.
So the next time that the sales aren't what you think they should be, get out there and help one of your customers. Who cares if it takes you an hour online with them or over the phone? So what? Get to know them. That's how you create a super fan, and that's how you sell stuff. That is what should be filling up your eight hours, not scoping out some other girl’s business.
#4 Find the joy
When I first started my business, I didn't have a lot of joy. I was hustling. I was trying to feed four babies. And sometimes I really wish I could go back and tell myself to find some joy during those early years. My brand would have grown so much faster if I had, and I would have had a lot more fun. It’s like raising your children: you have to pause and enjoy all those little moments on the journey because that’s what matters and makes life fun.