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How it All Started

Sarah Simmons opened her boutique in Chicago called Lifestyle Junkee in February and as a new business owner has found that her dream is finally becoming a reality. It took her many tries to finally get the courage to open an online store. “I realized that I was only going to live once. I opened and closed, opened and closed the website, I just didn’t have the confidence.” Until she did. The website has been open for over a year.

Making such a big commitment is hard for anyone, but it becomes harder when there are a dozen people giving advice. There’s a lot of negativity and judgment instead of support and excitement. “I wouldn’t tell people what I was doing because I felt that it would break down my goal and drive. Figuring out how to respond to every one of their questions made me second guess myself.” So, fresh out of college as a journalism major she decided that opening a business was the route she wanted to take.

She started by going to SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses, and found very little help. “He told me I was too young, that I should come back when I was a little older. When I was 26 I decided I definitely wasn’t going back to SCORE and that’s when I found the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC). “I started working with WBDC, a company that helps women open businesses. They helped me write out my business plan and critiqued it, they brought in a lawyer and helped with financing. They were a huge factor for opening my business.”

Lifestyle Junkee, Model

Credibility

She discovered that opening the store was easy but finding ways to keep the store open and making customers happy was hard. So how is she going to maintain success when so many big retail stores are closing their doors? When customers are wary of buying items from websites that have not been verified by their friends and hundreds of reviews. “I’m trying to figure out how to make myself more credible. I wish I could get more customer reviews. How can you grow trust with a customer from a completely different state?” Simmons is still looking for the answer to that question.

Although reaching customers around the country and the world is still somewhat new, Simmons feels she has a very close connection to her Chicago customers. “I get to know them, I give them my phone number, I want them to know that I am easily accessible on social media.” In order to build a brand, there must be trust between the customer and brand.

Survive and Conquer

Lifestyle Junkee, Storefront, ModelsSo who is she connecting with? Simmons’ initial desire was to have a shop that was full service. Women could stop by and get their hair and makeup done and get a new outfit. But that hasn’t exactly happened yet. Although she is a licensed cosmetologist and massage therapist she finds it hard to maintain her role as the boss while doing all these services. Most stylists, estheticians, etc., are independent and it’s hard to keep them happy when they want a constant flow of customers.

Of course, there are all the legalities preventing her from “getting there.” Where is “there?” She said, “There’s never really a moment when you can sit back and think I’m done. Entrepreneurs are always thinking about the next level that they can push to. The goal is to survive and conquer the online and storefront. To survive this retail depression and still be able to grow and then I’ll start thinking about opening more locations.”

As I was about to ask the question that many will be asking, she beat me to it. “What makes you better than everyone else? That’s what I’m trying to convey. Anyone who comes to this store should know that we are so directly related. This isn’t a big corporation.” She admitted that she often gets excited when receiving an online order and tries to ship it immediately. Although in the digital age, Simmons says that she gets plenty of walk-ins. Customers often buy her products through Instagram and Pinterest and she even gets sales out of the country. Orders are shipped within 1-4 days which is rare with large retailers.

Diversity

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So what’s your demographic? “In the city, we have a very diverse community. I’ve had a couple of men come in and I’ve thought about changing the way I market. I wasn’t trying to exclude anyone. Now that I have the store I’ve noticed that there’s more than just woman who are into feminine fashion. Women who wear black every day to work may not find something but if she has a date I think she can definitely can.”

Sarah Simmons message is truly inspirational and even before interviewing her, the ‘About Us’ on the store’s website was heartwarming. It’s clear that she’s passionate about empowering women, any shape or size, and creating a name for herself.

Check out Lifestyle Junkee’s Instagram page and stop by 2152 W. North Avenue, Wicker Park, Chicago for cute, flirty, and affordable clothes to help her reach her goal. Be bold. Be confident and change the world’s perception of beauty.

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Up and Coming Boutique: Lifestyle Junkee
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