What inspired you to open your store?
I grew up in a rural town in Nebraska where my mom and aunt own a floral, gift, decor and coffee shop. From a young age I was exposed to entrepreneurship and the retail world and really enjoyed it. After studying marketing and merchandising at the University of Nebraska I worked for a series of retailers before deciding to take the leap for myself. Being able to control every aspect of the business and see how your actions directly affect your success is very rewarding—not to mention the amount of fun I have with my customers when they shop!
How long have you been operating?
Embellish opened in August 2011, so we recently celebrated our one-year anniversary!
Why did you select your location?
Embellish is located in the corner space of a historic building in the center of downtown Lincoln, Nebraska. I have four large windows that face a main street, so it gives us a lot of exposure to car and foot traffic (and a great avenue to show off our artistic window displays). The location is ideal because of its proximity to young professionals working in the area, who are the primary Embellish shoppers. In addition, we are only a couple blocks from the University and we get lots of student shoppers throughout the day.
What’s the vibe of your boutique?
Relaxed and inspiring. The product mix of apparel, accessories, gifts and decor create a sense of excitement for shoppers: there is something new and fun everywhere they turn. The natural light from our wonderful windows gives the store a bright and cheery vibe. We take great pride in our window and store displays—we've become known for them in the community. The help inspire our customers.
And the décor?
The color palette in the store is all based around the original travertine marble tile flooring. Shades of gray and green are used throughout and provide a great neutral backdrop for our products. My team and I are continually working on the next round of display projects for the store: We currently have a vintage camera theme. Our windows showcase a collection of vintage cameras and chalkboards with phrases like, "Oh snap!" and "Picture yourself in fall styles at Embellish." I love to keep things playful and interesting. Our holiday windows are going to be great! We always keep a Capri Blue candle burning—most often the Volcano fragrance. Almost no one comes in without commenting on the delightful smell!
What’s your curation process?
I travel to markets in Las Vegas and New York to see the latest lines and do my ordering. Besides my tried-and-true lines that I love, my curation process consists of browsing new lines I've heard about and walking the floor to see if anything new jumps out at me. I typically look for lines that I know other boutiques in my area do not carry. Often I am drawn to lines that are based in Europe. I relate to their style really well. I love being able to bring those fashions to my customers here in Nebraska—and now everywhere thorough Shoptiques!
Describe your boutique’s clothing in three words.
Modern, refined, versatile.
Who is the Embellish customer?
I divide this into three segments.
1) She is a young professional woman that doesn't want to wear the typical business suit. She needs pieces that can spice up her work wardrobe with the ability to transition that look from day to night. She has a taste level and values designer brands, but maybe can't afford it yet. She frequently has special events and parties to attend and needs looks that stand out in a crowd.
2) She is a college student looking to add classic pieces to her wardrobe. She is on a budget so her boutique purchases must be thoughtful and stand the test of time. She also enjoys shopping for accessories to add a new spin to outfits she already owns.
3) She is a busy mom who’s running her kids from place to place but wants to look polished doing it. There's no room for super-trendy pieces. Modern classics that are comfortable with a bit of flair are the way to go.
What pieces does she most covet?
My customers love tops they can pair with pencil skirts and trousers for work but transition to a night out with some skinny jeans and heels. Dresses are the other hot item and we do a lot in the accessories category.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
Where do I begin? I think the biggest thing I've learned is to pay close attention and key into what customers are saying about different products and lines. Really take those things to heart when you're at market and try to cater your purchases towards what your loyal customers prefer. I've also learned that (at least in Nebraska) there is a wide range of people that shop my store and they range from fashionistas that read fashion blogs daily to women that just want to dress well and look polished. Buying for these extremes can be tricky, so you have to find a balance between super trendy and wearable. That's something I think I'm great at!
Any boutique shopping tips or advice to share?
Never hesitate to ask the employees for help! They know the product lines well and will be able to guide you to pieces that will fit you the best and help you accessorize them. They also know the inventory well so they might have other suggestions for you that get skipped over when you're browsing. Also, be sure to make a couple trips around the store—I'm positive you'll miss something on your first time around.
What are some must-have pieces in your wardrobe now?
Anything with polka dots or leather! I'm totally obsessed. I'm also getting into the Chelsea boot trend...flats and boots in one? I'm in!
What importance does fashion play in your life?
It has always played a big role. There's something about it that draws me in—everyone has their own aesthetic and I love that. I admire so many people's style, but if I tried to dress like them it would be odd. I follow lots of blogs and gain tons of inspiration from them. I'm always reading industry news and trying to be up on the latest in the fashion world. And that's why I love being connected with Shoptiques—it is something new and innovative in the industry and I'm thrilled to be a part of it! Fashion is a great for me because it’s a perfect balance of art and creativity with business.
What do you love most about being a boutique owner?
1) The relationships I've made with customers and business contacts. I've had so much fun during the past year getting to know my customers and become friends with them! And the business community here is fantastic—there are a lot of young people and we're able to chat about business and really learn from each other to help our city progress.
2) Traveling to market. I love traveling and being "forced" to do it for work is even better. I love seeing the newest and latest trends, and then being able to curate them for my customers. It's even more rewarding when the product arrives and the customers rave over it just as much as I do!
3) I'm a control freak so I love being in charge of every aspect of my business. When things go well, I'm the one to take credit. And if something doesn't go so well, I take it as a learning experience. That level of responsibility can be challenging for many people but I thrive on it!