On a sunny and warm Tuesday afternoon, I joined local business owner Melissa Miller at her shop, Boutique on Main. The shop opened it's doors on August 27, 2016 and, for being less than a year old, the store feels cozier and more developed than one might expect. Melissa looked stunning in a pink and white paisley dress while her son relaxed in the lounge chairs at the center of the shop. In our laughter filled interview, Melissa opens up about what it's like to work in fashion and she offers her best advice for those wishing to start their own business.
Aubrey Salyers: What is your background? Have you always worked in fashion?
Melissa Miller: No, I haven’t. Actually, I have an MBA but my background is in healthcare. But I’m an entrepreneur, so I had a business before. I actually had a wellness center and then I went and worked for the corporate world. I was miserable and I wanted my own place, something that I’ve always wanted to do because I love fashion. I have always been into health, fitness, and fashion!
AS: So, tell me a little about your business.
MM: I like for women to love what they wear and wear what they love. Actually, that’s my mission- to make people feel good, especially women, about what they’re wearing. I try to help them style for their body types, I love that. And coming out of their comfort zone, like trying on things that they never thought they would try on. That’s so much fun! I love it when they come and do that!
AS: What made you want to start your own business?
MM: Like I said, I had another business several years ago, I opened many years ago and had it for about ten years. I experienced having my own business and I just - when I went to work for corporate, I knew I wanted my own business again. I just have an entrepreneurial spirit.
AS: Our world today is becoming increasingly digital. How or why did you decide to open a brick and mortar business?
MM: Because I feel like I can provide a different - like, I feel like customer service is missing sometimes even though you can, you know, try to present that on your online services but I think sometimes it’s different when you can actually see someone, talk to them, help them, understand what they really want, their needs.
AS: What’s the best part about owning this boutique?
MM: It’s mine!
AS: What is the hardest part?
MM: Buying clothes for the world! (lots of laughter) It was one thing when I just bought clothes for myself, but now I have to think, like “I’m not buying just for myself. I’m buying for my customers, my community,” so that can be a little challenging.
AS: How do you decide what to carry? Do you have a buyer or do you do the buying yourself?
MM: I do the buying. And I’m still learning what to buy and who my customers are going to be. So, I’m kind of getting a lot of repeat customers so that helps me determine some of my buying.
AS: Going off of that, I see you have hats, journals, bags, and obviously clothing. So how do you decide to keep it cohesive?
MM: Well, obviously the majority is clothes, but people are always looking for quick gifts. And it also depends on the season. So, I know like for the summer time people are vacationing so fun sun hats are important, so that kind of helps me decide what to carry. Holidays I do a little more gift-y items just because they are looking for those types of things at the holidays.
AS: Why or how did you choose the collections you have in here now?
MM: I actually just color coordinate my store a bit. I don’t really do a certain collection. Like, I did have a lot of blacks so I put that together (pointing to a section of all black clothing). But, a lot of times, if I have all peachy and pinks, and then all earth tones together. So, that’s kind of how I put mine together. A lot of time with my dresses I’ll go from sleeveless to short sleeves to long sleeves just to kind of make it a little more organized and easier for looking. You know, if somebody is looking for a colored shirt for a skirt they have or a pair of pants, they can go to that section.
AS: What is your advice to people thinking of starting their own stores or small businesses?
MM: I say go for it! You only live once, and I am a risk taker so I always will say, “You don’t know until you try." And you know what? If you don’t succeed, you get up and you try something else. I want everybody to live their dreams- at least try, because you can do it!
For those who want to see more fashions, Melissa has organized (with the help of her committee, of course) an exciting event called These Fashions are Smoking!
If you're in the area, you can attend this weekend's style show and bourbon bar for just $15 which includes appetizers and a drink ticket! Follow Boutique on Main here.