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Wondering how to start a clothing boutique?

If your business idea or dream is to start a clothing boutique then there’s no better place to get advice than from boutique owners who have already been where you are and are currently running a successful boutique. Whether your plan is to start an online store or open a physical location, the advice these boutique owners gave is invaluable.

Some of them earn $20,000 a month, while others are still striving for $20,000 a year. Some have a blue checkmark next to their name on social media, while others couldn’t care less. Some have been around for over 30 years, some started during the pandemic.

The amazing thing is every boutique owner who contributed to this article is at a different stage of their business, and each has something valuable to add to the conversation of starting a clothing boutique.

In no particular order, let’s see what these boutique owners have to say about starting a clothing boutique in 2022!

Lean on the boutique community for support.

The very first thing you should know is that it’s okay to ask for help. You must be willing to learn as you go, and the best way to learn (the fastest) is by surrounding yourself with boutique owners who “get it”. If you have questions about sales tax, which clothing lines or vendors to use, or tips on building an email list, ask boutique owners for help and suggestions!

You don’t have to be perfect, just start. There’s a lot that I still don’t know and that I’m learning as I go. As long as you are passionate, everything will work out!

The boutique industry is very welcoming and supportive.

Leah Osmonson

Owner, Violet + Lily

Understand: Your Boutique will never be perfect, but it can always be improved!

We all want everything to be perfect. You only get one shot at a first impression, and you better make it count, right? Listen, it will never be perfect, but it can always be improved… perfect it later.

My biggest piece of advice for aspiring boutique owners is to go for it – we all started somewhere, but none of us started with perfection.

So, start where you’re at, stay consistent, take every education opportunity, & stay true to you – it will pay off!

Kassie Thompson

Owner, Wavy Boutique

Take care of your most important asset: your mindset.

While you’re looking up how to start a clothing boutique online, you’re going to stumble across business tasks, legal tasks, and language you’ve never heard of. You may start to doubt yourself, especially when you see the costs of starting a clothing boutique. But remember, your mindset is your most important asset. Don’t let it get you down.

To an aspiring clothing boutique owner, mindset is everything. Work hard on your mindset, and everything else will flow easier. Know that if you’re waiting for the perfect time to begin, you’ll be waiting forever. It’s okay to not have it all figured out, but you need to start somewhere.

Always stay one step ahead of where you were yesterday, lose the comparisons, and keep your mindset in line.

Nadja Coleman

Owner, Zen + Zeus Clothing Co.

Surround yourself with successful business owners.

Don’t just look inside the boutique industry for inspiration and examples of boutiques that are doing their thing. You can get great ideas from other industries and business owners that you can apply to your boutique business.

The advice I’d give to an aspiring boutique owner is to find some examples of people doing what you want to be doing, and look to them as proof that it’s possible until you become your own proof.

Don’t listen to the advice of people who have never had the courage to go after their own dreams, people who have zero knowledge about running boutiques, or people who were unsuccessful and now try to dissuade others from following their dreams.

Listen to the advice of people who have successfully done what you want to do. Lastly, look up Emily Benson and the boutique training academy. Thank me later.

Rachel Amado

Owner, Zoftig Boutique

Just go for it.

If starting a boutique is your dream, and you have a passion for selling fashion, then go for it. Prove yourself right.

Just go for it. Whatever you want to do, you need to go for it. If you don’t, you’ll always think about it and wish you had tried.

If you do it you have two outcomes: success and knowledge, or failure and knowledge. Either way, what a great learning experience.

Holly Swasey

Owner, Swasey Boutique

Don’t hold yourself back.

Over 800,000 people Google search, “How to start a clothing boutique” every month. 99.9 percent them hold themselves back or talk themselves out of it after learning about what is required.

It’s better to just go for it instead of holding yourself back and thinking of all the what ifs. You don’t want to have that kind of regret…

Grace Hagedorn

Owner, GH Apparel

Decide what your brand is all about.

You might think that you are the brand, but that’s not exactly true. You are the owner of a brand, a clothing store, and you must make decisions for the brand. Decide what your brand represents now, so that way, down the line, you can make sure all business decisions align with your core values. Knowing what your brand represents will also help you form a strong marketing plan.

As an aspiring clothing boutique owner it’s important to identify what your brand will represent and the story you want to tell through your product. With so many boutiques it’s important to identify what makes your brand different and how you plan to attract customers. And remember that the little things matter, such as marketing materials.

I would advise a new boutique owner to have a solid business plan and great vendors to help bring their brand to life.

Danielle Brown

Owner, Elle & Dee

Find one person you can bounce ideas off of.

Ideally this is someone who you trust to give you sound, unbiased business feedback. As the owner, you are responsible for the direction of your company and it’s up to you to make sure you’re not misled…

Make a plan, know your why and be yourself. Have one person that you can bounce ideas off of that will give you honest feedback. Listen to your customers, they are the ones who keep your doors open. This business is hard, so keep pushing and don’t give up.

Missy Howard

Owner, Harper Jaymes Boutique

Start saving up for the business expenses now.

Here’s the deal: when you envision what you want your boutique to look like, the first thing you realize is how much money it’s going to cost. No matter if you choose to open a store or go the ecommerce route, you are going to have expenses. So, start saving now!

Save up as much money as you can before you open your business so you aren’t relying so heavily on the business to keep you out of debt. This will help you remain genuine and enable you to keep doing what you love even in the slower seasons of business.

Leeann

Owner, Brook Boutique

You must have faith in yourself and keep it!

Everyone has faith when they’re excited about starting a new venture. The key to actually starting and then continuing to run a boutique is to continue to have faith in yourself. Keeping the faith is hard, which is why most boutique owners give up after the first year…

Go for it! Don’t overwhelm yourself with the opinions of others. Days will be hard! Have patience and faith in yourself don’t give up on your dream!

Michelle Von

Owner, Artemisa Belle Boutique

Don’t worry about everyone else.

The hardest part about business is minding your own.

Be original and do you. Don’t worry about everyone else and don’t compare yourself to others. Build your brand and learn your customer base.

Kimberly Hughes Martinez

Owner, SassyTrendz Btq

Be authentic and play to your strengths.

Right now, you have skills and talents that will help you start your boutique. You also have the drive to overcome weakness and turn them into strengths, right? That’s great.

Just keep in mind that one day you’re going to need to find people who play at what you must work at. That’s our way of saying, find people who can do it better than you, and then pay them to do it so you can focus on your strengths.

As a small business owner the to do list is endless. Prioritize, work within your strengths and hire out what saves you time as your budget allows.

Prioritize self-care. As a business owner, you can’t run a business if you are run down, exhausted or sick. You are your number one asset so take care of yourself like you would take care of your best friend.

Don’t let perfect kill good. As a perfectionist this is a tough one. Everything does not have to be perfect. Sometimes perfection can overwhelm us and paralyze us.

Keep moving forward and learn from all of your mistakes. So what if your social post, email or photo isn’t perfect?

People gravitate toward authenticity not perfection.

Kelli Cabrera

Owner, Bourbon & Grits Boutique

Don’t neglect the business side of things.

As the owner and operator of a clothing boutique, when you first start out you need to find quality technical solutions and create processes that are efficient and can be taught to your replacement one day. There are so many numbers to track, besides sales figures.

Invest in quality systems and know the business side inside and out. Research, research, research! In order to be successful, you must track your numbers and know what your demographic is.

Melissa Paryse

Owner, Barn Door Boutique

You must plan so you know what you’re getting yourself in to.

Being the operator or technician within the business will consume most of your time in the beginning of your journey as a small business owner. You must make time to look at every department within your business and create goals and plans on how you’re going to accomplish your goals.

Our first piece of advice for an aspiring clothing boutique owner, would be to have a clear vision and goal of what sort of boutique they are looking to have. Write a plan with the goals you want to achieve, and look at it constantly, always adding to your plan.

Next step is do your research and get to know your clientele. The age group, your style and what makes your business stand out from the competition.

Passion and drive is a major factor! Without that, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Having a great support system to back you up can really help to achieve your goal.

Finally, a background in some sort of retail isn’t completely necessary, but the knowledge you can acquire can be extremely beneficial in helping to get your business off the ground and growing.

Jillian & Lauren

Owners, Plucked Consignment Boutique

You must know exactly what type of customers you want to attract!

Before you click off this article and start shopping for the clothing you’re going to sell, it would be wise of you to figure out exactly who you’re selling to and then do some market research. Be specific. Do you sell to college aged women who love brunches and girls’ night out, or the busy mom who is juggling work and life? You should be able to write a paragraph describing your ideal customer.

Research and take your time! Don’t rush the process.

Get to know who you are serving. What does that ideal customer look like? Is she your friend? Is she you?

And remember you won’t be for everybody and that’s ok! Stay true to your brand and what you represent.

Jeanette Berry

Owner, Be Meek Boutique

Plan your customers’ experience now.

What will it be like shopping at your boutique? Is it laid back and chill or like a white glove service? Even if you’re only selling clothing online, your space is virtual.

So, plan their virtual experience. What will your live videos be like?

When buying for your store, think about who you are buying for. Keep your customers in mind, buy for them. And remember it’s about the experience

Raquel Koff and Michelle Tasman

Owners, Rodeo Drive Louisville

Write down the vision you have for your boutique.

You might be thinking, “It’s too early for me to have a vision for my company.” It all starts with a vision. The vision comes first.

So, write down the vision you have for your clothing boutique. Where will your company be in 5 years?

Keep in mind that you can tweak your vision when you become more established.

I would encourage anyone opening a boutique to have a very clear and specific vision for their store. Will you carry the trendiest styles or timeless pieces? Will you carry clothing and gifts or just clothing? Will your target demographic be women under 30, over 50?

All these answers are invaluable when buying inventory. If you’re uncertain whether or not to buy an item, ask yourself if it is consistent with your vision. (It also helps with marketing.)

Kate Bowling

Owner, Peacock on Third

Start thinking about repeat customers.

When you make your first sale, you’re going to be thrilled! But you wait until someone buys from you twice! That’s a sign that you’re doing the right thing and you’ve gained yourself a loyal customer. But right now, you have zero customers.

So, start thinking about building relationships with your first 10 customers and how you’re going to turn them into loyal customers. They will help you build your brand awareness!

Passion, listen, focus (on who you customer is), research, and most of all, build long term relationships.

Ellen Shepp

Owner, Joan Shepp

Listen to your customers.

When you decide who your ideal customer is, focus on them. When you know who your ideal customer is, doors will open for you.

My one piece of advice is to hone in on who your customer is. Buy for her and market to her. It’s easy to get caught up in what people say they want, but they may not really be your customer. So, you need to just trust your mission and stay focused on that!

Jillian Kotz

Owner, Chic Avenue Boutique

Don’t try to appeal to the masses.

Do you know what happens to clothing boutiques that try to appeal to the masses? They get swallowed up…

Know your target market and study them as much as you can. Focus on a particular style and perfect it, rather than appealing to the masses. And have fun.

Valerie Adjorlolo

Owner, Tiana Bay

Start engaging with potential customers before you sell clothes to them.

Maybe you’re not quite sure who your ideal customer is. Visit other similar clothing store social media profiles and see who engages with their posts.

Build your connection with customers – get people engaging and interested first before buying inventory – find out what they like and who they are.

Katie

Owner, BluFinn Boutique

You need to be strategic with your inventory.

By the time you get around to inventory, hopefully you’ve got all your fundamental business startup tasks completed. Now, you’ve got to work it like magic.

If I we’re to give an aspiring boutique owner one piece of advice it would be to take your time building your inventory.

When I first opened my boutique, I compared myself to established brands (which almost every business owner does when they first start out) but it’s an unrealistic comparison.

Learn your customer prior to opening your business/ buying your first batch of inventory. Make sure you know who your target audience is and then select 3-5 pieces to launch. I learned that there’s more profit in dropping 1-2 pieces per week than 4-6.

Selling out of inventory & replenishing it like a revolving door is what keeps your customers on their toes rather than sitting on the same product until it hits clearance!

I think that it’s important to really focus on carrying more essential items that your customer needs than carrying trend items. Give them something they can’t live without vs something that becomes questionable the next season!

Niki Orehosky

Owner, Hudson + Honey

Make it all about your target customer.

One of the hardest things to do as a first-time business owner is attracting your ideal customers – enough of them to pay the bills. When you plan your new boutique business venture, you need to always keep your ideal customers in mind, so you know who you’re targeting and what matters to THEM.

  • Inventory:

Know your market WELL and then only buy what they love, not what you personally love.

Have a vision for your shop and make sure that’s clear to your target client.

  • What’s in it for THEM:

Show them the benefits of shopping with you versus someone else.

  • Exceptional Service:

If a client took 15 min to visit your shop or shop your site, make sure they know you value them and their time.

Christie Bishop

Owner, Styledwell® Boutique

You must be flexible enough to grow!

As a business owner you need to be able to make decisions quickly. When the orders start flowing in and you find yourself working long hours and neglecting certain aspects of your business, you need to be flexible enough to delegate and grow when it’s time to grow. Otherwise, you may miss your opportunity to grow.

Prepare to be flexible and ready for any situation.

Don’t be afraid of competition, it will force you to work harder at what you do and the result will be a better brand. Find ways to set yourself apart from your competitors.

Invest in a fantastic team and focus on customer service!

Samantha Gushner

Owner, The Phoenix

You must be ready to lead when it’s time to lead.

When you first start your boutique, you probably won’t be concerned with your leadership abilities because it’s just you. But when you grow, you must be prepared to lead others. Start now by reading leadership and management books. That way, when it’s time to lead, it won’t be that much of a scary step for you.

Always remember why you do what you do. Always make sure you tell your team why and what is your vision is.

You need the right team in order to grow. And it’s okay if people come in and go! But learn why because we never stop learning to achieve our goals.

Remember how you started and always see how much you have overcome. Leading isn’t easy and it’s okay to make mistakes, but learn from them and never let them overcome you.

Alexandra Vazquez Brandao

Owner, ALX Couture

Use all of your prior experience to your advantage!

If you come from a retail background, you have an advantage. If you’ve worked for a clothing boutique, you have a tremendous advantage (if you paid attention and took notes when you were there). No matter what your background is, you must be open to new ideas and ways of doing things so you can keep up with this busy industry!

I began my career in retail at the age of 15. I have done everything from sales to management and towards the latter part of my career I worked in store design and visual merchandising. Having this experience helped me tremendously when I decided to open my own boutique.

What I would tell a new boutique owner is that it is important to have a vision and stick with it. You will make many mistakes. I have and still do. You order something that you love, and it just doesn’t sell and then you order something that you wish you had 3x the amount because it was so good.

Listen to your customers, take hints from them but don’t allow them to tell you what to do. At the end of the day, it is your store and your money on the line.

I don’t shop for myself when I am in market. I keep my customers in mind and when I am ordering I am thinking of specific people who are wearing the items.

As you grow and gain experience you should take some risks. You will be very surprised at how that will pay off in the end.

Stephanie Sipley

Owner, SoleAmour

Treat this business like it’s your baby.

Truth be told, when you own a business, it will consume your life. You will sacrifice family time, vacations, shopping trips, and a lot of other important things in your life. This is the price you pay for starting a business. You must stay strong and work hard towards attaining the freedom you ultimately desire as a business owner.

Stay strong and be in your business. I have had mine 25 years and I am hands in every aspect.

Claudette Willis

Owner, Petunias Of Naples

Be humble or be humbled.

Don’t let the title of “CEO” go to your head. It sounds nice, and it’s certainly respectable. But you can go from CEO to out of business real quick if you allow your ego to get in the way.

You must be prepared to work hard, earn your days off, and help your team members support their families too! That’s what a business owner does.

And not to sound harsh, but most boutique owners start out owning a job. You don’t really own a business until your business can thrive without you.

Be prepared to work hard. Don’t open a boutique because you think it sounds glamorous. It’s so much more than playing around with clothing & accessories all day. I knew this going into it after being a store manager for 9 years.

I love what I do but I don’t think people realize how much actually goes into running a business.

Angela Wilson

Owner, Lux Boutique

Be prepared for hard times, and the good times.

You will have months where you don’t sell anything, then you’ll get one order and celebrate like crazy. Don’t let the hard times or the good times distract you from focusing on achieving your goals as a clothing boutique owner. Cry, celebrate, but don’t do either for too long!

My advice would be to keep pushing, during the hard times and the great times. Success is built, and you can do it!

Kaitlyn Martin

Owner, The Shop & Co.

You must practice patience.

Great leaders exercise patience with themselves and others. And if you’re on your way to becoming one of the top boutiques, you must get good at being patient NOW. One way to practice patience is to practice emotionally detaching from people and situations that frustrate you before you respond to them.

Patience and grace are key — have patience with yourself and your business as well as your team. Patience is truly a virtue but if everyone practiced patience there would be more understanding and ultimately success to go around!

Stacy Smallwood

Owner, Hampden

You must get ready to handle the pressures of starting a boutique.

After you register your business, buy inventory, build a website, and start marketing your products on social media, you will be thrown into the world of selling clothes. You can’t expect people to buy just because you told them to, or they liked your picture on Instagram. The lack of sales in the beginning will add pressure to your business and personal life. Just be ready for it.

One thing I can say about running a business is nothing worth having is easy and there’s going to be moments you think you should give up and there’s a tone of pressure on you. That’s when you keep going!

Diamonds are made under pressure, and I really don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Ocean

Owner, Dressed to Chill Boutique

Be the visionary and go with your gut!

The visionary of a company is responsible for declaring which direction the company is going to go in. Think of the visionary as a ship’s captain. Your task as the visionary is to always think of new ways to grow your company.

My advice would be to always follow your gut! So many people will give you their opinions and question your choices, but at the end of the day, this is yours! Make sure you love it. And that makes going to work every day easy!

Kelly

Owner, Charley Jean Boutique

Trust yourself.

When you think about the potential for your boutique and how far you can take it, it might excite you. But is there something inside of you asking, “Can I really do that?” It’s normal to think that, but you must trust yourself to handle and take on whatever comes your way.

Just get out there and do it. Don’t overthink it. And trust your gut. Don’t let others get in your way or dim your light.

‘Trust yourself’ is the best advice I can give.

Sally Bird

Owner, Dot Fox Clothing Culture & Louisville Joe Coffee Company

Starting your clothing boutique could be the best decision you’ve ever made.

Trust us, we know how impatient you are about starting your own boutique. Everyone who contributed to this article has been there. And guess what?!

They started small and committed to running a clothing boutique for the long run – through thick and thin. Starting your boutique could end up being the best decision you’ve ever made.

One piece of advice we would give to an aspiring clothing boutique owner would be to just do it! Don’t try to get everything perfect before starting because perfection doesn’t exist, and you will never start. Start small and learn as you go.

Find a good team of people to work with who will help you and mentor you.

The most important thing to remember is that growing a business takes time. It’s a marathon, not a race. Keep trying things to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Most importantly- enjoy the process!

Brittany Soileau

Owner, Britt & Belle Boutique

You gotta’ love it!

Right now, you’re in love with the idea of starting your own clothing store. That’s a good start. We just want you to know that you must love what you do, delegate tasks that you don’t love to your team, and then infect your customers and team members with your love. The best advice we have is to love, love, love.

The biggest piece of advice I could share with any aspiring boutique owner is to do what you love with love!

It’s so important your niche and purpose align with how you truly want to represent your business and your personal brand! When you really do love what you do, it shines from within you and your brand.

Anything can be temporary, but the love and purpose for what you do and who you serve must always outshine the trials you will face along the way.

Alexa Schaefer

Owner, AlexaMarie. Boutique

Everything you go through will pay off big time one day!

It’s easy to get discouraged running any type of business, even a lemonade stand. Sometimes it rains when the weatherman said it wouldn’t.

Sometimes money is tight. Your best employee will leave you. You may even end up getting a divorce. Your store could burn to the ground.

What we’re saying here is that there will be unexpected, undesirable things that happen to you and throw your mind off course. When it happens, just know that everything you’re going through will pay off big time one day.

Just keep going and be consistent! Sometimes you will have 0 sale days, but keep being consistent and it will pay off!

Malori Harry

Owner, Scarlatta Boutique

Ignore the noise, naysayers, and negative Nancys out there!

You’re here because you want to start a clothing boutique. The desire is there!

But have you started to doubt yourself yet? Has someone looked over your shoulder and told you not to waste your time? Hopefully neither of those has happened to you!

But the noise is coming. And when it does, you must ignore it like it doesn’t even exist.

Remember why you started and YOUR vision. Ignore all the noise around you and focus on what you want to create.

Tina Maynard

Owner, Kate & Kris Boutique

The last thing you need to do is take this advice and run with it.

There’s a strong, supportive community of clothing boutique owners who will welcome you with open arms and encourage you along your journey of starting a boutique. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! We’re all rooting for you.

Now go kick down doors for others to walk through!

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