[ Written February 17th, 2018 ]
So, this is going to be kind of a weird post because I'm going to actually share with you a presentation I gave on Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 to the YPN Chamber of Commerce Seat at the Table event. It was one of the funnest presentations I've ever done and the feedback I've received has been absolutely amazing!!
Here ya go:
"So - today, I really don’t want to talk too long, rather, I’d love to give you a quick overview of how I got started, what I’ve learned about myself and as a leader, but more importantly I really want to hear your questions! One of my goals this year is to be a more open, honest and vulnerable leader - I filmed a video last week on Vulnerability, and what it means to me - it went live last night - and coincidently, and I honestly had no idea this was going to happen, also last night in my EmBe Women’s Leadership program, all evening we talked about the topic of Vulnerability.
I am truly a believer of when the universe is giving you signs, and signals, to stop and really pay attention to them. So, that’s what I’m going to focus on today. I want to talk about those hard things that most people don’t like to talk about, I want YOU all to ask the tough questions that most people wonder but don’t ever ask, and today I want to be as open, honest and vulnerable as I can with you. And honestly, I am SO excited for this!! I actually completely rewrote what I was going to say at 8am this morning so I could actually focus on this topic of vulnerability and to break down the walls that I tend to have up when I talk about myself and my business.
So okay, before we dive into all of that, this is a conversation that’s suppose to be about my businesses so I created a timeline, because honestly it’s a lot, it’s a mess, and it’s hard for me to even remember sometimes.
May 2007 - Graduated HS
Dec 2008 - Graduated Southeast Tech
March 2009 - Chelsea’s Boutique in Chamberlain
March 2014 - Chelsea's Boutique in Sioux Falls
November 2015 - S.H.U.E.S opens
August 2016 - Chelsea's Boutique in Utah
November 2016 - NEW Bigger Location (where we are now)
December 2016 - Left Utah/Closed Utah location/Divorce
July 2017 - Opened Conversation Piece
2017 - HARDEST YEAR OF MY LIFE + BEST YEAR OF MY LIFE
March 2018 - 9 years in business!
So I grew up in Chamberlain, SD, go cubs! After graduating high school in 2007, I attended Southeast Tech and got a 2 year degree in business admin in a year and a half and graduated in December of 2008.
I opened the doors to Chelsea’s Boutique in Chamberlain in March of 2009. After being in business for 4.5 years and attending an expo in Sioux Falls, I saw the room for growth within the marketplace and knew it was time to pick up my store and move to Sioux Falls.
I opened the doors to Chelsea’s Boutique in Sioux Falls in March of 2014. A little over a year later, I opened a sister store, S.H.U.E.S, a shoes and accessory right down the street from the boutique.
In August of 2016, in an attempt to save my marriage I moved to Utah and opened another store. November of 2016 we had outgrown each of the 1000 square foot stores in Sioux Falls and decided to merge Chelsea’s Boutique and S.H.U.E.S into one 4500 square foot location a block north called Chelsea’s.
December of 2016, I left Utah, my ex-husband and closed down the Utah location. This was one of my biggest failures both personally and professionally. Having to admit the failure of a marriage is hard enough and to stack on top of that the Utah location completely failing and setting me almost $100,000 in debt made for an incredibly tough 2017. I don’t really talk about my marriage, or my ex-husband, but today I am being vulnerable, right? So, here we go. Colin not only was my husband, he was also my IT guy and web developer, and when I left him in December of 2016, let’s just say he wasn’t very happy about the decision. He decided to literally shut down everything. He took down our website, POS system, email, Google Drive, our web based security system in the store. Anything that was connected to the internet, he quickly took and held for ransom. Well, being a $100,000 in debt from the Utah store, and losing almost $100,000 from all the damage he caused during our busiest month, I didn’t have anything to give him. It was one of the most heartbreaking experiences I’ve ever dealt with. Loving someone and being in a relationship with someone for 7 years and having it end by them doing absolutely everything to crush you, was a really hard pill for me to swallow. But in January of 2017, I was done paying lawyers to fight on my behalf and I took matters into my own hands. So, 2017 started and Chelsea’s started with a completely new rebranding. We got a new logo, and went from Chelsea’s Boutique to just Chelsea’s, I bought the domain www.chelseas.com and we created a brand new website, a new POS system, new email address, Google Drive account and figured out how to hook back up the security system in the store.
2017 was one of the hardest years of my life, the first 6 months felt like a roller coaster ride. I’d go from being incredibly happy to couldn’t get out of bed sad. I am so lucky to have such amazing employees that stuck with me through everything, I found myself again as a leader, I found more kindness, forgiveness for myself, love, empathy and patience, and I found the most incredible support system, my family, friends and my super awesome BF - Thadeus. I am SO proud to announce that even though 2017 started off really rocky, we ended it by having our biggest year ever!!
Oh, I also forgot to mention in July of 2017, I opened another store, Conversation Piece with my mom, which I am actually now working to transition out of.
And March of this year will mark 9 years in business.
Okay, now that you know how I got started, let’s chat about the why behind the business - and if it’s okay with you guys, I’d really like to just focus on the boutique since that really is my numero uno.
So, typically I’d say, oh the why behind why I started was, and I go into this really fun and fascinating story about how I always loved clothes, and I had self confidence issues growing up and I really just wanted a place for women to feel safe and secure. In all honesty, that didn’t come until about 5 years after opening my doors.
The truth is, at 20 years old, while I was still attending college, a building came up for sale next to my mom’s flower shop in Chamberlain and my mom and my hairdresser at the time, told me that Chamberlain really needed a clothing store, because the closest place to buy clothes was an hour drive, and that I could probably make some really good money starting a business. So there you have it, the WHY behind why I opened my store. I don’t think I’ve ever shared that story with anyone, before now.
So, for the first 4.5 years of being in Chamberlain, that’s really what my focus was. It was just me, in the store everyday, trying to sell clothes. I used to have a LOT more time on my hands and really had no idea what I was doing at that time. But when you’re in your early 20s you have it all figured out, right? Ya… right….
Fast forward to moving to Sioux Falls, and this goal of wanting to empower women and help them find their inner confidence really stemmed from me watching Simon Sinek's - Start With Why - TED Talk. Have y’all seen it? Game changer.
After watching that TED Talk probably a year after being in Sioux Falls, I completely changed everything about my store, and my mindset. Our slogan changed from “The store your husband doesn’t want you to find…” and morphed into “Be your own beautiful”. We stopped selling clothing and started selling confidence. We started to host Empowerment Events and a book club, in the store. Social media was focused around creating this community of women who support, love and lift each other up. And the store truly transformed into a place where women did feel safe, and could be open and vulnerable.
Our following has become absolutely incredible and devoted to us and our brand. We’ve had people literally put on their Facebook page, advocate for Chelsea’s Boutique, without us even prompting them. We have women that will just come into the store when they’re having a bad day. Like seriously, I’ve had women come into our back office and sit with me and spill their day. I’ve had a woman come in and sob uncontrollably in my arms as she told me her husband just left her and she doesn’t know what she's going to do. These are women I didn’t know before opening my store. In our book club, we’ve inspired women to really look within and change their lives for the better. We have had some absolutely incredible reviews left for us, that I wanted to read today, but I seriously can’t get through them without crying every single time. I can say that I am incredibly proud of what we have created and how we’ve completely transformed from just selling clothes to truly helping women find their inner confidence again and the clothing has just simply become the platform to do so.
As the company started to grow exponentially with this new WHY behind it, that meant it was time for me to bring on people to help me. I stopped working the front line and turned my employees into my customers. They are now my focus and where I pour my heart and soul into. Because as long as I’m pouring into them, they will pour into our customers. I do this through a weekly one-on-one meeting with my full timers, monthly team get togethers with everyone and quarterly team building activities. I like to joke that I’m a therapist for my employees, but I really love being able to help my employees not only see how absolutely incredible they are but to help them grow and mold into amazing women. I get choked up when I think about how much my two full time employees have grown over the years. Like full on proud momma moments. Another main role I play is being an advocate for the store and continuing to build and maintain the culture through our hiring processes, onboarding, and continuous involvement in helping my employees grow and develop.
So I’ve talked about how the store didn’t start awesome but became it, and now I’d like to talk about how I wasn’t always awesome either, but have molded into this freaking awesome person you see in front of you today!
In the past 9 years as a business owner, and probably more in the past 1.5 years, I have grown so much as a leader and entrepreneur. I learned things such as:
- How to give up control over my business, how to have patience and be able to grow and develop my employees into who they’re meant to be, not who I want them to be.
- I’ve learned how to pivot - obviously from my timeline you can see that. This is something I’ve become VERY good at. If we implement something new, and it doesn’t work, I can quickly and smoothly pivot us in a new direction.
- I’ve learned what my strengths are but more importantly, I’ve learned what my weaknesses are. I’ve learned that I have an overactive brain, I’m an activator and I get bored easily. I have to set boundaries for implementing new processes or ideas so we can really focus and devote enough time to what’s in place now. I’ve learned to make myself sit on an idea for at least a week before thinking about it again.
- I’ve learned what kind of leader I want to be and what I don’t want to be and am really working more and more on this currently in the EmBe women’s leadership program.
- I’ve learned how to ask for help and take advice and not just assume I have all the answers.
- I’ve learned to fail forward. That just because something fails, doesn’t mean I’m a failure, it’s actually quite the opposite. It means that I had enough balls to try something new and if it failed it simply means that it wasn’t meant to work and I soak up all the knowledge I possibly can from the failure to use on future decisions.
- Currently I am in the process of wanting to be more than just a boutique owner and breaking down the WHY behind that. Here’s the vulnerability piece again. I feel as though this is something I’ve come against my entire life, being a 20 year old girl opening a business, I honestly wasn’t taken seriously at market and trade shows. Vendors didn’t respect me, specially not the older males, when I went to Chicago for my first market I couldn’t even book my own hotel room, my mom and to call and do it for me, because I wasn’t 21. Currently, I am working on WHY do I need that respect and admiration? Why am I so focused on making sure people in the community see me as more than just a boutique owner? Thad I think said it perfectly last night, after I broke down a bit about it, he said. Chelsea, your insecurities and showing, this is bothering you so much that you are crying in the kitchen about it. This isn’t about anyone else, this is about you and your thoughts on who YOU are. He was totally right. He usually is, except when it comes to how to properly wash dishes.
So, I was chatting with Thad last night, and after I was done sobbing in the kitchen, anyone else tend to have their best conversations in the kitchen? I showed him my outline (which by the way is nothing like my speech today, because I rewrote it at 8am this morning) and he asked me, what are your WOW factors for this presentation and I was like, uh…. The way I morphed into a leader? You should have seen the look he gave me.
So I asked him, babe what do YOU think my wow factors are. And I was so in awe of what he had to say. Things like:
-You’ve done almost everything on your own, which was good and bad. What you didn’t know how to do, you taught yourself, like Photography, Social Media, Advertising, Creating a Website, Creating a Community and Brand that people love, Implementing an Entire New POS system. (And I thought, isn’t that what all entrepreneurs do?)
- He said, and how about your intuition. I bet people don’t realize that you hand pick and select every item that comes into the boutique. That you’ve set up all your vendor relationships and have an amazing intuition of knowing what will have a high desire and appeal to your customer base. (I looked at him dumbfounded and said, I guess I never would have thought that was something of any kind of cool or wow factor?)
-He then talked about how I’ve really developed my employees and helped guide them in creating their own paths within the store, but also within themselves.
He then finished with stating, “And the focus you’ve had on creating this tribe of loyal fans and followers, you should be incredibly proud of that. You don’t try and overload a woman’s closet with more, it’s really about getting them clothes that they’ll love, that will mesh into their closet and that will add confidence to their day, instead of frustration”
Now you're talkin my language! That’s exactly what the WOW factor is at Chelsea’s. I am so incredibly proud to say I have created a brand and business that is bigger than just Chelsea."