It's been a little while since we've had a #BossLady, but no worries, we're baaaack! Fringe is a new boutique located in downtown Bellingham, and the owner Rhiannon is dedicated to smart shopping with flair! Fringe is only about a year old, but you would never guess from the way she has this shop set up. Everything is beautifully laid out, clean, and eye catching, just sucks you right in. Not going to lie, after finishing up with the look book shoot (coming soon!) I definitely did a little shopping and found some beautiful things both on the sale rack as well as the main floor. Rhiannon does a great job of keeping fresh things in the shop, and right now all her fall inventory is rolling in. We got to see a little sneak peak, and ladies, get yourselves in there!
But first! Let's get to know the lady behind the PNW, boho, magical goodness known as Fringe!
Fringe is a boutique for the #EveryGirl! I wanted to create a store where real, local women can find clothing and accessories for both work and play, all at really reasonable prices. Fringe is a one-stop shop for everything from the softest basic t-shirts, to the prettiest bohemian dresses. It's the perfect place to grab a gift on the go, and we can easily gift wrap that pineapple charm necklace or ginger orange soy candle, and we've got the perfect greeting card to go with it. A major focus is on being part of a local community, and to me this means staying affordable enough for local women as cost of living rises, taking part in local events, and carrying a growing selection of products from 20 (and counting!) local artisans, from hand printed PNW inspired t-shirts, to painted bamboo earrings.
Dressing up has been my favorite past time since I could dress myself (and my dolls)! I always knew I wanted to work in fashion, and through middle school and high school what that looked like to me changed a lot. By the time I was 16, though, I knew that I wanted to some day open my own clothing store, so I got my first retail job at a resale clothing store in town. I could have gone to school for business or fashion merchandising, but studying one thing for four years just sounded boring to me. So I found myself at a liberal arts college in Portland, OR studying cultural anthropology, sociology, and gender. I basically studied people, which has proven to be tremendously helpful in my business in terms of marketing, buying, and merchandising. At the same time, I worked through high school, college, and beyond for several different boutiques in Bellingham and Portland, and learned SO much about running a retail store. I've had some amazingly generous mentors along the way, in particular the folks I worked with and for in Portland. In 2013 I decided to move back home to get to know Bellingham again, started a small jewelry business, and worked on writing a business plan, gathering funding, and putting together the pieces for my dream boutique. In October 2015 I finally opened the doors to Fringe, the shop I had been building in my mind for the past nine years!
What makes Fringe a unique boutique in Whatcom County is the price point. I personally can't afford to drop $60 on a shirt, and I think the majority of Bellingham women are in the same boat. At Fringe, a nice top averages around $30, and about 90% of the store is priced under $50. Here you can get a whole stack of fun new clothes for $100, rather than leaving with just one item. I get asked a lot how I am able to keep my prices so low, and my answer to that is smart buying! I look for good value in the products I carry at Fringe, so that I can pass on that value to you!
Trend Alert! Socially acceptable pajamas!
One of the trends I am loving the most, which is so perfect for us in the PNW moving into the cooler months, is what one of my customers called "socially acceptable pajamas." I just love that and think it's so funny! We're talking loose fitting patterned pants, long flowing tunics over leggings, and cozy oversized sweaters topped with your favorite scarf. It is all about the layers, which is exactly what we need around here with cooler mornings and sunny afternoons. My styling tip for this trend is that if you go loose on top, wear something more fitted on the bottom (and vice versa) so you don't end up looking like you're actually wearing pajamas.
What is a hardship or challenge you have had to overcome and how did you handle that?
I'm not ready to talk about it publicly yet because I'm still in the middle of it, but I will say this: there are challenging surprises that will come up in your business that you could never even have imagined while you were envisioning your dream business or writing that business plan. I grew up as a dancer and was involved in a lot of acting and music, and one powerful life lesson that all of that performance taught me was that "the show must go on!" If the curtain opens too early, you improvise. If you slip on stage, you make it look like part of the show. In my most challenging moments, I repeat in like a mantra, "the show must go on!" I can either throw up my hands and quit on my life-long dream, or I can try to keep smiling and doing what I do best, one day at a time.
A work/life balance has been really important to me from the beginning. After all, the whole point of being my own boss is so that I can have the freedom to live my life to the fullest, on my own terms! Sure, I worked 7 days a week for the first 3 months, but that's the hustle I anticipated for the store opening. I started building a small team almost immediately, and currently have two rock star employees who have allowed me to take a ton of time off this summer to play. It's really funny to me when people are surprised that I'm in my first year of business, have employees, and am able to take time off. I knew from the start that I couldn't maintain a healthy business and a healthy life working 7 days a week, so I built in sufficient payroll expenses into my budget. People often remark, "Oh, you must be doing really well if you were able to hire employees!" The truth is, I wouldn't be doing well if I didn't have my amazing little team to help me run the show so I can take an occasional step away, and return fresh and in full force.
If you could give someone starting their own business any advice, what would it be?
Don't wait until you're "ready." Obviously you should thoroughly prepare yourself for your new venture, but if you keep waiting until the perfect moment, or until you know absolutely everything, you're going to wait forever. There will always be more to learn, and there will always be things you couldn't possibly be prepared for. At some point you just have to say, "it's show time!" and do the thing. You will continue to learn so much along the way as new challenges arise, but that is the beauty of growing your business, and growing yourself as a #BossLady.