INTERVIEW: Opening an Online Boutique

opening an online boutique with Shop Fishie
| The Pom Pom Top |

So here’s my dirty, little secret: I’ve been pondering the idea of starting my own online fashion boutique. Sounds fun, right? Well even in my fantasy, I know that it’s not all fun and games. After doing some research online, all I found were technical articles about the step-by-step process you have to follow like getting licenses, creating a business plan, etc., but I wanted something a little more personal. That’s why I decided to take the initiative to interview someone with experience!

I had the honor of talking with Katie, one of the two amazing women behind Shop Fishie, which is a mother/daughter operation started in May 2013, specializing in girly, timeless attire. Here’s what she had to say:

Ali: So first off, the very idea of Shop Fishie– was it a long thought out process? An idea you always had in the back of your mind/ a life long dream?

SF: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in fashion. I would often shop at local boutiques & purchase items. After returning home, I would research the different brands in hopes of finding similar merchandise. I was disappointed when I was denied access to their websites because I didn’t have a wholesale account. About four years ago, I first introduced the idea to my mom. I knew that running an online boutique was something that I could excel in and it was something I enjoyed. For about two years, my mom said no. The timing was never quite right, we both had other obligations, etc. During my freshmen year, my friends continually raided my closet. My closet was known as the go-to closet for any occasion. When I returned home for the summer, I told my mom about this and reintroduced the idea of an online boutique. The timing was finally right, and we decided to open Shop Fishie.

Ali: What is your favorite part of owning your own boutique or business in general? Is it everything that you thought it would be?

SF: Though there are many different aspects that I love about Shop Fishie, my favorite part is seeing the clothes on the customer. Fashion is a way to express yourself, a place where you can find your confidence. Knowing that I have played a part in that is a really cool feeling.
I also love the buying aspect. Overall, this is probably the most fun. I love researching different designers and exploring new possibilities. We try to create a brand that people will connect with. Though our styles are very similar, we also try to expand our style and carry different items to appeal to all customers. 

opening an online boutique with Shop Fishie | The Sophie Top | Pearly White Lace Dress | Shall We Dance Top- Black |

Ali: How do you host your shop and why did you decide to go this route?

SF: We use Shopify, which is an online e-commerce company. We host through them, and they make it really easy for us. We decided to use a platform to host our site because I wasn’t familiar with all of the coding and steps for hosting online. We didn’t want to focus on the technological aspects of the website, we wanted to focus on our products.

Ali: In regards to picking out clothing for the store, how does that work? And how do you make your selection?

SF: My mom & I are responsible for the buying. We contact different designers and brands to gain access to their inventory. From there, we make selections based on a variety of things, such as price, style, color, and the other inventory we currently carry. I often run things by my friends to get their opinion on items. Sometimes, I think something is really cute, but my friends might not think so. It’s really important that I receive feedback from other sources to ensure that I’m making good choices. Our target audience is young women between the ages of 16-30, so being apart of that demographic is really helpful. I can run things by my friends and get a feel for what the response may be from the target.

Ali: Shop Fishie is run by a mother/ daughter team. Do you ever feel that work affects your relationship or vice versa (your relationship affecting work)?

SF: Not at all! My mom & I have always been best friends. She’s a great boss and we both have different strengths. I primarily focus on the buying and the marketing aspect of it. I know what the target audience is interested in, and I’m aware of how to effectively reach them. Based on that, I create content for our social media outlets.

My mom is in charge of the books and the shipping. Math has never been my strong point. My mom’s aware of this & therefore, she’s in charge of the finances. Also, she does all of the shipping. This is especially important for me because I’m in college. I don’t have the space to keep all the clothes up here, nor do I have the time to manage the shipping.

Ali: What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own online boutique?

SF: Running an online boutique is fun and exciting, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it. Researching your target audience and ways to effectively reach them is key to success. There are tons of online boutiques that carry similar merchandise. It’s imperative that you have something about your online boutique that stands out from the competition. Building a strong brand is necessary for the boutique, so I would recommend researching different techniques to create and build a brand that effectively engages with the audience.

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A huge shout-out and thanks to Katie for allowing me to do this interview. Be sure to take a peak at their website. They have so many cute, unique, and affordable pieces!

What OCD Really Stands For

This post has been in the making for a long time. Ever since 5 Days on the Pill: My Nightmare, I have felt empowered and encouraged to share more personal aspects of my life and more serious topics on my blog. I’m so thankful to all of the people that supported me and read my article from May. Your support helped me so much.

As a child, I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety; I began taking medication and attending weekly therapy sessions. This lasted for years as I was too young to cope with this psychological disorder on my own, but as I gained years and coping abilities, I was slowly weaned off of my medication, and I stopped therapy. I was fine for a very long time. I functioned normally, and I went about my childhood.

The summer before my freshman year of high school, my mom started noticing peculiar habits… well just one to be exact: I spent an overwhelming amount of time washing my hands. I thought it was weird for her to question such a thing… “Well I guess I have been, but I only wash them when my hands are dirty”, was the only thing I could say to try and justify my behavior.

When my hands became bloody and dried, my mom reached her breaking point, and she took me to a psychiatrist. I still don’t really know if she knew what was going on with me. If she suspected Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

The day of my appointment, I was sat down on a couch, facing an average looking man presumably in his late 30s/ early 40s. He had his broad leg crossed atop his other and a clipboard resting in his lap. My mom sat beside me. He asked me questions about everything and anything… things that didn’t even seem relevant at times. At one point he asked me if I saw things that weren’t really there, and I began to wonder if he suspected I was crazy. I was offended. Then there were questions about the hand washing. Rails. Cleanliness. My past with anxiety.

My disorder enveloped me. I was counting everything. 4s. Everything had to be done four times- pumps of the soap, number of times I washed my hands. There were cracks in our wood flooring that could not be stepped on otherwise bad things would happen. I had to erase previously written words just because they didn’t feel right. I retraced my steps. Even my thoughts were beginning to repeat themselves.

At times this was too overbearing to handle. I would lie in bed and close my eyes to avoid anything that would trigger obsessive thoughts. I had lost my ability to keep up a facade completely. Secretly, my parents watched me. My dad still remembers the days I would get up from the couch, have to touch the leg with my foot, and come back around full circle to stealthily repeat this action, but in reality, there was no stealth behind it. Full of concern, he called another doctor, but we knew everything there was to know. I was lucky that I could still function semi-normally. Tasks just took a little longer. Some people didn’t have that ability.

Over time, somehow OCD has been downplayed. Maybe as a result of self-diagnosed, anal people or the result of inaccurate portrayals on TV shows and movies, but most people don’t seem to understand the true severity of this disorder. Some fail to even comprehend its status as a disorder at all. It’s a shame, really, for all of the true suffers to have to standby and listen to people joke about their struggles with such ease.

I’m lucky that I’ve had the ability to subdue my disorder with the help of Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive- Compulsive Behavior and my own found willpower, but no one can truly understand the difficulty of fighting your own mind and changing your own brain chemistry until you have to do it yourself. Your brain is supposed to be one of the main parts of your identity; your thoughts are what define you, so what happens when your thoughts aren’t your own?

I just want to support everyone that is going through this right now, reading this article or anyone that ever has gone through it. It took me countless months of bloody hands and breakdowns to get through this, but what matters is that I got there… and I did it free of therapy or medication. And for those of you that are reading this that don’t have OCD, pause for a moment before you make the next joke or stick up for the person next to you that is too afraid to say anything…

I’m here for anyone and everyone that needs moral support or a few words of wisdom.
Love always,

My First Plum Paper Planner & Life Lately

Call me crazy but I love buying anything organization related (files, planners, folders, drawers, etc), so the beginning of the year is such a fun time for me. Last year I wrote a post about my planner from May Designs, and I loved the customized cover (they have a new watercolor collection that you’ll want to drool over) and the feel of the cover paper, but as the year went on, and I removed and replaced the book from my backpack multiple times a day, the design started to wear off, which resulted in splotchy white spots. I decided that at this point in my life, I am just too rough on my planner to use such a delicate one, so this year I was on the search for my perfect planner again.

Through browsing on Etsy, I found Plum Paper. Initially, I was turned off by the 30 dollar price tag and 10 dollar shipping, but as I searched more, I realized what a great option it really was, so I revisited it again and again until I finally decided to purchase. One of the best things about Plum Paper is that you are able to customize the pages. You have four options:

1. Days divided by morning, afternoon, and evening
2. Days separated by 30 minute increments
3. Days with blank lines
4. No weekly spreads

I chose the days divided every 30 minutes option, and I am extremely pleased with it. When I have a lot of classes/ meetings that I have to remember, I have a nice system to write them all out, and on easier days where I just have a lot to do, I can also just fill in the times with my to-do list!

The other big feature that intrigued me about Plum Paper is that they have a sturdy wire coil and a strong plastic cover to protect the decorative front. Thanks to these key features, my notebook still looks brand new!

As for what’s inside the planner, I’ve been spending these first few weeks of school busier than ever. I endured work week and sorority recruitment as well as the new addition of homework in my life. For excitement, I joined The Daily Illini and Her Campus Illinois as a copy editor! I think it’s going to be a good year.

How do you stay organized? What planner do you use?

An Anniversary Present {for Him or Her}

anniversary present

I’m normally not a very crafty person… only because I never seem to have time to fit it in my schedule, but for Ty and I’s 6 month anniversary last month, I decided to step up my game a little (it only took two months to finish). I knew that I wanted to do something sentimental, and I had already done the Pinterest famous “52 Reasons Why I Love You” deck of cards for my mom on mother’s day, so I didn’t want to repeat that again. Instead, I went to Michael’s craft store, bought one of their unfinished wooden boxes, found some old paint in my basement, and a few of my favorite love quotes…

I painted the box myself and began to just write all over it. The one thing that comforted me in this whole project was that I knew it didn’t have to be perfect; he would appreciate it regardless. I just had fun with, and I made it my own. After making the box, I started printing out square shaped pictures of the two of us that we had collected over the past months (we take a lot of pictures together). On the back of these, I glued construction paper, added some stickers, and I wrote all of the reason why I love him, and guess what? He loved it.

Sentimental gifts are always a great idea whether you are trying to stick to a budget or have all of the money in the world. Tyler was able to take his box with him when we went our separate ways for school, and he reads it whenever he needs to. Even if you’re not in a long distance relationship, a box like this is nice to read when you’re having a bad day or your relationship has hit a few rough spots.

Want to do more? I thought about adding a few movie ticket stubs, train tickets, and other little trinkets that I’ve kept from our time together, but I decided my box wasn’t big enough. Just a thought for an even more personalized gift! Or you can purchase an additional gift! I bought Tyler the Polo Blue cologne to go along with it.