For boutique owner Geraldine Boyer, opening her own store was something that she always wanted to do.
“I used to have a spot in a flea market, selling things,” Boyer says. “I really like and enjoy dressing people and having this contact with people, my clients that come into the store. And being on my own, choosing my own schedule. That’s something that always attracted me.”
Boyer took the leap to entrepreneurship from a successful career in banking, opening the Houston-based boutique Collectivo in 2017. The store carries an array of fashion and lifestyle products, from clothing and accessories to candles and skincare, mostly crafted by Latin American designers. For Boyer, it was important to embed her cultural roots to the business.
“I’m half Mexican and half French, so many of the designers are Latin American,” she says. “I thought it was important to showcase Latin American talent in the design. I try to give a place to those talents who don’t have a soapbox.”
But the road wasn’t easy for the owner. With much of the retail industry dominated by online stores, Boyer had to find a target audience to stand out from her e-commerce counterparts. “Online shopping is the thing now,” she says. “It was important to find a niche where people still appreciate coming and connecting to the item, instead of buying online.” It’s become Collectivo’s mission to curate unique items that customers can’t find in other stores around town.
Not everything has gone as planned, however. In the store’s three-year lifespan, Collectivo has closed for two major disasters: Hurricane Harvey and the COVID-19 pandemic. Both crises put sales on pause, but Boyer found that forging strong connections with her clients helped attract customers back to Collectivo as soon as it was able to open its doors once more.
“We create events to attract and inform people about our brand, the story behind them, so people know when they go to the store, there’s not going to be some random item. Once they know about the store and what we carry, they always come back,” Boyer says. “We also try to use social media to stay current and to stay present as much as we can. I think that’s how we’ve been able to survive.”
Boyer also notes that keeping the financials in check was important for business survival — a suggestion that she believes all owners should take.
“My best business advice is to look well into the numbers to see your overhead, your projections. They have to be really precise. Use the most pessimistic numbers that you can in order to plan, so you are ready for that scenario you would think cannot happen like in the case of a hurricane or COVID,” says Boyer. “When no one could prepare for this, at least if you are not overly optimistic in your projects, then you have more chances to survive.”
Looking for resources for your small business? Check out the Hello Alice COVID-19 Business Center for how-to guides, mentorship, and funding opportunities to help your business thrive during COVID-19 and beyond.