Startup Diaries from the US: on Building a Million Dollar Fashion Chain

Fernanda and Vivian Bohme emigrated from Brazil to the US in the 1990sFernanda Bohme explains how she and her sister founded a fashion retail brand which now numbers 12 boutiques across the States and turns over millions of dollars.

My name is Fernanda Bohme. My sister Vivian and I emigrated with our immediate family from Rio de Janeiro Brazil to the United States in the 90’s. Our family did not have a lot but we gained hard-working attitudes. My sister and I did many different things to raise money as we grew up, we even started our own little business ventures. But what we really wanted was to start our own retail business.

I studied at the SLCC Fashion Institute in Utah and learned many things about being a business owner and about being a designer. My sister Vivian and I decided to go ahead and move ahead on an idea we had for a retail business.

We saw a need for trendy but modest clothing for the women in Utah so we started with something extremely small; a kiosk in a Utah mall that was only open on holidays.

We even did our own construction for that small spot in the mall, and called it the “Bohme Boutique.”

We began to grow our business and eventually we opened four more stores in Utah. The Bohme Boutique grew in popularity and we were able to expand even more by opening Boutiques in other states such as Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Idaho. My sister and I agree that our background really taught us to grow and work hard, which is good because we knew that the fashion industry was hard and cutthroat.

Many other boutiques have asked us how we deal with having more than one location, but I just keep telling people that it is actually easier to manage more stores because one store can help the other. Every time a new store is opened employees and inventory can be grabbed from another nearby store to help get the new one started. It is like one big team and I say that opening more stores makes my job easier because there are more people to help run the stores and more people to delegate to.

Starting a business in a struggling economy can be difficult, but we grow more during recessions because we lower the prices and customers keep coming back.

My advice for any start-up business is to use the talents you have. You do not have to open a bunch of stores, use your gifts, use your talents and improve your business the way you do best.

The Bohme Boutique went from 0 to millions of dollars in sales per year. How, you might ask? we did this by using tools like social media and basic trial and error.

We have Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and other social media accounts which we use to promote our stores, our products, our sales and other special deals. We also used basic trial and error to understand what worked and what didn’t work and also to understand what our customers wanted and what they liked and didn’t like. For example, we would place an outfit in the front store window and see how well sales went then, if it wasn’t going well, we would replace it with another outfit and compare the sales of the two outfits to see what our customers liked better. This is how we decided to focus more on denims and how we were able to grow so much. We also use things like press releases, radio and word of mouth to get the word out about our Boutique.

Fernanda Bohme is a retail entrepreneur who loves using her creativity to improve her business and sell boutique apparel.

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