Playing Dress Up

Jun 07, 2010 No Comments

Jessica Hershey Uchuya is the owner of Jessie, a stylish boutique in South Florida. In an economy of not-such-good-times, this businesswoman is thriving and even opened a second store location on trendy Miami Beach. Jessica shares how success lies in a solid appreciation for her customers, a trusty team of employees and learning to leave some of the clothes on the rack for others to buy. While owning a fashion store might sound like fun, it’s not all about playing dress up!

When did you decide you wanted to open up your first boutique?

JHU: I studied Business in college to eventually take over my family business. After living and breathing stone crabs for two years, I decided restaurateur was NOT what I was destined to be. Opening a boutique just seemed right to me, natural… if that makes sense.

What did you do before owning your first Jessie boutique?

JHU: I worked at my family’s restaurant.

You have now opened two Jessie boutiques in Florida, one in Aventura and one in South Beach. When did you open each of them?

JHU: Jessie Aventura was opened September 2004. Jessie South Beach May 2009.

When you first opened, were you working in the store? If so, how long did you work in the store before you trusted employees to take over?

JHU: When I opened my first store, I was in the store everyday all day – open to close. I’d say I worked as a full time “employee” for almost the first two years before I was able to “let go” a bit. The turnover rate for retail when it comes to employees is very high, I was not fully comfortable with my team and employees until two years after we opened, which is normal because routine takes time to establish, as do work and business relationships. Having trustworthy employees is of utmost importance in retail – finding people who will care for the store as their own. I’m content because I feel I’ve established a bond and trust with my girls. We are like a little family with ups and downs and we all love, I mean LOVE, clothes and fashion. I’ve been very fortunate and blessed in that sense.

How did you get the word out to women about your boutique?

JHU: Jessie Aventura was spread through word of mouth. A lot of my Aventura clients are Sinai moms, which is where my daughter matriculated from, and they still are avid customers to this day – six years later.

Did anyone help you open it up?

JHU: Me, myself, and I. 🙂

How did you first describe your boutique to family and friends?

JHU: My closet x 1000!

What would you say is the minimum amount of money you would need to open up a boutique similar to yours (excluding rent)?

JHU: This is a difficult question because an exact number is fickle. It all depends on extraneous variables (ie: what kind of inventory you want to sell and how much stock you want on hand, what kind of client do you want to appeal to, etc).

How did the economic crisis affect Jessie boutique? How did you overcome it?

JHU: I have been fortunate enough to have a very loyal group of customers and so I can’t say the crisis has affected either store.

What motivated you to open the one in South Beach?

JHU: I was born and raised in Miami Beach. I knew I would eventually open a second location in SoBE, it was just a matter of when. My daughter’s age was the ultimate deciding factor. I waited until she was six years old to open Jessie SoBe.

What do you look for when hiring employees?

JHU: I look for excellent communicators with an undying love for fashion.

How many employees do you have working per day?

JHU: We always have at least two girls in each store at once.

How do you look for new brands for your shops? What are some of the top brands you carry?

JHU: I find new brands by going to tradeshows (L.A., NYC, Vegas). My ultimate favorite line as of today is definitely Haute Hippie, it’s a semi-new line that flies out of our stores. It’s elegant/chic with a modern twist. We are also going to carrying Halston Heritage – SJP’s wears a lot of the new pieces in the new Sex and the City movie. Halston revamped the iconic Halston peices and made them modern. It’s to die for! I am very excited for this must-have line of jersey silk dresses and party pieces. It’s a line no glamour girl can live without.

How often do you visit each store?

JHU: I pop in often 🙂

Which store would you say gets more traffic?

JHU: I am happy to say that we get the same amount of traffic in both stores, though on different days. Weekends are definitely busier for SoBe because our clientele is younger and constantly looking for their next party/event outfit.

Are you currently promoting any special sales, events or anything that you would like your clients to know about?

JHU: We constantly have trunk show and events. We post everything on our fan page on Facebook.

Are you looking to keep expanding your boutique?

JHU: Always.

What is a typical day like for you?

JHU: I get about 50-75 work e-mails a day, so the greater part of my day is spent sending e-mails and making sure the inventory we get in is correct. Luckily, my daughter’s in school until 2:30pm, so I can work without depriving my time spent with my family. Like I said before, I usually visit each store once a day. My team is very focused and responsible so I entrust them with the day-to-day managerial issues. My girls really take a load of stress off my back. I am very lucky!

Are there any new exciting developments in the works with Jessie boutique?

JHU: Stay tuned….

What have you learned the most about being a business owner?

JHU: It’s a 24/7 hour job. Your business is your child and you must treat it as such. The customer’s satisfaction is imperative; I always listen to a customer’s feedback no matter how trivial/unimportant it seems. The success of your business relies solely upon your customers and their satisfaction.

What did you do in the beginning that you would never do again?

JHU: I have no regrets.

What do you LOVE the most about owning these boutiques?

JHU: This is simple. There is no feeling better than seeing a customer’s reaction when they fall in love with their purchases. Or when they call you afterwards to tell you how many compliments they got on their outfits or how beautiful they felt wearing something they bought from Jessie.

Give us your best advice about owning a boutique?

JHU: Do your best not to take home your own merchandise (even though, its technically yours).

Edited by: Bridgette

1708 Alton Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Fashion, Miami
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