"People think you can just open a website and it will just happen, but it takes time to become established!"
About SUGARBABIES BOUTIQUE: Our store has been in business since 2005 and is one of the original online baby boutiques. We are a family-owned business based in WA state where our boutique and offices are located. It truly takes a village to run SugarBabies; the original owner and her 8 passionate employees run every aspect of the business in-house. The SugarBabies team is made of working moms with children ranging from newborn to 22!
Can we just say, everything you carry has GOT to give people baby fever! Everything is sooo cute! Do you have a favorite item that you recommend to mamas time and time again?
Tell us about how SugarBabies got started, and what inspired you to bring this brand to life.
SugarBabies was started in 2005 when I was pregnant with my second son, I was looking for affordable options for baby clothing and I wasn’t having a whole lot of success finding what I had in mind. So, I spent the year going to garage sales and I collected a ton of secondhand baby items and I opened my store as retail consignment shop boutique at first! We no longer do resale or consignment 16 years later but that was the original business model for SugarBabies - it was such a great way to start! The first store was 2,000 square feet on Main Street in Sumner Washington. I often get asked how the name SugarBabies came to be and it’s named after my Grandpa who passed away after battling ALS in 2005 - the same year the store opened… he used to call me his little sugar baby and the store was named in his honor!
We read you were one of the original baby boutiques to show up online + do the dang thing. That is nothing short of AH-MAZING. What was it like to take the internet by storm and share your passion for your baby boutique with everyone?
When the recession happened in 2008, big box stores and malls started heavily discounting apparel, so consignment prices almost lost their value in a way. Gymboree for example back in the day when I did consignment was so huge because it was so expensive and was almost before boutiques existed so we would resell it, but then the recession hit and things were discounted to 50% off new, customers no longer were wanting used items. Due to this, I started buying new products as I realized my customers were now seeking more unique items that they couldn’t find elsewhere. I switched my business model to adapt to what was happening in the economy - I had to find things that weren’t being discounted by big box sellers and things that could hold their value. The recession is what pushed SugarBabies to turn from a consignment shop to a boutique! I sought to find unique brands that would set my store apart and in 2010 I moved down the street to our 5,000 square foot store and expanded to a retail boutique plus opened an online website.
Being in business for over 16 years is incredibly impressive! You've survived the recession of 2008 + now a global pandemic in 2020. How did you do it?
During the recession I changed my business model from consignment to retail, it was also a time where the internet started to become a ‘thing’ so I opened a website shopsugarbabies.com - as I was bringing new merchandise into my store I was also adding every single new thing onto my website. I started with 2 brands and grew as I went - creating and online presence and switching my business model is what got us through the recession. The same website I created back during the recession is actually what set me up to be successful and remain open during the pandemic, we relied heavily on website sales since our physical storefront had to be closed for quite some time. The internet is a strange place because we have built so much organic website traffic over the years that has been crucial for our growth - people think you can just open a website and it will just happen but it takes time to become established! During the pandemic, we were lucky enough to be able to have an online presence, while our store was closed. We doubled down on social media, ran more targeted ads and created more media content! Social media ads led to website traffic, which meant our customers never had to leave their homes to shop during the pandemic… it really opened our eyes to an entire new way of selling! Everything is virtual. For example, we now offering virtual personal shopping & baby registry assistance!
We need to know! What show can you binge over and over again without getting sick of it?
I really liked Schitt's Creek because who doesn't like to laugh!
What's it like building a company like SugarBabies? How do you manage that work-life balance?
HA HA HA - this one is great! I was raised by hard workers and a family that was very motivated with an incredible work ethic. Having this type of personality, can make a work life balance really tough as I always want to make my business bigger, better and stronger, but that's something you have to learn to do while putting your family first as it really is the most important! I use to work 6 days a week and now I work 3 days in store and 3 days from home so I can have that extra family time… but trust me and don’t get me wrong, if you’re opening a business you’re working 24/7. You must put a good 5 years in before it pays off. You can then empower your employees and give yourself a little grace to have that little bit of balance.
What part of being a business owner do you enjoy the most? Which part do you absolutely despise?
What kind of interview would this be if we didn't ask everyone's "favorite" question. Where do you see SugarBabies in 5 years? What's your long-term vision?
One step at a time for me! Things change so fast so I’m more of a week by week type of person. I see something coming up and I create a plan to conquer it in that moment. I can’t predict the future so why would I try and plan it! If tomorrow everyone starting ONLY shopping online, I would have to adapt. I think it’s always hard to plan things out - or at least I’m not that person. I move, adapt, go with the flow and with whatever is making money! If you asked Nordstroms 5 years ago what they would be doing in 5 years I guarantee it’s not what they’re doing now.
Tell us about the most memorable experience you've had in the last 16 years of business!
I have had a lot of memorable moments over the last 16 years but a highlight that sticks out to me is winning King 5’s Best of Western Washington’s Award 6 years in a row - that was pretty exciting! We also did a talk shows, fashion shows on the news, we had King5 come to the store, a lot of celebrities have bought from us, and this year we had an outfit featured in People Magazine! And of course, every experience with our customers is memorable and special!
If you could give your younger self any piece of advice about being a business owner, what would it be + why? What would you change about your business knowing this advice, anything?
The commitment. The commitment to owning a business is 24 hours a day 7 days a week. So, if you’re going to own a business, you’re signing up for an everyday for the rest of your life commitment. I take on a huge responsibility with my staff, knowing I have people with young families to keep employed that rely on my business - it is definitely beyond just me, I have a lot of other bodies to consider! Crystal ball style its really weird to think about changing anything. I’m already 16 years deep, but we are currently open 7 days a week - that might be something I change… growing the online business so I could have the store front closed a day to dedicate for a family day to help with that work life balance we talked about ;).
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