Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello! My name is Savitra and I am the owner of the influential online boutique New Era of Style, LLC. New Era of Style is a mid-priced online boutique that is dedicated to catering to the fashion needs of working professional men and women.

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New Era of Style is a Career and Lifestyle brand. Our selections are versatile and transition with the busy schedules of our customers. Our best-selling items include our selection of tops, vegan-leather bags, and wardrobe accessories. We work with several unique wholesalers and designers to bring the best in fashion. To create exclusivity with our merchandise, we offer a limited inventory of selected items.

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With New Era of Style, LLC you “FASHION ON PURPOSE.” We take pride in pouring into our customers and the community. We want to inspire others to go for the goals in which they have set for themselves. Throughout the year we find various ways to give back to the community as well as help others in accomplishing their goals.

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What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

For eight years, I had a desire to start a boutique, but fear and endless “what if” scenarios prohibited me from taking the first step. In July of 2017, I began to take my idea of being a small business owner seriously. Since my MBA program required us to create a small business, I decided to work on what eventually became my online boutique. For the next two years, I spent time researching the retail and e-commerce industries, doing internships/ interviews with current boutique owners, creating a business plan, and even pitching my business to investors. The feedback and knowledge I gained throughout my program prepared me for the journey. At the age of 32, while working a full-time job, I decided to start my business.

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The idea of the New Era of Style came from a mixture of passion, fashion, and purpose. I love clothes, I wanted to help people, and I wanted a business that could be accessed at any time. From the Boardroom to the Airport, to Happy Hour, or the childcare lane to pick up your children. New Era of Style is a brand that understands the lifestyle of modern-day working professionals.

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When it comes to our mantra “ Fashion On Purpose”, research has shown that customers are more willing to buy from businesses that have some sort of social responsibility. New Era of Style emphasizes philanthropy and education. Throughout the year we find ways to give back through various community service projects as well as work with different non-profit organizations. We have successfully hosted a book bag drive ( in Fall 2020) and a prom dress drive ( in Spring 2019).

Describe the process of launching the business

Obtaining my MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation made the process of understanding and starting a business easier. My MBA program taught me various ways to fund a business. I opted to bootstrap my business and spent roughly $4,000 in startup cost. The majority of my money was spent on merchandise. Here is a breakdown of my startup cost:

  • Purchase Business License: $120
  • Filing Fee for LLC: $100
  • Domain Purchase: $68
  • Yearly Website Subscription: $324
  • Marketing & Advertising: $600
  • Merchandise: $2,300
  • Supplies etc. $583

My undergraduate degree in Graphic Communications came in handy during the startup phases of my small business. My graphic design skills allowed me to build my own website and create various marketing pieces to promote my new business. I wanted the aesthetics of my website to be chic-professional and decided to use a white and black color scheme. I created rollover images so customers could interact with the products before purchasing. Rollover images draw attention to different products with the ability to enlarge the images. It also increases sales- for eCommerce websites

The hardest part of my boutique launch was buying inventory. I only sold jewelry for the first few months because that was all I could afford. A few months later I was able to add women’s tops and a few dresses to our online store. When I started buying clothing, I quickly discovered that the pictures you see online don’t always accurately represent what you will be sent. It took me a year and a lot of research to identify the companies that provided the types of quality clothes I wanted to sell in my boutique. Sizing can be an issue, you must be sure to review the size conversions charts, especially if you decide to buy clothing items made in a different country.

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There are so many moving pieces when it comes to having an online boutique such as: finding the right manufacturers and wholesalers, pricing items, buying items your customers will like, keeping track of inventory, paying sales tax, buying promo items for your business, packaging, shipping, advertising, keeping track of your budget, etc. I literally have calendar alarms set for everything I have to do pertaining to my business. There is no way I can remember everything.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Several factors are attributed to our ability to attract and retain customers. These factors include building customer relationships, effective marketing, and advertising strategies, and customer service.

February 11, 2021, will mark two full years that we have been in business. Within this time, I have learned a lot about what it takes to make an online business successful. I’ve found that being authentic and sharing realistic scenarios related to our brand has allowed customers to connect with us. When posting on our social media platforms, we try our best to ensure our products address some need(s) within the viewers’ lives, whether it’s within their career or personal lives. Customers respond better when they can make a connection between what you are selling and how that item can help them. This has allowed us to build great customer relationships.

Our Marketing and advertising efforts have also helped us to attract and retain clients. Facebook ads bring in the most sales with a 3% customer conversion rate. Instagram however is a good place to post new arrivals for visibility but hasn’t really been a platform to increase sales for my business.

Aside from Facebook many of our customers use our direct link to access our page. I believe potential customers are seeing our ads and visiting our page at a later time using our web address. I am also finding that others are finding out about our business through word of mouth. I have gone out on several occasions and have been in conversation with people who have heard about our online store.

We get at least eight new subscribers to our website per month. When individuals subscribe, they are instantly sent a 10% off coupon on their first order with us. This really seems to bring in customers. I also send out monthly newsletters to both new and returning customers and subscribers to keep them updated on new events, products, and services we have available.

We keep our existing customers by providing promotions in their orders, staying active with them on social media, and providing great customer service. It is very rare that we run sales on our item’s due to the high quality of products we provide, but we always make sure to find ways to provide incentives to our customers and always stock one of a kind practical items in our store.

Our customers also return because of the uniqueness and quality of our products. We take pride in working with some of the best vendors in retail. We research what other boutiques are selling and what is in style. We do keep up with trends but in our own way.

Before Covid, New Era of Style participated in several pop-up shops throughout Atlanta. This really helped us in building our brand and getting new customers. We found this to be one of the best advertising strategies. We would literally sell out half of our inventory in a matter of five hours.

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How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

What a difference a year makes. As we approach two years of being in business, I continue to see growth in our numbers when it comes to sales, revenue, and customers. Since launching the online boutique there has never been a month where we didn’t make a sale. I think that speaks volumes compared to where we started. I would definitely like to generate more sales, but we are on the right track. Last year we broke-even and that was a massive milestone for us. As it relates to the future, we are still a new brand and really want people to know who we are and what we stand for. I am looking to expand our men’s clothing collection and add extended sizes for both men and women. We want to be known as the go-to for casual and business casual clothing and accessories. The goal is to become a six-figure business.

Our inventory has increased tremendously. Aside from our traditional items ( tops, bags, and accessories), you can also find practical items such as grooming products ( beard oils), stationary (journals and planners), drinkware ( coffee mugs and drink sets), and even travel accessories ( luggage tag), etc. Later this year we are looking to add loungewear options to our store. We have also started going to various Apparel markets and shows to build to expand our inventory options. Building relationships with up and coming wholesalers and vendors allows us to keep our offerings fresh and exclusive.

Short Term Goals: Continue building our brand, gain more returning customers, increase our cash flow, be able to afford more inventory, and continue creating the best customer service for our current, and potential customers.

Long Term Goal: Offer educational scholarships, work with other organizations to host career fairs and other various workshops, provide training and development for other small business owners, host pop-up events in various states and give back to those in need throughout the community.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

When it comes to lessons I’ve learned, selling strictly online can be very challenging. Social media is a great outlet to advertise, but you have to be strategic, spending money on ads that do not convert into sales is wasteful. Also, you need to learn about your audience to determine what products will have a high sell-through. Don’t make a habit of only purchasing items you would buy. The worst thing you can do is buy merchandise, that isn’t generating sales, especially when you are still trying to break-even from your initial startup.

Weigh your options when it comes to finding the best shipping method for your business. Factor in cost and delivery times (this will help you in deciding the pricing of your products.) I recently switched shipping services due to delays and lost packages. I am happy to have very understanding customers, but in the grand scheme of things, lost packages aren’t good for business. Really think about your store policy and return policy. When a customer wants to return an item, how will you handle it? Also, don’t be too eager to implement new business strategies until you understand what is or is not working currently for your business. I found myself jumping the gun on new ideas several times, only to realize I should have waited a little longer before making changes.

I never cared for accounting in school, but the knowledge that I gained has allowed me to manage my books and have a clear understanding of where my money is going. Lastly, covid has taught me how to sell online. Prior to the pandemic, I made the majority of my sales by doing popups, but I have been forced to learn how to successfully sell online along with 2 million other e-commerce businesses.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Currently, my website is hosted using Wix. Over the last couple of months, they have incorporated helpful analytical features. I am still looking to move my online store to Shopify. I believe Shopify has more advanced features that could help grow my business. Currently, I fulfill my open orders. I enjoy being able to personalize the orders that are sent to my customers. I am not sure what the future holds, but if I am unable to fulfill orders then I may consider using a fulfillment service.

I have recently discovered Shippo. I was able to easily integrate this within my online store. I can click, print, and ship my orders with no problem. I love the fact they provide data that allows you to see how much you are actually spending on shipping costs.

I use a variety of design and freelance apps for marketing purposes. Face tune is great for editing pictures. Canva is great for creating marketing pieces. Over is a great app to use for advanced design features. There is a yearly subscription fee associated with these apps but they have been worth it. I often receive compliments on my small business marketing pieces.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

  • One of the most important resources I utilize is IBISWorld Industry Market Research, Reports, & Statistics. This allows you to look up any industry to understand past, present, and future insights. The reports are very detailed and are extremely helpful in helping you prepare for the next five to ten years of your business.
  • I have joined several groups targeting boutique and business owners on platforms such as Facebook and Clubhouse. I find it refreshing to learn and share information with other small business owners.
  • Get a mentor. Find someone who is an expert in your industry to shadow and mentor you. This has definitely helped me.
  • Google is my best friend. I can’t say there is one particular website that I use, but I am always googling information that I think will help me with my business.
  • Social media sites such as YouTube, Pinterest, and Tiktok have been insightful. I enjoy listening to the business stories and viewing resources of other small business owners, as with anything you find, always do your research.
  • Atlanta is known for its networking events on and off-line so I try my best to attend events that will allow me to make meaningful connections and attend webinars and workshops pertaining to being a business owner.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

I often refer to the quote mentioned in my introduction by Seth Godin “There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them.” This quote holds for me. If you have a dream or business idea, pursue it. Some of the best inventions have happened because someone stepped out on faith and made it a reality.

Perseverance encompasses persistence and tenacity to never give up even when things get hard. Being a business owner is no walk in the park. There may be times when business is slow or nothing seems to be working out the way it should, but it’s during these times that you must not give up but keep going.

There are just some things you learn by doing. No matter how many people you talk to or how much great advice you get, sometimes your mistakes will be your greatest lesson. Understand that things take time. Every day you are in business you will find a better way to do things. Struggles and obstacles will come but you will always overcome them. I refer to them as “growing pains”

Do your research. Take some time to research the industry or market you are trying to go into. Understand what has happened in the last few years, what is currently going on, and the outlook for the future. This will allow you to find your niche or placement within the industry.

Never stop learning. Things change daily. You should always be up to date on what is going on in your market or industry. Continue to be a life-long student.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Currently, we are not hiring. However, New Era of Style is always looking for new customers, partnerships, and organizations to work with, in an effort to increase visibility and contribute to the continued growth of the business. If this sounds like something you would be interested in learning more about, please feel free to contact us.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!


 

Savitra,
 
Founder of New Era of Style

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