Combine a hefty dose of passion and grit, and you just might have what it takes to start an enormously successful online business like the Vintage Leopard Boutique. In this episode of the Ecommerce Elite podcast, Holly McLanahan tells the story behind growing her e-commerce business out of her living room in the small town of Canadian, Texas.
In this episode, we’ll discuss:
- Turning a happy accident into a business
- The impact of a small business in a small town
- Advice from a kind business owner
Our team has worked with the Vintage Leopard for a bit of time now, and we’ve noticed that 1. Holly is an amazingly kind human being as well as business owner, and 2. they sell more shoes than any other boutique YellowFin has worked with. Shoes and T-shirts are the hot sellers, but personality gives the Vintage Leopard its magnetic impact.
How did you get into the women’s boutique world?
Holly got her start as a new online business owner as what she calls a happy accident. She helped her daughter start selling a few fashion items online to make some extra money before going off to college. She decided to make her own FaceBook page and her first pair of pre-order shoes– a leopard print pair– started selling like crazy around 2011. Holly saw such success that she set up a website for this one pair of shoes! The business started out of the family living room and it blew up from that single style of shoes. After a year or two, the business grew to a point where Holly had to quit her day job to handle the sheer volume or orders.
The Vintage Leopard currently uses Shopify as their e-commerce site, and has used this user-friendly platform for years now. It’s a great online hub for business owners due to its ease of use, and continues to improve with time. Holly loves that she can keep tabs on her boutique from anywhere through the mobile app as well.
Big Boutique in a Small Town
There’s just something about small towns in Texas running enormously successful online boutiques. One of the most important relationships Vintage Leopard been able to establish is with the local postal services. As you scale up, it’s essential to grow with your local postal carrier too in a small town. A small business has the power to stimulate the economy in a small town; creating jobs and other ways stimulating the economy. For example, the local post office had to hire 2 new employees to handle processing of Holly’s orders alone!
The Vintage Leopard currently has a handful of close-knit employees. The growth and quality of what they accomplish is remarkable with such a small team. Holly works with grit and balances running her business with family. She recognizes that as a business-owner who started from the ground-up, it can be hard to let go of tasks that you have done since the beginning.
What advice do you have for people who are looking to get into the e-commerce world?
Holly pointed out that it was a good thing that she didn’t have to depend on this income when she was getting started. Starting small and waiting until you’re stable enough to let go of your full-time job is how she got started, and she advises that other start-ups do the same.
The timing of when she got started was during the “heyday” of e-commerce, before everything was “pay to play”. Holly says she thinks it would be harder to get started now– but still do-able.
Holly stumbled upon a great cycle of scaling her business, where increased sales enabled her to buy more inventory and she continued to grow using social media.
What is your top lesson learned in your years as a business owner?
Holly stated that, “The longer I’ve done this, the more relaxed I get.” Holly recognizes that with experience, she doesn’t take things as seriously, whether it’s a rude customer or an internal mistake. She handles mistakes with grace and learns as she goes. Having friends who are in a similar situation or business, who you can bounce ideas off of, is an awesome help and resource as well. Having a like-minded group can be an enormous resource as a business owner. Overall, Holly says it has been a learn-as-you-go experience, and she wouldn’t have it any other way!