Celebrating women entrepreneurs and sharing their stories is one of my favorite types of posts to do here at Southern Flair. I love learning from everyone’s journeys and hustle! Annie Claire Bass and Chelsey Laborde Blankenship are two sistas that make frequent appearances here because I’ve loved seeing their growth over the past few years. They’re sister owners of the online boutique Sosis — and now have opened their brick and mortar boutique in Port Allen. They celebrated their grand opening this past weekend with live music, mimosas, barre classes and so much more! Today, they’re dishing on the development of #SosisIRL and giving us a behind-the-scene glimpse into the new store!
Oh hey, there’s still time to download the Baton Rouge Holiday Shopping Guide, which includes secret deals from boutiques all around town — including Sosis! Get it here.
Tell us a bit about the decision to move from an online boutique to the physical storefront.
Chelsey: Well we aren’t moving FROM online TO a brick and mortar. Online is still very much a focus and a top priority of SoSis. Now, we have two babies – shopsosis.com and #SoSisIRL. We just learned, after two years being an online-only women’s boutique, that shopping is still an experience that most women enjoy. Going into a store with your friends, grabbing lunch after, sipping mimosas and eating treats, trying on clothes in the dressing room – all of that is part of the in-store shopping experience and we wanted to offer that to our sistas. We still focus on personal touches with any sista who shops online (handwritten thank-you note, free gifts, etc.). Now we are able to offer an equally as wonderful in-person shopping experience and we are really excited about that.
Bring us behind-the-scenes of developing the store.
Chelsey: We’ve been working on our business plan for a brick and mortar store for more than three years now. We put that on hold when we decided opening online was the best thing for us to do at first, but we had the plan written and ready when we were. This summer, we revisited our business plan and started presenting it to anyone who would listen. Once we chose to open in The Village at Huns Grove in Port Allen, Louisiana, the start to finish built-out process took about three months. In those three months we created Pinterest boards, spreadsheets with links, inspiration binders – the list goes on and on. We had a very clear vision of what we wanted so when we got into the space, there weren’t many decisions as far as vision left to be made. Moving in didn’t take long – it was the amount of time our family took building most of our core pieces – counter, window wall, benches – that is immeasurable.
Now that you’re in the store, what’s a typical day like for each of you?
Chelsey: We are open from 10- 6 Tuesday-Friday and 10-3 on Saturdays. Most days one of us gets to the store around 8:30 a.m. to really get the day started. Annie Claire may make jewelry for Annie Claire Designs while working the front counter. I may be in our office taking product photos and adding them to shopsosis.com. We are always getting new merchandise in, tagging and adding online. We have also been able to hire a sista to join our team. Her name is Carlie Boudreaux and she has been a tremendous asset to the day-to-day operations of SoSis. You’ll always find one of us – Annie Claire or I – when you visit the store. Chances that you also find a three or four year-old is very likely.
I saw you had a “local” wall. Why was it important to feature Louisiana brands and creators? Who are a few of the local brands you currently carry?
Chelsey: We are so excited about our “Locals Love” area at SoSis. This is something that we knew we wanted to add the minute we got a storefront. Supporting local entrepreneurs is very important to us. We enjoy learning from and with local makers and supporting them by selling their product in our store. Some brands we currently carry include: Kismet Cosmetics, Leah Morace Art, Art by Annie Aymond , Art by Kristen Hodges, Etch, Savvy Root, KP Designs, Southern Football Tees, B&B Dry Goods, Bynum Art, Kelly’s Creations, Letter Kay and Annie Claire Designs (our sister brand)
So far, what has been your favorite part of the SoSis store?
Chelsey: Meeting so many new people every day has got to be our favorite part. Every single day is exciting because every day is so new to us right now. I don’t think the giddy feeling will ever ware off, honestly, but meeting new people, introducing them to the SoSis brand and learning what they like is the best part.
What has been one of the biggest challenges of running a physical store?
I would say one of the biggest challenges is getting our inventory up on shopsosis.com before we are sold out in-store. We are working on getting faster with this, but taking product pictures, writing descriptions and adding products online is a timely process and somethings by the time we can do all that, a product may almost be sold out because of in-store purchases. But, we are committed to online and are setting up processes to make this more efficient.
What can we expect to see from SoSis in 2017?
Chelsey: More choices on shopsosis.com More community events at #SoSisIRL. Same passion, same heart.