Last Update: July 10, 2015
The retail industry is the second largest industry in the U.S. with over $3.8 trillion in sales annually [excluding food sales]. Not surprisingly, a majority, 90%, of all retail stores in the U.S. are single-store businesses. Subsets of the industry – including specialty retailers – continue to gain traction by offering niche goods and services.
Newcomers to the fast-paced and highly competitive retail scene that display unrelenting staying power will continue to build profitable brands. Amongst the elite specialty apparel boutiques with this resilience and ‘stickability’ is the mother-daughter duo behind Faire Frou Frou.
Faire Frou Frou, a specialty lingerie boutique and e-commerce website, has quickly carved out its niche as a successful retailer of luxury European intimate apparel. This dynamic duo is proof that a unique offering coupled with focus and passion is a winning combination. Their story is a true illustration of the notion that quite possibly, the only thing standing between you and success … is you.
Company: Faire Frou Frou
Founder(s) and Age(s): Alison Rubke, 30 and Gail Rubke, 60
Location: Studio City, CA
Start-Up Year: 2005
Start-Up Costs: $120,000, Privately Funded
How We Got Started
My mom and I started Faire Frou Frou in 2005 in hopes of opening a mother-daughter business. We developed the concept of a luxury lingerie boutique based on the beautiful European lingerie we would see in magazines that was not available in American stores. Researching the talented designers we would stock in our store was a lot of fun, and involved a trip to a magnificent lingerie tradeshow in Paris!
Not only did we want our stock to be unique, we also wanted the experience inside our boutique to be special. We worked with an amazing antique dealer to fill our store with authentic French antiques from the 1800s. We created an environment that was welcoming and dreamlike. Lingerie can be intimidating for some people, so the boutique had to have friendly, approachable staff and a sweet, feminine interior.
We opened our online boutique at the same time as our Studio City, CA location. The online store took a bit longer to gain a following, and now with social networking (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and our company blog) the online store is a wonderful success.
Best Success Story
I think like most business owners, the best success story is your first big sale. How can you forget the first person that completely validates your decision to go in business by buying loads of your goods!
Pretty much every customer who comes in our store and falls in love with the shop is a favorite story. The positive feedback really lets us know we’re on the right track. We try so hard to make our customers happy, so it really feels good to know they appreciate the effort.
So many wonderful stories have come out of owning Faire Frou Frou. We’ve been in almost every major fashion magazine, been on several TV interviews and our lingerie is in countless TV shows and movies. The publicity and the celebrity customers simply add another fun element to what we do.
The biggest startup challenge was the stress of not having experience owning or running a retail business. We did not have any background or reputation as a luxury lingerie retailer, so it was challenging selling people on our unique concept. Luckily now that we’re open the business speaks for itself!
A unique challenge we faced was with our actual store location. We signed a lease for our Studio City, CA shop and didn’t get the space until over a year and a half later! In the meantime, we were expecting to open at any point during that period (thanks to our dishonest landlord) and continued to purchase more inventory.
By the time we were able to open the shop in 2005 we were incredibly over-stocked! Luckily lingerie doesn’t go out of style as quickly as ready-to-wear, so we were still able to sell our older merchandise — though it took a while.
So many people were negative about us wanting to open a retail business. People and friends laughed at our timing with the bad economy, didn’t like the name of our business, told us we couldn’t survive only selling luxury lingerie, etc.
Basically, all we had were our gut-instincts to empower us and guide us. As long as you are convinced of the power of your concept, that’s the number one person who needs convincing…then once you’re open for business it’s your customers that need convincing!
Another tip: You must love what you do…it’s the only way to get through the inevitable tough times.