Introducing a guest post from graphic and web designer Kim Timothy of Boutique By Design. Over to you, Kim!
Not long ago, the word “boutique” evoked visions of a small, exclusive retail shop that sold women’s clothing and accessories, cosmetics, or gifts and novelties. In fact the word “boutique” derives from a French word meaning “small shop.” Many of these shops were owned by women, even in the days before women had the significant presence in the work force that they have today.
While the more traditional definitions of “boutique” are still valid, many other types of businesses these days proudly carry the “boutique” label too. “Boutique” has become a trendy descriptor for small, independent or niche/micro-niche businesses in a wide range of industries. Accordingly we have boutique hotels, boutique breweries or wineries, boutique investment firms, boutique film production companies, and so forth. Some of the businesses have brick-and-mortar retail locations or offices, some only exist online, and some have both a physical and online store. Some are strictly home-based, scaled with an online presence. Some boutique businesses are a part of much larger operations, but many remain independent. The growth of boutique businesses is a positive trend and offers many opportunities for women entrepreneurs. Here are five reasons explaining why so many women are successful in boutique businesses. As it happens, these are the very same reasons that a boutique operation is a great choice for a woman thinking of going into business.
1. A boutique business offers freedom and flexibility. Every business, no matter how large or how small, requires hard work and dedicated attention to every aspect of the operation. But a boutique business offers flexible scheduling, which is a blessing for the woman who is trying to balance work and family. And freedom from rigid corporate structures and rules allows the creative, driven female entrepreneur to thrive.
2. A boutique business offers an outlet for the owner’s creativity and uniqueness. A boutique is by its very definition a small specialty business that offers something not experienced anywhere else. A boutique hotel doesn’t look like the Holiday Inn down the freeway, a boutique film production company doesn’t crank out mindless action blockbusters with boring predictability, and a boutique clothing or jewelry store doesn’t offer the same old mall fare. Many women find that their boutique business is the perfect outlet for their unique brand of creativity.
3. A boutique business relies on service as much as, or more than, products. A product line and/or menu of services geared to the needs of the chosen niche market are essential, of course. But no small business can survive long without a core philosophy and practice of excellent customer care. Arguably the most important component of great customer service is the ability to empathize – to look at things from the customer’s point of view. Every customer, particularly one who steps into a small shop that can’t possibly compete with the local Big Box store in either price or selection, wants to feel special, even if for the short time that he or she is in the store. Women are groomed from childhood to be more empathetic and nurturing, and this training can translate well to creating a top-notch customer experience.
4. Women are detail-oriented – which is exactly what a successful boutique business needs. Men have skills in this area too, but high attention to detail is a trait that is traditionally associated with women. It can be a real asset in a boutique business.
5. A boutique business is uniquely suited to be value centered. Women, as a whole, seem to view the traditional corporate workplace more cynically than do men, for very specific reasons. According to a June 2012 Forbes piece by Natalie MacNeil, many deem today’s corporations to be “fundamentally flawed and limiting in their value structures.” MacNeil cites The Guardian Life Index, an initiative that studies America’s small business owners, as saying that “office politics” are a major factor prompting women to leave the corporate workplace to start a business. Having a genuinely values-centered business does not guarantee success, of course, but leveraged properly, women’s focus on values can boost their small business’ chances of success.
The corporate world doesn’t always appeal to women, but the growth of boutique businesses offers reason for optimism. Women are leading this trend and are becoming true agents of change. Women and Boutique Businesses are indeed a good match!
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Photo credit: tanenhaus