RSVP Businesswoman of the Week: Donna Ross – Owner of the Boudoir Boutique
The Boudoir boutique at 9 The linen Green, Moyagashel, Designer Village in County Tyrone has made a huge impact on the fashion scene in Northern Ireland and further afield since its formation in 2009.
Donna and Anita Ross travel extensively to find labels that are exclusive to The Boudoir and cater for sizes petite to luscious, making it the perfect destination for mothers and daughters alike. The shop holds casual through to evening wear and is fantastic for race wear – with indeed the best dressed lady at Cheltenham races this year dressed head to toe in Boudoir items….
Where it all began…
I actually graduated from Trinity College, Dublin in Speech and language Therapy in 2011, a far cry from having a clothing boutique or my own fashion line. However I always had a keen interest in fashion and worked from the age of fifteen in a designer boutique in my town every Saturday, and any opportunity I could possibly get. My sister and I decided to open The Boudoir boutique during university (a big gamble in the middle of the recession) however, we persevered, and we are so delighted with both our online and instore following from customers across the world. We then started our online fashion blog ‘My Sister’s Closet’ which now has over 90,000 followers on Facebook alone. We launched our clothing line ‘My Sister’s Closet The Label,’ in September 2015, and we’re ready to present our Autumn/Winter 2017 collection in London next year- it’s very exciting time for MSC!
What has been the biggest challenge?
When we initially opened The Boudoir the biggest challenge was getting people to know we existed. We had faith in our product and we always endeavour to find unique labels for our customers – travelling far and wide in pursuit of something different. The first couple of years were very tough and I soon realised that something needed to change – we needed to connect with our customers, let them get to know our personality and get them involved in the buying process. So, after some gentle persuasion – I talked Anita into launching our online blog ‘My Sister’s Closet’ which covers fashion, beauty and lifestyle and of course a bit of ‘The Boudoir’ thrown in, we haven’t looked back since and we could never have anticipated where it would lead us.
So That’s Where your Social Media Presence Started… How Did You Manage to Make Yourself Such Social Media Stars?
We knew we had a good product and we were selling it well, but we also knew that it wasn’t reaching it’s full potential audience. We made the decision that we needed to get to know our customers better, and they needed to get to know us too. We needed to get more personality into the business. We now have 90,000 Facebook followers, and our weekly reach goes up to two-million. When we travel to London, Paris or Milan we bring our followers with us through Snapchat, which is another big platform for us. We ask our followers to say ‘Yay’ or ‘Nay’ to certain clothes, and that works really well to gage people’s opinions. Blogging and social media is a big part of our day, but it has completely turned our business around.
Now that you have thousands of fans and followers, do you feel like you have a little bit of a celebrity status?
I wouldn’t say that. We have customers who come from the length and breath of the country to shop here. It’s funny though, it’s usually the boyfriends who say ‘there’s that girl from Snapchat!’ People are very kind, and we’ve been very lucky that people have got behind what we’re doing. It’s brought us on to levels that we never expected.
Where does your motivation stem from?
I always say I’m very lucky that my mum and dad passed on their hard working ethic and ‘can do’ attitude to me. They always had faith in me from an early age and supported both my sister and I in whatever we wanted to do. I really enjoy working in fashion and that makes all the difference – it doesn’t feel like a job!
What is the best business advices you can offer?
Always have a clear vision, stay focused and remain calm- Rome wasn’t built in a day!
I’m a huge advocate of having a plan. When I graduated from Trinity I managed to get a job in a hospital in Northern Ireland. I worked there three days a week, worked in The Boudoir three days a week and worked on our clothing line in any free time I had! I only reluctantly left working in the hospital when I was sure the time was right.
What’s your next big goal?
We’ve just launched in England, Scotland and Wales with The Label. Next February we’re showcasing our Autumn/Winter 2017 collection at the London Trade Show. We also run our style events a couple of times a year where we have afternoon tea, run workshops and open a pop up shop. We’re considering running one in Dublin after our success in Donegal this year.
We also have a secret celebrity project to announce that we’re keeping under wraps for the moment, but watch this space!
ADD US ON SNAPCHAT!