This week, we’re changing things up a little bit. Instead of sharing a direct sales business, I’m sharing the story of Mary Michelle Nidiffer, the founder of StyleFinder Boutique located in Raleigh, NC. With a passion for style, Mary Michele has made it her mission to help women discover what their style truly is, and uses this to empower them to feel beautiful from the inside out.
After many years as a designer of hats, clothing and wedding gowns, Michele, as she’s known, discovered she wanted to go deeper and help women understand what to wear for who they are. In 2007 she began training as a style coach and launched her practice, One Chic Mama, in 2008. She had women coming out of the woodwork who were desperate to know what to wear and how to dress their changing bodies.
After getting into the closets of hundreds of women, Nidiffer began to see commonalities. In 2010 she created her proprietary StyleFinder ID® Sytem, an assessment that – quite accurately – helps women understand just what their style truly is. Mary Michele’s style is Dramatic/Romantic, Whimsical and being in touch with her style has helped her to dress authentically and easily. Knowing exactly what your style is can build confidence in a huge way. It’s also helped her clients to feel that they have ‘permission’ to be who they are, and to stop trying to dress like someone else. So many women feel they should look like their sister or their best friend, but are uncomfortable when they do. Understanding what’s right for you can be empowering and freeing!
After years of shopping with clients in others stores, Mary Michele and her husband, Jim, opened her very first StyleFinder Boutique in May of 2015. A boutique staffed with Stylistas who are trained to help clients choose items that are right for their coloring, body type and personal style ensures a client experience unlike any other. “Our mission is to help our clients feel beautiful,” Nidiffer says. And it works! “So many women walk out saying “I feel beautiful!” and it really warms my heart.”
Opening a boutique is a hefty investment. Nidiffer estimates that they’ve spent close to $200,000. It’s a large upfront investment to stock the store, but the real challenge lies in understanding the cycle of fashion. It ebbs and flows, but you have to be ready with a fully-stocked store when your clients are ready to shop! Knowing what sizes and styles work for clients has been an evolution. Who she thought her customer was has shifted a bit, so shes had to be quick to respond. While style is perennial, fashion is seasonal. There is a definite cycle to fashion. Managing cash flow in January is much different from in December, and you have to be prepared for the ups and downs.
Mary Michele also has 4 kids, which creates challenges of its’ own. “The kids have all gotten used to being boutique owners, and understand when we need to work late or go in on a Sunday. They don’t always love it, but they do love the idea that we’re business owners and they support that. Plus, they all lend a hand when needed!” she says.
“I love owning a boutique for many reasons, but mostly because I get to make a difference for women every day! I work with our amazing Stylista’s and I get to be on the cutting edge of fashion. It’s so much fun to see the clothing and then to style it for our clients. I am very visual and this is so much fun for me!” says Mary Michele.
The income level potential really is unlimited. She can continue to grow her one store and see an increase each year, or she could open up multiple stores and see an exponential increase. It’s all about where she wants to take it. Mary Michele works 35 – 40 hours per week, sometimes more. With an amazing staff , she doesn’t need to be in the store all the time. She travels, speaks, attends networking events, and does other things that are work related but take her out of the store, which she enjoys
Each of her workdays varies. She could find herself buying inventory from a sales rep who has come to town, speaking to a professional women’s group, working with a private client or planning one of the many events in the store. And she’s very active on social media! Follow her on Facebook and Instagram (StyleFinder Boutique) to keep up with the latest looks.
The money Mary Michele earns from the boutique goes into our household budget, for regular expenses but also for extras. One of the big perks is getting clothing at cost! If you want to open a boutique, Mary Michele recommends that you do your research, but also hire a coach! She has an analyst that she works with that has saved their behinds on several occasions.
“Seek advice from those who have done what you want to do. And trust your intuition. In the end, it will never steer you wrong.”
To learn more about Mary Michele or StyleFinder Boutique go to www.ShopStyleFinder.com