As a model and photographer, University of Iowa graduate Alexandra Feig had always been interested in fashion. In the fall of 2009 Feig took first place at the Pappajohn Elevator Pitch Competition. With the 2,500 dollar prize money the young entrepreneur was able to open up her own online shop, nostalchiqueboutique.com. Here Feig describes her experience in being both a model and a business woman.
1) What inspired you to start up a boutique?
Last year, I spent a year studying abroad in Japan. One day, while shopping at a used clothing store in Harajuku, I kept finding tons of vintage clothing items that I had seen selling on eBay for 3 or 4 times as much. I shopped frequently on eBay to find vintage clothing, and I realized that I could start my own store, selling vintage clothing, called Nostalchique Boutique.
2) Could you talk about your experience in the modeling industry and how that altered the way that you looked at fashion?
I think that if I hadn't had modeling,and photography experience for that matter, I never would have started Nostalchique Boutique. Obviously, having access to cheap vintage clothing is the most important thing, but because I am able to model and photograph the items I sell myself, it's possible to have my store. More importantly, because I have experience on both sides of the camera, I think I have a really good eye for how to display things and how to create visually appealing images.
3) What were some obstacles that you had to face when opening up a boutique while still balancing college course work?
Opening and running a store is very challenging and hard work. When I opened it, I was a senior, working on finishing two theses, and on top of that, taking 18 semester hours, so I don't think I really had enough time to commit fully to the Boutique. Now that I have graduated, I have a little bit more free time, and am hoping to really grow it.
4) What types of clothes do you sell? How would you describe your store’s “style?”
I sell vintage clothing, mostly from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but I do have some pieces from the 50s and 60s. Since I sell vintage, it's hard to say that Nostalchique Boutique has an exact "style" or "look" because I really try to get all sorts of different items that will appeal to a wide variety of buyers. Personally, I am particularly fond of 50s and 60s clothing. 50s clothing tends to have really amazing cuts that create hourglass shapes, and 60s are fun and funky.
5) What are your future plans as a business owner?
This summer I'm focusing on growing Nostalchique Boutique and increasing sales. I hope to return to Japan in the fall to continue advanced language studies, and perhaps continue the store there. I love the idea of running/owning a clothing store, so it's definitely something that I could see myself doing in the future. Who knows- maybe there will be a Nostalchique Boutique in Harajuku someday!
6) How do you begin advertising your online store?
As an online business, most of my customers find me by searching on eBay or google. My website is www.nostalchiqueboutique.com which has links to both the eBay store and the blog about fashion and makeup. I am also now on Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/shop/nostalchiqueboutique) and have a Facebook page and a Twitter account as well. I've also been trying some new and different free advertising campaigns (for example, I write my website on ever $1 bill I get).
7) What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Starting a business is incredible challenging and rewarding. It can seem daunting, so try to find local organizations that help. I contacted the Iowa Small Business Development Center, located in Iowa City, where I was able to work with a graduate student in the University of Iowa Business School. He helped me put together a business plan and gave me advice. Also, start reasonably. I have a friend who desperately wanted to start a restaurant. He put hours and hours into writing business plans and meeting with potential financiers, but he needed about $250,000 and had almost no experience working in restaurants, and so wasn't able to get the money he needed. While my ultimate goal would be to have a physical store for Nostalchique Boutique, I knew that it would be better to start off small, decrease my risk, and work my way up.