When Ronda Wise and her sister, Jenny Hutchins, came up with the idea for their intimate apparel shop Come Hither Boutique in 2018, there really was no ‘Plan B.’ Wise, a single mom, had been downsized after 14 years managing four medical clinics. Hutchins had an illness that precluded a 9-5 job and their father had terminal cancer and required their collective care. The small inheritance that their father left upon his passing was enough to get the doors of Come Hither open. Even though the shop was almost immediately successful, cash flow was tight as all money was plowed back into the business for inventory.
“By 2019, business was good and growing but we still had not paid ourselves anything,” recalled Wise. “There wasn’t a lot of equity yet in the business. The inheritance money was going quickly and we needed capital to ease up the stress. I called the Small Business Administration in Louisville, and they told me about Community Ventures. Community Ventures gave us a loan that came through in December of 2019…and then COVID hit. But CV came through for us again. Not only did the CV money keep us afloat, they helped us to get some of the bills…like rent…deferred for 6 months.”
Connecting with Community Ventures would prove beneficial in many ways for the business. The duo received an SBA microloan which would provide much needed working capital for inventory and for marketing support. The sisters would work with Ron Burkins, CV’s President of Vice President of Lending for Western Kentucky, who provided technical assistance. During their time, Ron guided the sisters by helping with a financial analysis and strategic marketing planning, and by conducting a site visit at their storefront.
When brainstorming a business that would be successful, the siblings thought long and hard about what was needed in their western Kentucky city of Owensboro. According to Wise, “Stores in the local mall were closing right and left, and the closest intimate apparel shop for women was a 45-minute drive away in Indiana. We researched what lingerie sales were nationally and how the concept would go over here. We did projections and looked at demographics.”
While they knew that women needed the basics…undergarments, bathing suits and pajamas, what they didn’t expect was how mentally and emotionally beaten down many of the women venturing into their shop would be. The entrepreneurs found their niche, offering complimentary bra fittings and hand-selecting items for the women—many of whom were plus size—that the sisters knew would work even though the clients admitted it was something they never would have chosen for themselves. And somewhere along the line the entrepreneurs realized that their business was actually their mission—fostering happiness and self-esteem.
“We didn’t expect that women would come in so defeated because they didn’t expect to find anything to fit them,” explained Wise. “And then, when we had not only something that fit, but something that was beautiful as well…their whole demeanor would change! Women would cry because it actually fit and was pretty. When they would leave they would look good…their clothes would look good. Their shoulders were back, their head was up…their walk was different.”
And that phenomenon birthed a now-popular marketing technique for Come Hither Boutique—the ‘I POPPED THE TAG AND WORE IT HOME’ campaign where ecstatic shoppers share their success stories on social media, tagging Come Hither Boutique in their posts.
And now, in 2021 the sisters are optimistic about the future of their intimate apparel endeavor and have advice for others who would open their own business.
“Things are going very well, and the Lord has blessed us immensely,” Wise says enthusiastically. “Sales are good…they are far exceeding projected budget and projected sales! It is hard work, and not something for someone not willing to put in the hard work. You won’t work 8 hours, you will work 16 or more.
For more information on how you can work with Community Ventures to secure an SBA microloan for your business, contact us today at (859) 231-0054.