I'll never forget meeting with Annie Claire back in 2011 at Coffee Call in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for hours helping her draft a business plan to open a brick and mortar women's boutique on her own. After gathering what felt like 100 business plan examples (thank you Google), we sat down together to start writing what felt like the most overwhelming task of my life. We reviewed examples and called friends with MBAs for help and guidance. Then, we dove into to a blank Microsoft Word document and started dumping Annie Claire's dream onto paper.
Then, sweet Aubree came along and I started working at an advertising agency. That scary start to a business plan came to a halt to focus on more important things.
It wasn't until 2014 that Annie Claire and I decided to tackle this business plan again, but this time as business partners. More mature and experienced than we were in 2011, we looked for resources available that could help us truly think through this new business venture. A few we used include:
- Louisiana's Small Business Development Center - This network has access to robust databases, business research resources and knowledgeable experts who can help you successfully navigate the obstacles that come with innovating, launching, growing, renewing and transitioning a business. Annie Claire and I met with them and they helped us gather invaluable research about Port Allen, Louisiana and the surrounding areas.
- LivePlan - Discovering this online business plan software was life changing for me. It somehow took the overwhelming feeling out of drafting a business plan. LivePlan helps you set business goals, compare performance to industry benchmarks and see all your key numbers in an easy-to-use dashboard.
- Louisiana Economic Development's Small and Emerging Business Program - This (free) program provides the managerial and technical assistance training needed to grow and sustain a small business.
We worked hard on the plan for months. We also met with many of our personal mentors to get their opinion on our strategy. One of the biggest things we learned was this: start small, prove you can generate a profit, then expand.
So, that is exactly what we did. In October 2014, we launched our all-online women's boutique, SoSis. Starting our business online allowed us to save on overhead significantly. While doing this, we truly learned our customer and what she wants to buy (in person and online). We learned what works and what does not when it comes to how we spend our time. We learned how to work together as business partners (and sisters).
And that brings us to where we are now. This fall, Annie Claire and I are making an even bigger leap and opening our very first brick and mortar storefront in Port Allen, Louisiana. Learning from the many (sometimes hard) lessons we've learned in our first two years of business, we are confident in our plan for expansion and are willing to work our butts off to make this happen. Business plan in hand, we are ready to rock and roll!
Here are a few photos of us signing all of the official paperwork with some of our biggest cheerleaders - our parents and our husbands. Take note, Robert had a deposition that morning resulting in him missing out on the photo opp., but as our official legal council, we forgive him!
Because I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't mention....shop Annie Claire and I's outfits pictured below!