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The Art of Balance: Managing Two Careers, Embracing Vulnerability, and Market Expansion

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What does it take to transition from a stable career to pursuing your passion full-time? In this episode, we talk to Erica Eickhoff, owner of Styles By Erica, who went from being a hospice nurse to a successful boutique owner. Erica shares her journey from starting her business in her basement just for fun to holding Facebook live sessions that helped her build a dedicated community. She discusses what prompted her to quit her nursing career to open a brick-and-mortar store, how the pandemic affected her business, and the importance of vulnerability and authenticity in her success.

The Art of Balance: Managing Two Careers, Embracing Vulnerability, and Market Expansion

From Nurse to Boutique Owner

Erica, originally from Southern California, moved to South Dakota at the age of 21. Despite the drastic change in scenery—from the bustling cityscape of LA County to a small town—Erica found her calling in an unexpected place. Her initial dream of becoming a nurse led her to South Dakota, where she eventually became a hospice nurse. However, her entrepreneurial spirit soon took over.

In 2018, Erica started her boutique business from the basement of her home. As a mother of two daughters, she needed a creative outlet and something enjoyable to focus on. The small town had limited shopping options, which inspired Erica to fill the gap. She began by ordering clothes online and selling them through live shows after her hospice shifts.

Growing Pains and Triumphs

Erica’s business quickly gained traction. She hired a nanny to watch her daughters and even had community women knocking on her door to shop. Despite juggling her nursing job and her budding business, Erica’s passion and dedication were evident. By 2019, she made the bold decision to quit her nursing career and focus entirely on her boutique.

The leap of faith paid off. Erica leased a small building, and just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she bought her store building. The pandemic presented unique challenges, but being in South Dakota, which didn’t fully shut down, allowed her to keep the business running. Her resilience and adaptability during these times were remarkable.

The Balancing Act of Vulnerability and Authenticity

One key factor that sets Erica apart is her authenticity. She draws on her nursing background, especially the deep, empathetic connections she made as a hospice nurse. This ability to connect on a personal level has translated beautifully into her business. Erica emphasizes the importance of being real with her customers, admitting when she doesn’t have all the answers, and showing her true self, whether through live videos or in-store interactions.

This vulnerability resonates deeply with her customers, creating a loyal community that values not just the products but the personal touch Erica brings to her boutique. She’s unafraid to share her struggles and triumphs, making her relatable and trustworthy in the eyes of her audience.

Challenges of Scaling and Letting Go

As her business grew, Erica faced the challenge of balancing in-store presence with the need to expand her online presence. She acknowledges the difficulty of letting go of certain tasks and trusting her staff to uphold the same standards she set. This transition is crucial for scaling her business, but it’s a work in progress.

Erica is actively working on hiring and training staff to manage the store, allowing her to focus more on creating content and engaging with her online audience. The shift is necessary for growth, but it requires careful planning and execution.

Inventory Management: Lessons Learned

Erica candidly shares her experience with overbuying inventory, a common pitfall for many boutique owners. A few summers ago, she found herself with $18,000 worth of unsold summer dresses, which taught her valuable lessons about inventory management. She now emphasizes the importance of restyling, reshooting, and rethinking how to present products to different demographics.

Through trial and error, Erica has learned to balance her inventory better, ensuring that each item has a purpose and potential to sell. This adaptability is a testament to her growth as a business owner and her commitment to continuous learning.

Erica’s journey from a hospice nurse to a successful boutique owner is a story of resilience, adaptability, and authenticity. Her ability to connect with her customers on a personal level, coupled with her entrepreneurial spirit, has driven her success. As she navigates the challenges of scaling her business and managing inventory, Erica’s story serves as an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs.

In This Episode

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