There is something innately magical about a boutique. Nowadays with a click of a button you can purchase something from the other side of the world, but you can’t smell the lavender candle when you enter a shop, you can’t model outfits for your best friend in the change room, and you can’t know the shop owner’s dog’s name! That’s the magic of the boutique, the personal connection, the sense of community and the experience you have in going into your favourite boutique, which remains a sacred ritual.
Blush Shop, owned by the lovely Michele, brings you that sacred ritual. Through years of experience as a visual director, her expertise and love for what she does lends itself beautifully to the design of her shop and the experience she wants every customer to have.
It’s a space for imagination, wonder and creativity, and we are thrilled to explore those concepts with Michele in this week’s Girl Crush.
What is your shop girl story? How did Blush come to be?
I was commuting to Toronto and working for a retail company as a visual director for quite a few years. I enjoyed the job but loved the idea of starting my own business. In 2004 I opened Blush in a tiny 240 square foot space in downtown Guelph. A year later I expanded into a bit bigger space just down the street… and we’ve been there ever since.
What is the best part about owning your own business? Walk us through a typical day at Blush.
The best part of owning your own business is also probably the most challenging. Being the boss and making the decisions.
Each day is a little different depending on what we’ve got planned for our week at the shop. (Photoshoots, blog posts, buying, or special events.)
A typical day for me at the shop…
I usually arrive just before 9 am. I like to get to the store early, clean, open the till, grab my morning latte or tea, mail out online orders all before the shop opens at 10 am.
A daily list usually includes answering emails, taking a few photos of new products & editing for blog posts or for our facebook page.
If there is new merchandise to put out into the shop… I’ll merchandise the shop with the new pieces. There are a few breaks throughout the day to stop and take some Instagram pics.
Of course the main thing on my list is helping my customers. Sometimes all the other things just don’t get accomplished if we are busy with our customers. Those tasks get tacked onto the next day.. Or I might do a little computer catch up at home in the evening. That is pretty much how a day at the shop goes.
You have owned the boutique for over 10 years! That is quite the accomplishment in the fashion landscape. How have you seen the industry change? What keeps you motivated and loving what you do?
Thank you! It’s crazy that we have almost been open for 12 years this fall. It’s so amazing to see how the industry has changed over the years that I’ve had the shop.
Back when we started we didn’t have a website, and Facebook & Instagram weren’t even around! We actually sent out little style mailers each month to our customers… like snail mail. Things have definitely changed with the technology.
I also feel like the styles and trends tend to stick around a little bit longer. Which is great because we get more wear out of what is actually in our closet.
Your earliest fashion memory? My earliest fashion memory is putting together my own outfits to wear and having my mom give me fashion advice… and subtly suggesting colours that work together.
Your favourite weekend activity in Guelph? My favourite weekend activity is definitely my Saturday morning walk to the farmer’s market. I love to get there early before it gets too busy, plus I get the first pick at the blooms. I usually leave about 7:30 am. I love the calm, quiet walk.. It clears my head. Within an hour I’m home with a basket of fresh flowers, market goodies and a great start to my weekend. All of it… just puts me in a good mood!
How would you describe the “Blush Girl” and how closely does that relate to your own personal style and style icons?
The “Blush Girl” has a great sense of style and who she is. She’s confident & comfortable in her clothes. In her closet she has a mix of feminine and essential pieces.
I always tell my customers that they need to be comfortable when trying things on. If they don’t feel good in it .. they won’t wear it.
I think my own personal style reflects the brand. I’m also personally obsessed with french girl style. I don’t like an outfit to be head to toe designer or too perfect. It just doesn’t feel real if it’s too fussy!
Being your own boss woman is inspiring as ‘the times they are a changin’ (thanks Dylan!) in the landscape of the entrepreneur. What has been your biggest lesson thus far and what does success mean to you?
Being my own boss I’ve learned so many things over the years… and still learning everyday as things continually change. My biggest lesson is to trust my instincts. Success to me is doing what you love and inspiring others.
Cultivating community is so important for local businesses. What is the community and spirit like in Guelph, and how do you cultivate that?
The downtown Guelph is always changing with new businesses.. and new customers.
There are a few small businesses on our street and we like to get together for coffee. We love to catch up, share ideas, share our frustrations and ask questions. It’s amazing to be in a community where we can do that and support each other.
You refer to the shop as “the blush bubble”, and you’ve truly created the prettiest, dreamiest shopping experience. Can you tell us a little bit about how you use visual merchandising (and any other secrets you’re willing to share!) to create a special shopping experience and tell a story?
As I mentioned I was a visual director and studied visual merchandising in school.. so I feel like it’s a big part of me. I love to tell stories with clothes & vignettes. I love that our customers can come into the shop for a visit, chat, relax and forget the outside world for just a few minutes and enjoy their shopping experience.
As much as it’s important to create an amazing in-store experience, it’s also essential to have an online presence nowadays, and you have built quite the following on Instagram especially! How do you use it as a tool for Blush, and do you have any tips for others looking to use social media to grow their brand?
Instagram has been a great tool for us. For me.. It’s not just about selling merchandise. I want our followers to be inspired by our outfit flatlays, by pretty scenes that they can scroll through and escape. A good mix of fashion, lifestyle and inspiration.
A tip I would suggest is thinking about what you are posting and if it works with your brand style. Keep it consistent and and true to your company.
My current design obsession is HGTV’s Fixer Upper. If you had your own boutique interior design show what would it be like?
I really love that idea of a boutique interior design show.. And would totally be up for that.
If I had a show.. I would drive around to different boutiques, sit down with the owner & discuss their shop. Talk about their brand, their customers, their challenges and then merchandise the shop according to their feedback. That sounds super fun to me.
What would be your dream collaboration for Blush?
I guess my dream collaboration would be to work with Garance Dore. I’ve always admired her work.
What does magic mean to you?