With the launch of our new monthly membership made just for boutiques & online store owners, we're starting a new series featuring the incredible women who are part of our community to not only give them the recognition they deserve, but also to show the many different points of view, insights, and learnings that these fabulous women can teach us!
Our first feature is someone who is incredibly active in our community, and who regularly offers her help to others in our free Facebook Group. When we had the idea to launch this new blog series, it was a no-brainer who we'd feature first.
Meet Nicole Cosentino, founder of Downtown Chic, an online fashion boutique for women who work (and, with the great styles she offers, also for women who #werk). Our founder, Holly Childs, interviewed her and got the inside(r) scoop on her business background (#MBA!), why she decided to start her store when she got pregnant, and the key learnings she's picked up along the way.
HOLLY: Tell us a little bit about your background before you started your store
NICOLE: I was born and raised in San Francisco, California. I got my first job at 14 and at the age of 21 started working in the corporate environment. I worked in outside sales for a telecommunications company (Sprint/Nextel) and got my AA in Merchandise Marketing from FIDM. Then I got a job as an Advertising Executive at a Spanish language radio station. I continued my education and got my BS in Business Marketing.
When I was almost 25, I moved to Los Angeles and maintained my career in radio advertising and later became a Research Analyst and Marketing Assistant. During this time, I graduated and got my Master’s in Business Administration.
Four years later my husband and I moved to Dallas and lived there for a year. I was a Marketing Manager for W Hotels. We then moved to Miami and I became an Advertising Manager at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
A few years later, my husband and I were expecting a baby. In my third trimester, I got inspired to start my online fashion boutique and quit my corporate job.
Entrepreneurship is something that never crossed my mind before that moment, but I’ve been running Downtown Chic for over 3 years now!
HOLLY: How did you decide to start your store?
NICOLE: In 2015 I got pregnant and during my third trimester, on our babymoon in the Dominican Republic, I remember thinking about my career and how my current job wouldn't be flexible enough to balance both home and work life. That trip inspired me to write a business plan to pursue my passion for fashion and start an online business. Right before my daughter Camila was born, my husband was offered a job where I was able to stay home with my daughter full-time. So I quit my corporate job to raise my daughter and start my online store!
HOLLY: How would you describe your store?
NICOLE: Downtown Chic is an online fashion boutique for women who work. The online collection is curated for the corporate goer or hustling entrepreneur. It's a brand that inspires women to stay smart and stylish at work. It's a brand that empowers women to invest in their image and chase their goals. All the clothing is stylish, practical, versatile, and affordable. DTC clothes take women from the desk to dinner in style!
HOLLY: What do you consider your “mission” when it comes to your store? Who are you hoping to serve?
NICOLE: My mission is to empower women to dress for success no matter what they do for a living. My target customer is a woman between the age of 25-44. She wants to look successful without spending a fortune. She needs variety but also versatility so that she can wear clothes as many times as she can without looking like she did. She desires to look stylish yet professional. She is ambitious and has an active social life. She also knows how important her image is, which is why she will never leave the house without making sure her outfit is on point.
I love helping other women with things that I have learned whether it's related to fashion or business. I want to inspire women to take pride in their image and chase their passions. I really love supporting other women in any way I can—we are all in it together.
HOLLY: What were some of your main struggles when you first started?
NICOLE: I didn't know where to start or what to order. I had no idea what e-commerce platform was best to use or even where to buy clothes wholesale. I have a friend who helped me create my logo and brand colors. He also gave me a list of 3 e-com platforms to choose from and I did my own research.
At the time I didn't know about any resources that would help me from the ground up so I had to piece everything together on my own. I'm really resourceful and I was able to ask another friend about wholesalers and she gave me a list of online wholesalers (which I still use!).
HOLLY: What do you wish you knew when you first started?
NICOLE: I wish I treated my business like a business and not a side hustle. Since we were not relying on this business I didn't push as hard as I am now. In retrospect, learning how to evaluate all the numbers on all levels would have put me in a better position today.
HOLLY: How have things changed now?
NICOLE: Things started to shift for me in the 4th quarter of last year. I have gained so much confidence to put myself and my ideas out there. I was always a little afraid to show face as much as I do now. Had I done this sooner, I would have made better connections with customers and gained more trust. My creativity is starting to really shine by not staying so hidden. It is something I always held back without realizing it.
I am also more comfortable looking at numbers and making sure that my expenses and sales are being analyzed. I have also created a habit to track all the different analytics in my business. Numbers tell a story and I've always known this when I worked for other corporations but now I take it more seriously in my business, which has really has helped me.
HOLLY: What are some key learnings you picked up along the way?
NICOLE: I've learned to stay motivated even when the results take time to reveal themselves. I've learned to keep track of the things I do and review the results often. I kept track of all my sales and expenses at my pop up events and put them in a folder. I never actually put them all on one spreadsheet to calculate my efforts. I started to do that in the 4th quarter of last year and realized I had been doing events that I should have not done. Keeping a log or record of things and consistently reviewing has been a game-changer. I'm also a strong believer in connecting with other women in business and sharing insights to grow stronger together. Networking is really important and I've created many collaborations because of the connections I've made along the way.
HOLLY: What’s your favorite product that you’ve offered so far?
NICOLE: My favorite piece from my online store are my blazers. They instantly make you look and feel like a boss which, in turn, boosts your confidence. The blazers are all chic and modern so you can wear them with just about anything—pair them with trousers, skirts, jeans, and shorts.
In 2017, I partnered with Dress for Success, a charity organization in Miami that empowers women to become economically independent. They help women by styling them for their interview with clothes donated from other working women and help them with their resume. I volunteer my time styling their clients and I also donate 15% of sales from the blazer collection. I love how my blazers make my customers feel but I’m also proud of the impact the blazers make in my community.
HOLLY: How has SheCom helped you so far on your journey?
NICOLE: These last few months SheCom has helped me with the things I needed help with the most. As I started to transition my business to be what I intended it to be (an online store), I have learned things that I needed to improve my store. The blogs, checklists, and challenges have helped me polish my online store and see results during uncertain moments. I feel a sense of community with Holly and I know any question I have she always answers.
Sometimes you don't know what you don't know and other times you don't know what to do with the information you have available, but that's what I love about SheCom. I am becoming more confident in my digital strategies as I continue learning from Holly.
I have also found more time in my business by using the templates in the library. I no longer have to figure out what I'm going to do and I have found that my assets look more branded, which is something I have wanted to do for a long time. I visit the website all the time and read all the blogs! It's all laid out in a manner that's easy to understand and implement.
[Momentary pause in the interview while we straight-up #BLUSH. Thank you, Nicole! To read more about how Nicole uses our graphic templates to create amazing assets for her biz, just click here]
HOLLY: Any advice to share with other boutique owners?
NICOLE: Go to SheCommerceAcademy.com and read the blogs, use the checklists, and get resources from people who know what they are doing. Stay organized. Stay motivated because being an entrepreneur is not easy. You have to be your own cheerleader and constantly show up. I would advise people to put themselves out there and build trust with people. It makes such a difference. Don't be scared to try new things and get help from people in whatever area you need. Above all, don't give up!
We love that advice! It can be hard to show up every day and be your own cheerleader, so if you want support from Nicole and other women with boutiques and online stores, be sure to join our free Facebook Group.
Want to get featured on the SheCom blog and social media? We offer the opportunity to all SheCom Insiders - click here to find out more.
To read about how Nicole uses our templates to quickly create cohesive, branded graphics for her biz - just click here.
The SheCom Insiders Academy is an exclusive membership created just for boutiques & online store owners.
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Inside you will find clarity, purpose, confidence, systems, and, above all, a community to help you grow!
This membership is perfect for store owners at ANY stage of their business - those just starting out or with years of experience.
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