January 17, 2021

Finding success

A move and change in business model benefits Absolutely YOUnique Boutique in challenging year

Owning a business can be a challenge. What might seem like a great idea to start doesn’t always pan out to a successful, profitable venture once realized.

Nikki Stravers and Tammi Schwickerath, owners of Absolutely YOUnique Boutique, 118 N. Walnut St. in Colfax, found after only selling consignment items for about five years, their business model needed to change. Barely getting by, the women refocused and came up with a new plan that has been nothing short of a stunning success.

“It has been amazing. We were down the street where Posey and Jett’s is now. We were there for five years and consignment for a long time, we just didn’t get the foot traffic,” Stravers said. “We were really struggling over there ... really poor sales. We were robbing Peter to pay Paul. Basically, we were trying to cover our monthly expenses, we were running the entire month trying to figure out how to pay our bills.”

The women knew something had to change in order to keep the business going. Good friends with Mi Cocina Hernandez owner Juan Hernandez, an idea began to form where AYB would move to the space next to the restaurant, even keeping tables available for an eat and shop experience.

“Our current space used to be a part of Poppy’s and they left, then Juan bought the south side,” Stravers said. “He could not swing this side, it was too much risk right off the bat for him so we just kind of joked that, let’s go in halfsies on this and we’ll move down here, we were kind of joking about it. We talked to Brad (Magg), he helped us, he has been so wonderful, a huge support person. He has been very generous, encouraging and helpful.”

Along with the move, what would be featured in the store was also overhauled. The women decided to see if any vendors would be interested in renting space to sell their items for a small $25 monthly fee and 10 percent of their earnings.

“We thought, maybe we can find 20 vendors that would like to put their things in our store. In March and April, we started looking for vendors and we had 20 right away, then by the time we opened, it has taken on a life of its own now,” Stavers said. “All of the pallets went really quick, we only have seven and they were reserved and paid for immediately. We knew we needed to fill the tables but we stopped looking for vendors after 30 and we have 60 now. Now people come to us. They come to us and bring their stuff in and ask can I put it in your store. It is just really caught on. It happened fast.”

While adding vendors was a move in a positive direction, what followed could only be described as a “miracle.”

“It is astronomical. Last year, our annual sales were never even close to $15,000 for the year and for 2020 we are close to $100,000,” Stravers said.

Adding to the mix was fact most of the number came from June through December and in a pandemic year.

“From January to the end of December it was $96,000, which about made us fall out of our chair. We only started everything in June when we could open back up,” Schwickerath said.

Of those sales, the women are proud to say more than half of the funds stay in the community. From June to December, the payout was just more than $65,000 with about $37,000 staying within Colfax and Mingo.

“We have a vendor that made more than $3,000 just in December,” Stravers said. “It is really neat to think of that.”

Vendors and crafters hold a special place with Stravers, as she has been one for many years. With the pandemic, maybe craft and vendor shows were canceled, leaving no place for the makers to sell their goods.

“For a lot of people that is their bread and butter, especially in the fall and they are starving, they are going broke because they don’t have any place to put their products,” Stravers said.

Never sitting still, with their success, the women are making improvements at the store to help streamline the work. A new automated system is being added to replace the manual input method AYB currently uses.

“We are now converting our system to an automated system, thankfully, because it is successful and working. The other way, manual way, is very time consuming for the vendor and for us,” Stravers said. “We are making some really great improvements, we want to keep our vendors because it is making a difference for us and for them.”

Through social media, the women are working hard to market the products and get as many eyes on the goods as possible. While 2020 started something great for AYB, the women are more than excited to see what is to come in 2021.

“It is going to be exciting this year just to see a whole year’s worth,” Schweickerath said.

“We’re really excited for this year,” Stravers said.

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com