We’d like to recognize a few of our badass retail partners around the country. We were so curious to hear how they manage a brick and mortar and what motivates them to keep going when times are slow. So without further ado, take a comfy seat and enjoy this uplifting Q & A with Shelby Oden, owner of Little Alaskan in Kenai, AK, and Jessica Featherstone, owner of Close to the Heart Maternity in Thiensville, WI. Be sure to read to the end. I might have teared up.
Question: What did you do prior to opening a shop? What made you want to get into maternity retail?
Jessica- Prior to opening my shop 3 yrs ago, I was a postpartum doula, a babywearing consultant, and marketing manager for the non profit Hike It Baby. It was great to help women right after they gave birth and support them as they healed.
Shelby- Before opening my store I was a stay at home and I sewed kids clothes. As my handmade business grew, I spent more time interacting with moms in my community and saw a need for a children’s store in our area. I started out in a little 400 sq ft store for my first 2 yrs and now that I have an established customer base I’m moving into a beautiful new location that is large enough to carry both baby/kids items as well as pregnancy/nursing goods for mamas.
Tell me about your family! Who are you supporting at home and who supports you in your entrepreneurial endeavors?
Shelby- I am married to my husband Mike and we have two kids, Briar and Boone. My husband is a firefighter and he inspires me every day to use my business as a way to give back to the community. From day one it was important to me to be able to bring my kids to work and they’re always here helping customers, playing with other kids that come in and napping behind the counter. Now that I have employees the shop is still a 100% kid friendly workplace so our employees don’t need to hire childcare in order to work for us.
Jessica- Dan, Sky and I live with a dog, a cat, a betta fish, two snails, and a ton of houseplants! Sky and Dan are my biggest supporters, cheerleaders and cheerer-uppers. Dan and I have been married for over 14 yrs. He’s always been my biggest fan and I appreciate his calm, supportive presence. This year I added a business partner and Hannah and I are a really good mix together. We joke that we always panic at the opposite moments so one of us stays calm during all issues.
Photo: Jessica Featherstone, owner of Close to the Heart Maternity in Thiensville, WI
What is your favorite thing about being in retail?
Shelby- All the connections I make with moms in my community. I live in a very small town so I run into my customers every time I leave the house. I also love seeing all the kids that come into my shop as they’re the same age as my kiddos, so it feels even more important to welcome them with open and loving arms.
Jessica- Gosh, this is probably the hardest question. I love meeting and chatting with people, supporting women as they make this huge life transition and also supporting women in business.
What is the hardest part about being in retail?
Shelby- The uncertainty. There is no way to guarantee the outcome when you try something new, but sometimes you just have to jump in!
Jessica- I joke that you need to love constantly solving problems to own a business. For me, it’s always the little problems like trying to get a bluetooth printer set up or how to print graphics the exact size you need. Bonus, you get to be a jack of all trades pretty quickly!
Photo: Shelby Oden, owner of Little Alaskan in Kenai, AK
What do you do for fun to let loose?
Shelby- I like to get out and explore Alaska. There is so much beauty here. My family likes to hike, spend time at the beach, and visit all the little towns throughout the state. I share some of our adventures on Insta if you want to get a little dose of Alaska.
Jessica- O man, I love watercolor painting, embroidery, hiking and camping, and playing D&D with my friend. Taking naps. Never underestimate a good nap.
How the heck do you stay motivated during the slow times?
Shelby- I like to remind myself that there is always something I can be doing to improve or learn about. I am always reading and implementing what I have learned to improve.
Jessica- Drink a lot of coffee….but really, the slow times make it possible for the busy times. It’s all about preparation and planning for the busy times. How do we encourage people to stop in the store? What memes should we share in the group? What inventory would women want to wear and use?
What advice would you give to women who are scared to chase their dreams?
Shelby- We are inherently made to be successful, live abundantly, and achieve our dreams. The sooner you know that to be true in the core of your being, the easier it will be to take risks and move forward with your dreams.
Jessica- What’s actually stopping you? Is it financial? Can you work with the SBA? Is it time? Can you talk to a partner or friend to help? Is it fear? Of failure or of actually succeeding? Start going through what you think is stopping you. There will always be valid reasons not to chase your dreams and there will always be a way and reason to chase them.