Jen Burgess doesn’t like to think of the problems that every small business owner encounters as challenges. She prefers to call them little hurdles instead.
“If you can jump that little hurdle and get to the next, you’re always doing something right,” the owner of Chic Couture, a women’s clothing boutique in Lone Tree, told Colorado Community Media.
The store, which features trendy casualwear, shoes and jewelry, will mark its 14th year next month with a sale.
There’s always a sale and always new merchandise at Chic, Burgess said. Both are part of her strategy to keep customers happy, looking good and coming through the door.
“Originally why I started was to get us all cute stuff at a reasonable price,” she said.
In the beginning, she sold denim pieces from her dining room table to her girlfriends. Demand increased so she moved to a 1,800-square-foot space on Park Meadows Drive in 2008.
Shipping delays and product development hiccups, however, are the hurdles Burgess is trying to clear now.
“Every time I turn around,” she said, “you track something and it’s delay, delay, delay.”
The delivery disruptions have Burgess, who does all the buying for the boutique, in “compensation mode.” Rather than let the racks at Chic get a little bare, she puts in extra hours and hunts for items that will ship in the time frame she needs. New pieces and fresh looks reward her customers that visit often.
“I always want a reason for people to come back,” she said.
In fact in 2020, when non-essential businesses were closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Burgess was reminded of how much the face-to-face interactions with customers and employees meant to her. To stay in touch with customers, she posted pictures of outfits on social media. Customers let her know what they wanted and she shipped or delivered their purchases to them. It kept her business afloat, but it didn’t satisfy her heart.
“Once we actually reopened and could reconnect with people in person, it was the biggest gift,” she said.
Burgess, who lives in Parker and grew up in Littleton, opened stores in each of those towns after getting established in Lone Tree. But with three locations, she felt as if she was driving all the time instead of associating with customers and employees. So around 2018, Chic Couture consolidated down to its original Lone Tree spot which Burgess felt was central enough to serve shoppers from the other two locations.
Even with 10 part-time employees, Burgess finds a reason to be at the boutique most days. She said she always leaves the store happier than when she went in.
“I like to be in the store,” she said. “I like to be present. I like to be with my people.”
After surviving the early days of COVID-19, Burgess is confident that, with determination and hard work, Chic Couture can make it through anything. When confronted with a new hurdle, she said she considers herself lucky because it’s a reminder that her business is thriving.
“I’m proud that we’ve grown, and we’re strong, and that we can basically make it through whatever we’re thrown.”