It is no secret that I am passionate about women's empowerment and women in leadership positions. As women's history month ended in March, a new series emerged here at The Honest Mama blog. Each week throughout April and May, Female Feature Fridays will spotlight local female entrepreneurs in Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities.
Meet Anna Ragle, a clothing boutique owner whose focus is on building interpersonal relationships and offering affordable, stylish fashion to women of all ages.
Name: Anna Ragle
Business: Fira Boutique
Tell us about yourself!
I’m a small town girl born and raised in Paxton, Illinois. Graduated from SIU Carbondale with a degree in fashion merchandising in 2006. Married my husband Nick and we live in Champaign with our girls Andie (3) and Maeve or “Maevey Cakes” as her sister calls her (7 months). I love being a working mom. Though I do face challenges with this lifestyle I’m so grateful to be able to do what I love day in and day out. The most rewarding part of it all is to set an example for my girls as they grow up.
When did you open your business?
We opened our brick and mortar store September of 2013 and established our business 2 years prior to that doing pop up shows.
What made you decide to start a clothing boutique?
I come from a long line of merchants - my grandfather had a men’s clothing store that was a 100+ years old in my hometown of Paxton. It wasn’t until my Junior year of college I had an epiphany and knew I was destined to open a women’s clothing store. I had always been intrigued by the boutique scene and the uniqueness it brought to retail. After college I worked in retail for years, grasping as much experience as I could in the industry to one day open a store of my own. I fell in love with the store experience and building interpersonal relationships.
What do you think the average person may not know about what goes into owning a clothing boutique?
It depends on what type of business you want. Boutique clothing businesses aren’t immune to all the characteristics of what makes any great business. It’s work and dedication like anything else if you want it to be of value to the market and your family/employees. It’s not always glamorous in my world. I think this might be the biggest surprise because clothes and getting to serve this type of customer are so fun, but if you want a business that lasts, there’s a level of seriousness that goes with it. I don’t actually get to take allllllllll the clothes home.
What makes you unique within your industry?
I would say we stay connected to our customer and feel our customers really relate to our brand. At the end of the day it’s not about the clothing - it’s the interpersonal relationship behind it.
How did you decide what you wanted your clientele to be and how you would connect with them? Has that changed at all over the years?
I felt there was a void in the area when opening the business for affordable, stylish clothing and wanted to make that attainable for women: the college girl, the young professional, the mom, and the grandma that’s still got it! I would say we used to focus in on a more youthful style but have grown into a collection of classic and trendy pieces perfect for everyday wear and easy to mix and match for all women.
Would you say your revenue comes mostly from the brick and mortar store, online, or is it equal?
If asked when first starting out, I would have said 100% brick and mortar but everything changes and over the past few years digital has taken over. We actually just switched our business model a bit due to where the world is headed. Over 80% of our sales comes from digital where the other is made up from in store sales. This has switched over in the past couple years and digital really picked up for us once Covid hit as well. To find out more on this here’s my open letter https://firaboutique.com/blog/an-open-letter-from-owner-anna-ragle-on-how-fira-boutique-is-changing-to-better-serve-our-customers-for-the-future-/ to our community of why we’re making the changes we are.
Has the pandemic impacted the way people shop with Fira?
Yes, absolutely! We are focusing on our digital presence as that is how over 80% of our customers are shopping.
What are the biggest challenges you face within your industry?
The biggest challenge is the ever changing and evolving landscape of retail. Customers buying habits change in the blink of an eye when new technology comes out and disrupts prior technology. The eyeballs are shifty.
How do you balance “mom life” with young children and running your business?
I wouldn’t say there is balance it’s more of a “harmony” as Jeff Besos would say. If I’m happy and energized at work, I’m going to happy and energized at home. If I’m reaching personal goals and professional goals, I’m in turn a better mom and wife for it.
What would you say to someone who is wanting to start their own business but is hesitant?
Do it! If you’re passionate about it and willing to do what it takes, it will pay off in the long run. Just do it for the right reasons - it’s not an easy street - and you will have to face your biggest roadblock which for me was myself. I struggle with change and fight it tooth and nail - I’ve had to change my ways time and time again. Business is constantly evolving and without change you will limit your full potential.
You can find Fira online at www.firaboutique.com and on Instagram @firaboutique.