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Most 21-year-olds spend their free time thinking about the weekend. Laci Bonner spent hers building her own business: A women’s clothing boutique called The Rage, in Mena, AR. Now, seven years later, she’s built that boutique into a successful e-commerce shop, opened a second boutique in Nashville called Revv, and launched the Nash Collection.
To say Laci has been busy the last several years is an understatement. Here, she tells us everything she’s learned in the process of building multiple businesses, like how to stay ahead of the curve.
Name: Laci Bonner Location: Nashville, Tennessee Title: Owner Company:The Rage, Revv, & The Nash Collection What it is: The Rage is an e-Commerce Women’s Clothing Boutique, Revv is a Women’s Brick + Mortar Boutique, and The Nash Collection is a Nashville Hat Company. Educational Background: Mena High School, 2007
What inspired you to get your start?
I honestly had no idea I would end up in retail. I immediately went to work for my father at his motorcycle shop once I graduated high school. I chose not to attend college until I had decided what career I would like to pursue. While learning the ins and outs of running a new company, I also began to recognize patterns. Because this was, after all, a motorcycle shop, we had very distinguished seasons — and our offseason was very slow. I felt like there had to be a way to get more customers in the door. I asked myself, what could we offer here that would appeal to a larger demographic than just motorcyclists? And that’s where I came up with selling clothing.
I decided to sell a popular brand of jeans at the time. I picked up the phone and asked where I could view the product samples and place an opening order. It was then that I learned what Market was all about — I was exposed to millions of square feet of vendors and products that I could buy and resale along with the denim I wanted initially. Within a couple weeks, my orders began to roll in, and it was clear that my plan of driving more traffic to the store had worked. Customers were walking in the door and knew exactly what they were looking for: the newest denim addition. I watched as this clothing line grew traction with our customers, and I couldn’t help but want to offer more and more.
It was at that time I knew I must part ways with the company that originally taught me everything I know about running a business. I couldn’t turn a male-dominated motorcycle shop into a boutique, so it was time for me to venture out and try it on my own. I started with a brick and mortar store in Mena, AR in 2010 and launched our website in 2012.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me involves getting up, checking emails, and getting to the office before the employees. I listen to podcasts about marketing (my favorite is Marketing School) in the mornings and while commuting to work. I spend much of my early morning analyzing data and trends from the previous day and trying to create patterns on buying and customer behavior so that I can pivot our marketing plans and strategies to help grow the current stats. I am continuously working with our graphic designer on our branding and researching other ways to gain new customers. I’m also always looking for ways to save money, so I spend a lot of time researching platforms that could help maximize the company’s margins.
I also own another store here in Nashville that’s brick-and-mortar-based called Revv, which is the home of my newest brand, The Nash Collection. Around mid-day, I check in there and go over reports. While I do these same tasks each day, it’s probably safe to say they’re not always done in the same order — but they still get done!
You were so young when you opened The Rage. What were the main challenges you faced? Were there any advantages to being so young?
Initially, there was concern about the community’s size not being able to support a boutique. Mena’s population still hovers around 5,800, with the county population coming in at 23,000. While I knew there was a chance that there wouldn’t be enough business to support a new company, I also knew that women were willing to spend decent money on clothing based on my experience with the motorcycle shop.
The second challenge was funding this idea. I have to thank my parents for taking a chance on me, trusting me, and putting property collateral down on my loan from the bank.
The last challenge (and a good one to have) was the struggle to keep up with growth. After launching the website, we received nation-wide attention with the help of social media. It didn’t take long for me to see that my current system was no longer sustainable if I wanted to maintain the steady growth pattern we were experiencing. It may sound simple, but re-training yourself and your staff in the middle of a beautiful mess is nothing short of overwhelming.
I have to admit that I had a huge advantage for being the ripe age of 21. I was still eager to learn, easily moldable, and hungry to fuel this fire of connecting women with fashion at an affordable price. I had time on my side and knew that whatever I chose to put into this company is what I would get out of it. I told myself in the early days that failing simply wasn’t an option!
If you could go back and give yourself advice when you started what would that be?
That one’s easy…don’t get comfortable! The minute you start to feel like you’ve got it all figured out and just maintain a steady pace, you’re on a downward path. You must stay ahead of the curve and up to date on technology trends that could be beneficial.
Would you do anything differently?
Yes. I think in the beginning I relied too heavily on organic traffic, rather than focusing on an SEO strategy. I didn’t realize that there may come a day when the organic traffic slows down. I do believe I should have been paying for ads long ago, even though traffic was organic and viral. I think our loyal customer pool would have been larger had I initiated this in the beginning.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of owning two businesses and a clothing line?
Honestly, it’s finding the adequate time to devote to them all individually. They are all individual, living, breathing entities that need the same amount of attention to grow. It’s still a balancing act for me, for sure!
What is your favorite part about what you do?
I absolutely love the creative side of my career. There’s something about creating a new product that really gets my head spinning. I love watching the engagement over products I’ve created. I also really love the marketing aspect of it all. I enjoy connecting my followers to my products and watching something grow from the early stages. Marketing is truly an art, I’ve discovered.
How has social media helped shape your brand? Do you have a specific strategy for managing your social media accounts?
If it weren’t for social media, The Rage, Revv, and The Nash Collection wouldn’t be here. The power of influencers has helped tremendously in all companies, along with user-generated content. By seeing how others are wearing our products and styling them, our brands instantly become more relatable and easier to connect with. We don’t have a specific strategy, other than we pay close attention to the analytics on each post. We recreate similar posts to the ones that do exceptionally well. We like to mix in many of our personal characteristics, too. It can be as simple as a caption with a little humor, but it shows our audience that we are just as human as everyone else.
How do you define success?
To me, success isn’t monetary — it’s a series of self-disciplined actions that create satisfaction that is fulfilling. I know for myself, as long as I did everything I was capable of doing to reach the end goal, I consider that a success.
How do you handle failure and move past it?
You can’t change the past, only the future. I turn the failure into a learning lesson. I ask myself “What did I learn?” and “What will I do differently next time?” Instead of making the situation seem negative, it becomes a positive learning lesson. It helps me avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
What are your hobbies? What do you do when you’re not working?
I love going for an evening run in McCabe Park nearby. I also really enjoy reading books (not the digital ones). And I LOVE being near water. A river, lake, ocean, you name it. It’s so peaceful and really helps me find center — I am a Scorpio, after all!
How do you balance your work with your personal life?
If I’m totally honest that’s a big struggle for me right now. I try to detach from work on the weekends to give myself a break, but that’s hard when two of my companies thrive on Thursday-Sunday sales. However, I’ve learned that I must have off time in order for me to stay passionate about the companies and not burn out. I’ve chosen to spend more time at home lately, along with focusing on some of the relationships that are important to me.
What’s next for you?
That’s always the question in my mind. For each of my companies, I’m going to continue working in the tomorrow and less of today. I’ll continue exploring the newest trends in social media and the power of creating a personal brand to go along with my current brands. The Nash Collection is booming with Nashville’s growing popularity. We’ve got a lot in the works right now with this company, including much more than hats!