Real Talk With Anna Lee Powell, Owner of Unraveled Boutique & Gifts
Anna Lee Powell wears many hats. On top of being a pharmaceutical sales rep and assisting her husband in running his family business, she’s also the owner of Unraveled Boutique and Gifts. The even crazier part is that she started UB & G while she was still in college. I was actually one of her early customers, and it’s been so fun to watch her grow the business to its statewide popularity.
I managed to convince Anna Lee to take some time out of her busy schedule and tell me all about juggling responsibilities, believing in yourself, and promoting the hell out of your brand.
Name: Anna Lee Powell
Location: Hope, Arkansas
Company: Unraveled Boutique & Gifts
What it is: An online clothing store dedicated to affordable style
Educational Background: BA in political science at the University of Central Arkansas
What inspired you to start Unraveled Boutique?
The J. Crew Bubble Necklace, all the way. I wanted one in EVERY color… I was positive there was a way that I and all of my college gal pals could have them in all the colors we desired. The answer was UB & G.
If you could have given yourself a piece of knowledge or advice when you started what would that be?
Seek advice. You don’t know everything. Don’t be scared of the growing pains. Growth is a beautiful thing — so just go for the gold.
What was the craziest thing to happen when you ran Unraveled Boutique out of your bedroom at the beginning?
Having a group of girls that I literally did not know shopping in my living room for high waisted bleached cut offs and statement necklaces at 11 p.m. on any given night of the week. Then, customers saying, “I’m ready to check out.” My reply would be, “Oh yeah just step right on over here to my coffee table…Let me move this microwave dinner and glass of wine…That will be $22.00!”
What’s been the hardest part of starting your own business?
Anything worth having is hard. For me, it’s been a constant struggle of undervaluing my business, myself, and questioning “Is all this worth it?” Working 24/7, having a constant to-do list, and not having a black and white playbook. It has been so trial and error.
You are literally on your phone at all times; you have to be available to your customers. As an individual I’ve grown leaps and bounds from the woman I was four years ago [when I started UB & G]. I knew I didn’t want to be a part of a trend of boutique openers; I wanted to be effective and long-lasting.
This is the lowest paid job I have ever had, and it’s also the hardest job I have ever had. You don’t just show up, look cute, and make money. You clean, organize, order, unpack, tag, post, take pics, reorganize, and then the cycle starts all over again. Loading and unloading huge racks and totes by yourself in the pouring rain or 102-degree heat will test you. BUT I am hooked, because that ONE smiling customer makes it all worth it when I question it the most.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting your own business?
Meeting and interacting with so many amazing women of all ages and socioeconomic status — whether it be at a ladies night out Pop-Up Shop, a festival, or a Junior League Holiday show — I just love helping people feel good about themselves in their own skin, with their own style, and on their own budget. There is no better high than that.
Looking back, would you do anything differently?
Comically, if you have ever shopped with us you know we started out of boxes, spare bedrooms, garages, and trunks of cars. You also know that our racks/infrastructure have been a slow four-year progression. You may have even been shopping on an overloaded rack and it fallen down. Embarrassingly hilarious. Looking back I wish I would have taken my bargain babe pants off for a second and invested in some sturdy clothing racks. My bad, y’all.
How do you define success?
Affecting others in a positive way.
I know social media is a large part of how you do business. How have you used it to get the word out and build your brand?
Let your customers know where you are and what you are doing- whether it be a festival, a Pop-Up Shop, or doing a photo shoot, keep them in the loop. If new things are brewing let them know. New logo, new order process, new return policy, whatever it is that you are working on – be transparent. Its good business. We have branded ourselves by putting our pricing on each post- 99.9% of our items are $22.00 and under. Be consistent in mixing the right amount of personal life with business life to build a familial –interesting- storytelling brand.. Using location tags, hashtags, and a touch of humor throughout your social media is key. Social media is after all a form of entertainment.
Do you have any advice for using social media to its fullest potential?
Post with a purpose. Our lives are full of pictures and words that intertwine and all become a blur. You want to be the post that stops the scrolling thumb, gets screenshot and saved on the camera roll and sent to the bestie group message. You want your social media post to be appealing, catchy, and edgy. Don’t be scared to be bold.
Why have you chosen to do Unraveled Boutique primarily through Instagram, Facebook, email, and phone? Why not have an Unraveled Boutique Store?
When I started Unraveled, I was finishing my last semester of college and working 30-40 hours a week as a waitress and intern at the Chamber of Commerce in Conway. At that time, I was just simply self-financed with my very tiny tax return check — so the capitol was not available for me to open a store. As I grew, I just reinvested my profits into infrastructure, branding, and stock.
I’ve always been a career-focused worker bee; I honestly never thought it would grow to this capacity. I got engaged, married, relocated to Hope from Conway and began a new job as a pharmaceutical sales representative — all within 14 months. It was a whirlwind, and unfortunately, I had to put Unraveled on the back burner. People always ask me if I’m going to open a store. That would be an absolute dream come true for this chick, but most importantly I don’t want to compromise affordable pricing for a store front.
Unfortunately, every business has to remain profitable otherwise it’s just a hobby. If and when the opportunity makes itself available I will move my efforts into a storefront, but social media, email, and phone orders will always be available.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Each day is unique. But these things are certain: Email, Instagram, send invoices, post office, coffee, hot bath, wine, Junior Auxiliary meetings and events, bunco, Southwest Arkansas Arts Council Board & Committee meetings, sales calls at doctors’ offices, commuting, a worship/jam session in the car, conference calls, family calls, running errands for my husband’s business, and playing with my pup, Chaco. Those are in no particular order.
What are your hobbies? What do you do when you’re not working?
The past couple years my husband and I have had a fairly large garden. I grew up gardening with my dad and grandparents — actually, my first job at age 14 was selling bushels of peas at the Stuttgart farmers market. I’ve taken a recent liking to Netflix. Also, this girl just can’t turn down a social happy hour.
How do you balance your work with your personal life?
They actually mesh together. Sales is social, and shopping is most definitely social. Making work fun is a goal, always. I’m a big believer in investing in others. No matter how “busy” or “exhausted” I think I am, there is always time for friends and family – after all, not everyone is this blessed with the best.
What’s next for you?
Currently, my husband and I just purchased his family business. So a lot of effort and focus are going into modernizing, innovating, and expanding all things Powell’s Grocery.
Last modified on November 3rd, 2016