How Three Black Women Accomplished Their Dream of Owning a Lingerie Boutique

Last updated on Jul 24, 2018

Posted on Jul 24, 2018

We all have great ideas that consistently live on the backburner right? For Kerlyne, Helene & Stephanie, that was The Fitting Curve, size-inclusive lingerie shops with high-quality lingerie and the expertise of bra fittings. In 2016 that dream became a reality. With Kelly based in Boston and Helene and Stephanie, both sisters, in Long Island, bringing the Fitting Curve to life was not without hardships. However, having been in the lingerie industry for a combined 42 years, these ladies knew it could be done and they would be The Girls to do it.

OBWS: What was the turning point that gave you the final push to open TFC?

Helene: The catalyst was Kelly being laid off from work and joining a business incubator program at Jubilee Christian Church in Boston, MA. The push from idea to execution came very quickly after interest from family and friends. After a few conversations and not "talking" about it anymore, we jumped.

OBWS: What was the most challenging part of opening the store?

Stephanie: There's a laundry list! Investing in the right mix of inventory, securing a small business loan, choosing the right locations. And realizing that you don't know as much as you thought you did until you're in it!

Our idea started as opening two small stores in our perspective towns to support our communities by bringing back personalized bra fittings and lingerie. The nearest places to get lingerie for us took too long to get to and once there the experiences were always hit or miss or simply frustrating.

Fast forward from the original idea to execution, we opened our first location in Burlington, Vermont. Which was honestly a bad business call for various reasons, we opened VT in September 2016 and NY opened in October of the same year. We learned a lot of things fast about running two stores simultaneously. We did not have enough skin in the game in the local Vermont market. It took a lot of our starting capital to run that location, keep it afloat and even more to shut it down.

Kelly: We realized we should have stayed with our original plan of opening stores closer to home. But we learned many valuable lessons along the way- as there were many challenges, including a competitor registering our business name in order to stop us from opening our store. As a result, we registered our trademark on a national level to be able to support a cease and desist.

Being long distance from the store was never a huge obstacle, but not having the total support of that community was.

OBWS: As Founders, what is each person's role at The Fitting Curve?

Helene: Kelly is the glue, her determination and aspirations led to the official birth of TFC and we like to call her our "Purse Strings" as all financial decisions are approved by and made by her. Helene knows product and selling and visual merchandising. She always knows the potential in new product and what our clients would love, all buying decisions and merchandising decisions go through her. Stephanie is the super glue and the face in store that clients know and love, everything and then some also goes through her.

OBWS: What is your daily routine?

Stephanie: We check-in with each other via our group chat or over the phone usually before the store opens at 11 AM, we discuss anything that is pertinent. That typically sets the tone for how the day unfolds. As the day goes on, we go through vendor emails, client messages. We follow-up as needed on orders, holds, fitting appointments. Of course, we cater to our walk-ins!

OBWS: What’s been the most rewarding part of being a Boutique Owner?

Helene: Our customers.

Each and every person who walks into our store has their own unique needs. Changing women's lives is the best part of running this type of business. Any time we become discouraged, another person walks in or calls and says how glad they are that we're here and that something like our store exists.

OBWS: Kelly, how is it running a boutique in NY, while you’re based in Boston?

Kelly: Easy! I slightly micromanage and call every single day, making quarterly trips to the store as needed. Trust in our very tiny team goes a long way. We all believe in this business and that's the key.

OBWS: What do you pride yourself on the most as a company?

Helene: That we promote body positivity and try to fill in the gaps of what women can't find or experience in department stores. We carry cup and band sizes that are definitely hard to find in other shops that sell women's intimates. Up to a 46 band and a J cup via specialty brands like Parfait, Curvy Couture and Elila. We are also working diligently to get black-owned lingerie brands into our shop!

OBWS: What is the number one thing to know or ask when shopping for bras?

Kelly: A bra is the most technical garment of clothing a woman will wear. With that said there is a list of things to look for, however one important thing to know is that your bra should fit. And one bra does not work with every different single outfit in your wardrobe.

OBWS: What is the best lingerie shopping tip you were given?

Stephanie: Always try on your clothing on top of bras you're trying on!
Kelly: Go through the process with an open mind.
Helene: Do a little research if you're not going to a fitting shop.

OBWS: What are 3 tips for going into business with friends and family?

Stephanie: 1.) Be ready to have a difference of opinion.

Helene: 2.) Be flexible.

Kelly: 3.) You have each other to get through the highs and lows, try to remember that it's not all business all the time. Make time for cultivating the friendship and nurture the trust you've built over time.

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