It’s your lunch hour on a Thursday, and all you can think about are your plans to go out on the town with friends. Then you realize, you have nothing you want to wear. The need to shop overwhelms you and you begin pulling out your smart phone to see what the local shops have available. Soon, you realize visiting each boutique’s website is tiring, time consuming and leaves you frustrated because once you find the right item, you don’t even know if they have your size.
Scenarios like this will soon be a thing of the past with the launching of Btiques, Sara Beck and Will Carter’s Fayetteville-based start-up company that seeks to bridge the gap between local boutiques and the social and fashion savvy customers who frequent them.
Beck and Carter knew reaching a customer base as a small business owner was not easy in an industry like fashion where products are always changing, and shoppers must go to individual sites to search and find just the right item. So, when Beck and Carter got a chance to enter the 2012 Ark Challenge — a mentorship-driven business accelerator program for technology startups — they saw a financial opportunity by offering customers a way to “find, follow and shop” their favorite boutiques.
Seeing their office now, it doesn’t look like just a year ago they began the process of shaping the idea for Btiques. Nestled in a large open office on the Fayetteville square, their five employees sit at well-kept desks with the company name painted brightly on the wall behind them. However, unlike many start-up companies, they were able to build their business model, receive mentorship and even gain investors through the ARK Challenge, which meant once they were released into the market they hit the ground running.
In fact, local boutique owners were signing on immediately, along with some in Little Rock, Fort Smith, Conway, Newport and now nationally in Fort Worth, Texas, and one from North Carolina. These boutiques saw the business model of Btiques as a solution to reaching their customers, and expanding their audience.
“Knowing these boutique owners are very busy people, we want to incorporate what they’re already doing well. It’s just another extension of what they’re doing,” Beck said.
It’s as easy as setting up a Facebook account, Beck said, with a fee-per-transaction model, so boutiques pay as they sell. Boutique owners simply sign in to their account, upload their photos, the sizes and how long the item will be on sale so customers locally and across the country can shop their products. And to not take away from the store front atmosphere — where Beck said the magic happens — they’ve created a way to find local boutiques anywhere you travel throughout the U.S.
Right now the Btiques App is already up and running, and by simply signing up, shoppers can search through clothing and items and purchase them from their smart phone. They’re also offering a website version of Btiques which allows for more flexibility for their customer boutiques.
The company has plans for quick growth throughout the country, and they have a lot to work with. Through the ARK Challenge they received $450,000 in funding from Fund For Arkansas’ Future, a venture capitol group out of Little Rock, and funding from ARK Challenge and Innovate Arkansas.
“We have the best heavy hitters on our side and access to those minds to be able to advise and help us grow this company,” Beck said.
On Sept. 5 at 7 p.m., Btique will celebrate their entry into the industry with a private event at the Town Center Plaza in Fayetteville. To learn more about their company, visit btiques.com or download their app and get started.
The Free Weekly Fashion Tip: Many boutiques offer quality and original items that can’t be found anywhere else. But, many also offer clothing made in industrialized and growing countries like China where women, children and men are over worked for little pay and in terrible conditions. Do yourself and the world a favor, and check the origin of your items so you can make a direct connection between what you’re wearing and the person who made it. The world and future generations thank you!