Shops to Love: Sweet Spot Skirts
Stephanie Carroll is an evangelist. She’s a vocal advocate for sporty, comfortable skirts and women are following her lead, converting their wardrobes to include her designs, which are worn over tights and other sportswear.
As a Vancouver real estate agent, Stephanie zipped around town by bike to visit her listings. “I used to wear a little disco skirt when I ran around checking my flyer boxes and taking photos.” When she received compliments about her short skirt, which covered her biking clothes, from two male acquaintances, the proverbial light bulb went off. “I think I can do better” with a skirt design, she thought.
Birth of a business
In February 2010 she took 45 skirts, all made by local seamstresses, to a bike swap in Seattle. She sold out and immediately filed for business incorporation of her Vancouver, WA-based Sweet Spot™ Skirts®.
At the beginning “it was a bookkeeper, myself and a seamer,” she says.” I was working out of my 9’ x 9’ bedroom in Vancouver. I lived frugally. The bedroom I was working in, I just stacked fabric and it was crazy.”
Stephanie continued to hire local seamstresses. In 2011 she hired a marketing director and they hit the road, selling skirts at events. “As a designer and creator of these items that these women love – I have tried my skirts on 2,000 plus women over just the last few months.”
Whether selling products from her downtown Vancouver shop, on her Web site at www.SweetSpotSkirts.com or from her 16’ Airstream trailer at events, Stephanie is attracting major attention with her designs.
Taking the skirts on the road, marketing with social media
Selling on the road is hard work, she says, but worth it. She spent July in the Midwest, selling her skirts at events like RAGBRAI, a 10,000-rider bicycle trip across Iowa.
While events have been a marketing mainstay , social media, particularly Facebook, has been the #1 sales tool for Sweet Spot Skirts, Stephanie says. And hiring a marketing director was a turning point. “The marketing director has almost doubled or tripled our online sales and our exposure and she has been key to growing the revenue.”
Stephanie’s goals for Sweet Spot Skirts are simple:
- Have fun.
- When goal #1 is done… Have a little bit more fun!
- Stay out of debt.
They hope to saturate the biking community with the bright, reversible skirts and outfit women for other sports including golf, yoga, running and tennis, among others. Future plans for growth include a big November 2012 release of a children’s line, new “flirty” skirts and kilts. She would like to eventually have a manufacturing site in Vancouver. “We are not going to go to China,” Stephanie says. “If we can’t grow this thing in the United States, we have to make it happen, we have to figure out a way.”
Creating a headquarters in Vancouver
The downtown Vancouver store is a hub for the business. Located in the former Sixth Street Gallery at 105 W. 6th, the shop features wood floors, stacks of the colorful skirts and bolts of fabric where “you can go to the wall and pick out your fabric and have your skirt made,” Stephanie says. There is no extra charge for the custom skirts. An operations director and store manager spend their days creating skirts and prototypes as well as assisting customers.
“We are working when people walk in. This is more of a manufacturing site. We call it our destination retail. You can come in and have a cup of coffee, you can have your skirt made, you can rent a bike.” Skirts that are sold wholesale are manufactured in Wilsonville.
Displays of the skirts, which sell for $69, are featured in the front along with hats by Flipside Hats, Proskins and Moxie Cycling Jerseys. The store offers bike rentals by the hour. The shop, which has the open feel of the former gallery including rotating art exhibits, is available for special events like bachelorette and birthday parties. They partner with local businesses like Top Shelf, which provides food and drink across the street from the shop.
When asked what would surprise people about Stephanie, who is a whirlwind of ideas, her staff is unanimous: “She doesn’t sew a stitch!”
“I don’t know anything about sewing,” Stephanie admits. “I just know what I want it to look like.”
Stephanie may not sew but she knows how to envision and sell her popular skirts. Check out Stephanie’s designs, the work of her seamstresses and other products at Sweet Spot Skirts in Vancouver at 105 W. 6th Street, at www.SweetSpotSkirts.com, Sweet Spot Skirts on Facebook or the company blog.