With competition from stand-alone designer stores, shopping malls and countless department stores, running a designer boutique in Los Angeles or Las Vegas is nothing if not a challenge — let alone running boutiques in both cities simultaneously. Beckley owner Melissa Akkaway is doing just that, however. We spoke with the fashion entrepreneur about what it takes.
theFashionSpot: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where you always interested in fashion?
Melissa Akkaway: I've loved fashion from the age of five when I put together an all hot pink outfit for my birthday party. Prior to working in the fashion industry, I was in the restaurant business, but fashion was always my true passion.
tFS: As a store owner and designer, you must balance the creative with the business savvy. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
MA: I wear a lot of hats in my business. I must be aware of the financial side to make the best decisions that lead to success, while also putting on my creative hat to buy the items for the store, look for inspiration for the private label line and come up with interesting silhouettes.
tFS: How do you go about deciding what to stock?
MA: When buying for the stores, I research the lines that have been performing well and bulk up the buy. I also am always looking for new lines when I travel and try to buy into new lines that are emerging or offering something different to my current mix.
tFS: How is running a boutique different in L.A. versus Vegas?
MA: Las Vegas is a 24 hour town, 365 days a year. The clients that come are looking for beach club looks and nightclub looks as well as clothes to travel back home with that are the newest trends. In L.A., we work with a lot of stylists, private clients and celebrities. I stock the store with a range of items from lingerie, jewelry, ready-to-wear and shoes.
tFS: What made you decide to come out with your own line?
MA: It started out as a 12-piece collection and now three years later has turned into a 48-piece collection delivered twice a year. I initially designed items that I could not find for my stores. I felt there was a void in the market for specific pieces and price points.
tFS: What are some of the challenges with designing your own line that people may not think about?
MA: There really is no down time. You are designing essentially all year long or at least in the design process and then move into the production process. It seems when you finish one collection then it's time to start the next collection. It's fast paced, but exhilarating.
tFS: What are some of the challenges with owning your own boutique that people may not think about?
MA: It's difficult to know the daily and monthly traffic patterns with customers. One day there could be 50 people in the store and the next day there could be five people in the store. So it's essential to connect and contact our clients to give them sneak peeks at new items before they are gone.
tFS: You carry some big name brands, how challenging is it to get them stocked in your store when you're starting out?
MA: When I started out six years ago, it was extremely difficult to get brands to buy into my store concept. After many years of building relationships and trust, I have been able to secure more and more lines that I love.
tFS: How important is e-commerce to your business?
MA: E-commerce is extremely important to the business as it's the first view anyone has to look at my products, especially if they cannot visit my stores. We currently ship internationally which has greatly expanded my commerce business to a wider audience. We have spent the last three years building our e-commerce site and have learned and developed the site into something I am very proud of.
tFS: Anything you know now that you wish you had known when you started your career?
MA: I wish I had a better handle on the amount of merchandise I needed to buy for my stores. Once you have a plan for your merchandise than you are in a great position to build your business.