How I Bought a Business...

And made it my own.
Guest post by: Kayla Wan

Believe it or not, one of my biggest inspirations for deciding to follow a career in fashion was Rachel from Friends! Yes, Jennifer Aniston's character. I'm a big fan of the show, and I related to her character -- the shopping addiction, wanting to connect to the latest trends and aspiring to be a fashion buyer. My mom has also had a huge impact on me because I've always appreciated her style and she inspired me to find my own style, which, eventually, led me to owning my own clothing boutique (it just happened sooner rather than later!)

I enrolled at the University of Manitoba and graduated with my Textile Sciences Degree and a Business Minor in 2014.  I loved my time at the U of M and met some really great people. At the same time, I was working as a Sales Associate at Loka (owned at the time by Anita Sharma Turner); I wanted to get a feel of what a local clothing shop was all about -- meeting customers and learning about their style. 

The day following my University of Manitoba convocation, Anita reached out to congratulate me and asked if I would be interested in taking over the shop -- it was a mixture of 'right place, right time' tied in with a little luck! I didn't think I'd be a boutique owner at 25 but I couldn't pass up such an incredible opportunity - so I said yes! That was 2014 and it's been a whirlwind ride ever since. I went to work right away and completely renovated the space with my own personal style.

 

Opening a business at 25 years of age came with its fair share of trials and tribulations, some anticipated, and some not so much. When I took over Loka, I had just graduated and had no real business experience. 

At the same time, I had a few things going for me. Loka already had eight successful years under its belt and, with that, an established clientele (most of whom I had an established a relationship with having worked there previously.) There was also an existing market for the product and I knew it would be a similar style to the product and brands I planned on carrying. On top of that, staff, location and equipment were all in place.

However, the financial investment associated with purchasing a business is a pretty big undertaking - professional fees alone can be draining. Another obstacle was location -- since I purchased Loka, it was moved to its second, smaller location. Trying to express your personal style was a challenge in such a small space, so my priority at this point was moving to a larger, more accessible location. 

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Even though Loka already had a fantastic existing client base, I needed to expand and grow. That’s where my decision to move back to River Heights came in - it was our original home. Plus, it’s a growing community with several local shops popping up!

My biggest learning lesson has been trying to keep my existing clients happy while, at the same time, growing the store into my style. I’ve already expanded from brands we previously carried but made sure to throw in some of my own looks as well. I didn’t want to lose the feel of the Loka brand all together, however it was important for me to be visible in the brand as well.

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Now, we’re making the move again. This time to Academy Road. When I decided to take over a larger space on Corydon, I got nervous: more square footage, more clients, more inventory, more staff and more bills! But this expansion is going to be so great for Loka, our customers, and the River Heights community. We’re slated to move to in early Fall of this year and I couldn’t be more excited.

Shop online at Loka.

Happy shopping!

Kayla Wan

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