Opening a lifestyle boutique was a dream for sisters Megan and Mikaela from Minneapolis, Minn. When COVID-19 put a damper on their plans, they leaned on their community and other small business owners to get Les Sól open during a tumultuous year.
Thanks to big-box stores and the ease of online ordering, competition for small business is hard enough without a pandemic. Things got even harder when COVID-19 hit, and people weren’t shopping nearly as frequently, nor were they venturing out to do so. But those challenges didn’t deter Megan Harrod and her sister Mikaela from opening Les Sól, a lifestyle boutique in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minn.
How did you lean on social media and surrounding local businesses to get Les Sól off the ground?
“Les Sól started when Mikaela and I started producing masks and donating 100 percent of the proceeds to the Sheridan Project in Minneapolis to provide food for those in need. As a result, we built a following on Instagram and raised about $5,000. After that, we launched our site and e-commerce in July of 2020. That summer was really important, because it allowed us to build our brand in a unique way.”
We worked with a local designer to create our space, which was in a building where I already knew many of the small business owners. Our general manager worked at my local coffee shop before joining our team. Over the summer we hosted a socially distant makers’ market for other local creators. Working together helped give ourselves and others visibility and gave everyone hope that there are brighter days ahead for small businesses.”
What were some of the complications you ran into while opening your brick and mortar during COVID-19?
“Because of COVID-19, our SBA loan was taking a lot longer than we thought, and we couldn’t open our brick and mortar in April of 2020 like we planned. I live in Park City, Utah, and not being able to travel made it extremely tough. In the beginning, we were on calls twice a day until I traveled to Minneapolis to open the physical store. We were constantly trying to figure out how to stay ahead of the game in the changing landscape we were working with.”
How is the process opening a niche small business like a lifestyle boutique unique?
“As a lifestyle boutique, it’s not only important to have a physical store, but actually build a brand and a lifestyle. What we’re building is so much bigger than the clothes and gifts themselves — we’re also creating a community. Every Friday, we had Instagram Live events where we would talk about our favorite products. Even though my sister and I were thousands of miles away from each other, we were coming together to share our favorite things with our community, and that helped us build an even larger following. We were seeing orders come in from Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, Japan and Australia. In that way, building a following for a lifestyle boutique is really special.”
What tip would you have for other women looking to start a small business during COVID-19?
“Look to your network. Chances are, there are other small businesses and community members who will be excited to help you get started. Those community interactions are such an important part of building a lifestyle brand. That, and just hustle. It’s hard work, especially during a pandemic, but it’s worth it to see your dream come to life.”