Participating in local events helps online store open brick-and-mortar

Crystal Bland, owner of Milo & Lily Boutique in Oklahoma City (Garett Fisbeck)

Crystal Bland, owner of Milo & Lily Boutique in Oklahoma City (Garett Fisbeck)

 

 

Milo & Lily Boutique transitioned from an exclusively online store to a physical brick-and-mortar location on May Avenue this month.

Milo & Lily, 9612 N. May Ave., is the brainchild of owner Crystal Bland. Bland said she always planned on opening a physical storefront but  beginning as an online exclusive store assisted in testing the waters before making the leap.

“Starting out online versus opening a storefront saves a lot of overhead costs. So in February of this year, I filed for an LLC and resell permit with the Oklahoma Tax Commission,” Bland said. “After that was finalized, it was time to figure out what platform to use to create a website from scratch.”

Bland added that the store’s participation in local events such as  Norman Music Festival and Heard on Hurd helped draw new customers and aid in the ultimate decision to transition to a physical store.

“During these events, the common question was, ‘Where is your shop located?’” Bland said. “Soon, we realized the success we had during community events would translate to a storefront location.”

Bland said the process began at Collonade Shopping Center.

“My husband and I started the build-out process in May. We did the build-out completely on our own. I married a very talented woodworker. He built our dressing rooms, built racks out of pallet wood and created our checkout counter. The shop is shabby chic, which adds to its character,” Bland said.

She added that the online shop will remain a part of Milo & Lily’s business model, as it will complement the storefront location by allowing out-of-state customers to still buy its products.

“By opening the storefront location, we were able to add departments such as accessories, little girls and plus size apparel,” Bland said. “The challenge here was that these were new categories for me to buy and deciding how much of each I should carry was a challenge at first.”

Bland stated that an important element of Milo & Lily’s success in such a small amount of time has been her utilization of social media.

“Social media has been crucial to our business model. I post on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter daily. These posts have generated sales, event attendance and, of course, helped with marketing our brand to the masses,” she said. “In just six short months, we have over 700 followers on Instagram and 1,600 on Facebook. Facebook advertising has helped Milo & Lily get off the ground running.

“I think in this day and age, if you own a business and you are not using social media in some form or fashion, you should be. It’s a wonderful tool to complement any advertising campaign. For the fashion industry, customers need to see the item on someone to know how it fits. With that being said, I am constantly being told the best posts are the pictures of someone wearing the dress or blouse or whatever it is you are sharing.”

Milo & Lily is also a member of the Keep It Local program, an initiative designed to motivate customers to support unique Oklahoma-based businesses.

“We will offer anyone with a Keep It Local card 10 percent off any order in-store only. We will also sell Keep It Local cards at the store,” Bland said. “This movement has been huge for locals who own small businesses. I love Oklahoma and love being from Oklahoma City. It’s a fabulous way to give back to the community that helped mold me into the woman I am today.”

The store’s name was inspired by Bland’s two dogs. Milo is a dachshund and Lily is an Akita.

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