Laura Benson, owner of the online boutique Filly Flair, is the kind of person who emits a sincerity rarely seen in the business world today. With her cascades of blonde hair and winning smile, you might mistake her for one of the models on her website. But Laura has the soul of an entrepreneur, and the story of Filly Flair is all the proof one needs that with a great idea, a little gumption and a lot of hard work, the sky's the limit.
Laura started Filly Flair seven years ago, selling western belts and purses at rodeos.
“I started in 2010, and at that point I was still working on my family’s farm, which was about 12 hour days at least,” explains Laura. “I had no idea what I was doing, I just made my own terrible website and business cards and started handing them out at rodeos to people.”
After some success and a lot of late nights packing shipments, Laura got engaged and decided to take a break from the business, partly because she felt that with a full time job and a wedding to plan, she was too busy to be a good business woman: “I knew I was going to ruin my name if I didn’t take care of customers. The last thing I wanted was for people to say that I couldn’t deliver.”
But the dream wasn’t dead. In fact, Laura Benson was just getting started. In November 2012, things took off again. She rented a cheap storefront and got back to work.
“I would say from November 2012 to April 2013 was an extremely pivotal time where we just had astronomical growth, and then that whole next year.”
Laura was able to hire on a full time employee and open a more polished boutique location. Finally, after working what were essentially two full time jobs, Laura left the dairy farm in 2014 to focus solely on her business.
By this point, Filly Flair’s merchandise had also changed. What was once geared toward a more edgy, western-style customer evolved into breezy attire for the casual yet stylish woman. The evolution came from Laura’s careful eye, watching what items were selling fastest and investing in those trends.
Peaks and Valleys
Every business goes through several evolutions, times of peak success and times of struggle, and Filly Flair is no exception. After several years of unprecedented success, Laura, who had just had her second child, noticed dwindling sales and a toxic company culture brewing.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Laura jumped in and solved the problems herself.
“I had to be willing to go in and get my hands dirty, because it was my business. I am never above a job; if I need to go back and take photos again and post them on Facebook so that our image is consistent, or teach someone how to do it again, then that’s what I will do.”
Additionally, Filly Flair decided to cut ties with their external marketing agency and took matters into their own hands, a decision that has more than paid off:
“Now, we’re at over 500% growth rate from last year,” says Laura. “And it’s because we’ve done it. That’s what I’m most proud of. I know that we are bringing in our own sales, and that’s a huge thing to me.”
Laura feels empowered knowing that she has the skill and the tools to analyze what is happening on a day to day basis with sales, and has become an expert in Google analytics and customer outreach. “You have to know who your customers are and where your sales are coming from,” she insists.
Putting all her energy into the business has paid off, and Filly Flair now boasts the status of a multimillion dollar company, with a 9,000 foot warehouse and 12 full-time employees.
Connecting With Customers
Another recent shift is that Laura has begun to use social media as a tool to foster a deep connection with her customers. Insofar as the internet landscape has changed business, it’s also changed customer engagement. Laura attributes this partly to a cultural change, a transition out of formal business relationships into a window into the daily lives of our fellow humans.
“People just really want to connect to other people,” she says. “They want to be relatable and they want to be able to relate.”
“The biggest thing that has changed in the last 6-8 months is that I am constantly putting myself out there with my customers. They know who I am, we talk on a regular basis, I log into my Facebook group at least once a week and I chat with them. I am holding myself accountable to them.”
Making an Impact, One Dress at a Time
For an ecommerce entrepreneur, it’s not always easy to see the results of your hard work, but thanks to Facebook, Laura has the possibility to witness how her clothes and message are changing people’s lives:
“A couple of weeks ago, this one girl who had big self esteem problems when she was younger put up this long post about how she’d bought our clothes and that they just made her feel so confident in herself. That changes how I look at my business.”
After all, there’s little that is more personal than our clothes. “What you put on your body is a representation of who you are,” says Laura. “A lot of my customers are women in their thirties who have kids and they just want to put something on that makes them feel confident.”
So, what’s next for Laura Benson? She says she’s considering pulling back from the day to day work to focus on some broader initiatives:
“I have a lot of big picture things that I want to do. And I get it now, something has clicked.”
We’re looking forward to seeing what’s in store!
Check out the fashion trends at Filly Flair by visiting their website. If you’re passing through Sioux Falls, South Dakota, swing by the Filly Flair Boutique! To learn more about Laura, visit her Facebook profile or follow her on Instagram.