Tulle Boutique and Spa Soak: Business Within a Business Model

Spa Soak owner Jennifer Olson and Tulle Boutique owner Erin Toole Williams.

Erin Toole Williams, a stylist and personal shopper in the well-heeled Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown had developed a successful business model with her traveling trunk shows.

“I provide two services, personal shopping and personal styling,” Williams says. “However, it was the items that I chose that really attracted people, and that’s why I kept doing the trunk shows.”

Williams would shop for dazzling, hard-to-find merchandise, pick an ideal location, and invite her customers to come and shop for a limited time. The surprise element of a pop-up store along with the one-of-a-kind items available made Tulle Boutique’s trunk shows magic.

Tulle Boutique's Gucci Hysteria bag retails for $2,000.

“The women came to my shows and wanted to buy the handbags and accessories because I tend to choose things that people would not choose for themselves. I like to choose things that are functional and cute and make people step out of their comfort zones a little.”

Williams adds that the expenses were pretty cut and dry. “I had to purchase a lot of the merchandise up front, so that was a lot of the overhead that I had — and the cost of the rental spaces.”

In 2008, the economic bubble burst and Williams knew that the trunk show magic wouldn’t last forever.

“I was a mobile business since 2007 when I launched … unfortunately, with the change in the economy, things started to dwindle a little bit — but I kept going.”

Shortly after the new year, Spa Soak owner Jennifer Olson invited Williams to set up Tulle Boutique inside her spa. It was a win-win situation for both entrepreneurs, Olson says, as Williams brought a network of shopping enthusiasts, and for Williams, Spa Soak offered a stable locale with plenty of foot traffic.

“We had been in the Bucktown neighborhood for six years, and it’s just spa services, massages, manicures pedicures, waxing, and makeup,” Olson says. “It’s definitely a great union because Erin’s adorable and everybody loves her and she’s good at what she does.

“It’s a great way for two businesswomen to get together and market each other. We are happy to introduce our clients to her and vice- versa, so it’s definitely has been amazing.”

Spa Soak offers warmth, beauty and relaxation; Tulle Boutique kicks it up a notch with goods and trinkets suggestive of old Hollywood glamour and the sweetness of childhood.

During the grand opening event, the cross-pollination of clientele is seamless, as Spa Soak owner Jennifer Olson treats Tulle Boutique shoppers with discount coupons for spa services.

Tulle Boutique offers something the spa clients will want as well, Williams states. “I would like for somebody to come in and be able to buy anything that is on the floor. My most expensive item right now is a past-season, salmon pink Gucci Hysteria bag, (priced at $2,000); my least expensive item is a piece of candy from my nostalgia candy bar, for 10 cents.”

Williams beams, “I’ve found a home for my business.”

Photos: Zondra Hughes

Deputy Editor, Rolling Out

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