*Thanks to the sweet gals at Apricot Lane Boutique for sponsoring this post. As usual, all opinions and thoughts I express are my own.
If you were about to retire from the WNBA (after nine successful seasons at that), what would be your next play? 2014 WNBA Champion and Phoenix Mercury star Candice Dupree is my new #bosslady girl crush. Why? Because she has started a new life in a fast-paced, ridiculously stylish retail environment WHILE still playing in the WNBA. Can we talk about ambition for a second?? Better still, she’s doing it with her twin sister, Crystal. So we’ve essentially got a real-world case of Double Teamed goes to the mall. (Raise your hand if you were obsessed with that Disney Channel Original!).
I got to chat with Candice about her own career, this crazy transition, and creating a fashion empire with family; she’s giving her best steps for starting a boutique for any of you aspiring fashionistas. Even if a boutique isn’t your desired career path, many of her tips are completely applicable to launching a business in general!
First things first: the Dupree sisters now run an Apricot Lane Boutique that JUST opened in Tampa, FL (Like them on Facebook here!). Apricot Lane is a franchise boutique, meaning if YOU wanted to open an Apricot Lane store near you, you COULD. It’s like the ultimate empowerment, cute clothes and all.
While she’s still on the court, Candice is prepping for life post-pro athlete. “Every athlete faces the reality of the uncertainty about post-career; what do I do when I can no longer play the sport I love as a profession? What am I passionate about,” explained Dupree. “I decided to invest in that opportunity now and open a business with my twin sister. She can run the business while I’m still playing and one day, I’ll be by her side and excited for the next chapter in my life as a business owner as well,” she further explained. So she and her sis Crystal opened a boutique in Westshore Mall in Tampa, FL, combining business aspirations with a passion for fashion and retail experience on Crystal’s side for this unstoppable girl-duo of #bosslady awesome. Crystal does all her own buying, promotions and marketing, and day-to-day operations, and the franchises’ large buying power means discounted prices, corporate advertising campaigns and stores getting a portion of online e-commerce sales through a unique profit sharing model exclusively created for the Apricot Lane franchise.
Until Candice is fully retired from balling, she’ll probably dribble through the mall to see what’s up with the biz.
“We are so excited to open Apricot Lane in our town as we know there are many places to choose from already but none that bring fashion-forward looks at affordable prices and in limited quantities unlike the larger retail chains. The females that shop with us will have a sense of uniqueness when making a purchase, as there will only be about six of each item in our store with no back stock inventory to refill the floor with the same item,” Dupree explained.
While Apricot Lane prides itself on featuring a limited number of each item in stock, they seek out brands that give back with each purchase. Brands like 3Strands – which donate 100% of proceeds to empowering, educating, and employing young women who have been rescued from sex trafficking – Emi Jay, Home T’s, Good Works, and more make up an important part of AL’s dedication to making a difference.
Because Apricot Lane is also a franchise boutique, storeowners have the ability to buy products for their stores that best fit their customers’ needs and styles in their respective geographic areas, so every store is most likely really unique and different. “We look forward to reacting instantly to the emerging trends here in Tampa and the requests we receive from customers, along with the highest level of customer services- that’s what the boutique experience is all about.” said Dupree.
And to top it all off, Apricot Lane Boutiques offer clients the chance to have their own “Girls Night Out!” at the store, where the boutique handles the details from coordinating invitations to planning refreshments and snacks (because it ain’t a GNO without snacks). Bring 10-15 of your best lady friends and have a ball; the store can donate a portion of sales back to a cause of your choice, the hostess among you gets 50% off any one item in store, 20% off all remaining items, and gift card incentives to bring guests, PLUS attendees get 20% off the store during the party.
Now to dive into our interview…
1.) What’s been the most challenging part about starting a business? And with that, what’s been the most challenging part about starting a business with your sister?
There were a few challenging things about getting our business up and running. Because I play basketball just about 12 months out of the year I wasn’t actually in Tampa to get the business up an running. I like to be hands on and wasn’t able to do that from afar. Everything had to be done via email and phone calls. I decided to go the small business loan route and we ran into some MAJOR issues regarding some of the information we needed to provide- definitely tested our sisterly bond to say the least! HA! It set us back a few months but everything ended up working itself out.
2.) What made you decide to transition from a WNBA basketball player to running a retail store?
I had been looking for something to invest my money in. I have gone the real estate route and flipped a few properties as well as purchasing a rental property. I’m always thinking of ways to make my money grow. My sister and I got to thinking one day and said why don’t we open our own store? Crystal’s background is in retail as well as my younger sister. We thought about opening something on our own but realized we didn’t all of the knowledge required to get a boutique up and running.
3.) What skills do you think will be semi-transferable from the court to the boutique setting?
I think two of the most important things in any job are leadership qualities and communication. Those two things are extremely important in basketball. Especially on the court. It’s sounds weird saying it, but I’ve actually got employees now. I’ve got to be able to lead them and communicate with them as often as possible in order to have a successful business.
4.) What does it take to open your own business (and be successful)?
First off it takes MONEY! Lol! You have to spend money to make money. A lot of time and patience is also required. In my case, my family has played a huge part in helping me get this boutique up and running. Having a good support group has made it that much easier to get the boutique off the ground.
5.) What advice would you give to anyone wanting to open their own business, be that a retail experience or whatever!
My advice would be to do as much research as you can prior to deciding on the business venture. I spoke to quite a few people just to pick their brain and see what route they took in getting their businesses going. They were all able to share the pros and cons and do’s and don’ts of running a business and it has been extremely helpful.
6.) What’s the best part about working as part of the Apricot Lane franchise?
The best part about working with the Apricot Lane franchise has been the people I’ve been able to work with. Crystal was fortunate enough to fly out to California to meet and work with everyone during a week of training. I chatted with just about everyone through emails and phone calls. I’ve been most impressed with how helpful everyone has been from day one. They’ve been involved every step of the way and it’s made going through this business venture that much easier.
7.) Your favorite item from the boutique?
My favorite item from the boutique so far has been a black American flag tank top made by Enti Glamour. It’s soft, light, and comfortable.
8.) How do you foresee the growth of brands in shop that give back in some way, like 3Strands, Emi Jay, Good Works, etc.?
From experience, continuously standing by the vendor and explaining who they are and what they do does have an influence on customers. The fashionable designs combined with the relaying of product knowledge will positively impact the growth of charitable vendors within our boutique.
9.) Can you talk about the Apricot Lane “Girls’ Night Out” experience options?
Our Apricot Lane “Girls Night Out” offers a chance for our new and returning customers to mix and mingle on a personable level with each other, while piecing together outfits with the assistance of our store stylists and enjoying treats and beverages. Options for a “Girls Night Out” include sorority events, charity fashion parties and our own local “First Friday” Frenzy (finding an outfit for the first Friday of each month for the nightlife events that take place in St. Petersburg).
10.) Why retail??
I chose retail because I not only wanted something to invest in but I also wanted something that my family could be a part of. I was tired of hearing stories from my sisters about them working crazy hours for such little money, having the job title of assistant manager but not receiving the pay or benefits that an assistant manager deserves. So in reality I really opened this boutique for them. I don’t want them to just feel like regular employees. I want them to feel as if they are part owners in this as well and we have the opportunity to really create our own family-run business! I may have provided the financial foundation, but they have put in all of the hours as well as all of the behind the scenes work to keep the store up and running.
And for funsies, check out this *ridiculously* cute blazer from Apricot Lane. I’m a major blazer girl, so to have this bright pop of turquoise in my work (and play) wardrobe is really the perfect remedy to an otherwise gloomy weekday. Head to West Shore’s Facebook Store page to order right from the store and have it shipped to you on your couch (with your wine and Netflix and pizza, naturally). I love pairing a bright blazer with neutrals for the rest of my outfit, but then adding another colorpop with a statement lip. This purple from urban Decay has been my go-to for the season, because it’s just so stinkin’ fun.
Anyone else experiencing major rain and flash flood warnings today??? Sending warm, sunshine-y vibes to all of you!
If you’re not in the Tampa area (although I’m sure we all wish we were down in those parts right about now), click here to find an Apricot Lane store nearest you. And if there’s not one near you…are you feeling entrepreneurial?
What would you want to ask Candice?
Whether it’s advice on taking a plunge of passion yourself, or how to make it big on the basketball court, ask away!