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Small Business of the Year: Sara Jane Children's Boutique

Subheadline: 
Sara Jane Children's Boutique finds retail success through new ideas

When business owners talk about going mobile, they’re typically referring to phone apps — but for small-business owner Sara Jane Stroupe, she had a more literal goal in mind.

Stroupe owns Sara Jane Children’s Boutique and for four years has built a dedicated following as one of Savannah’s few remaining independent children’s shops. This year, Stroupe, 29, launched her first mobile boutique in a reconditioned 31-foot Airstream trailer salvaged from her aunt and uncle’s yard in Statesboro, becoming the first store in the area to capitalize on this growing retail trend.

“It’s kind of a new thing; they’re big in New York and L.A., and they just launched one in Jacksonville,” Stroupe said. “We have a lot of customers in Pooler and southside, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to go to where the busy moms are.”

Since launching it in September, she’s taken the Airstream out about a dozen times, including to Beaufort and Bluffton, S.C., and other places that lack a local children’s store.

For Stroupe, it’s just another way to serve her customers better.

“I’m big in thinking out of the box,” she said. “It’s been to my advantage to try new things, and I’m kind of a risk taker.”

Stroupe, a Savannah native, said she’d dreamed of owning her own shop ever since she was little. After majoring in fashion merchandising at the University of Mississippi, Stroupe started working at a children’s clothing store and loved it.

After leaving the store, Stroupe dabbled in corporate retail, but decided that what she really wanted was to return to Savannah and open her own children’s store.

With the help of the Small Business Assistance Corporation, she secured two loans totaling $75,000 and opened her doors in the brick building at the corner of 37th and Abercorn streets on Nov. 1, 2010.

She said the centralized location has been a real boon, providing parking for busy mothers and grandparents and is still reachable by tourists.

Stroupe said this year alone, she’s seen 25 percent growth. The store now employs five people and carries many regional brands such as Pixie Lilly out of Charleston and Bailey Boys out of St. Simon.

“We’ve really grown,” she said. “When we opened there were about five other stores — and Punch & Judy’s has been there forever — but now it’s pretty much us and them.”

Her clientele has also grown, quite literally, and she keeps in stock clothes for newborns through size 12.

The boutique’s clothes, most of them made in the U.S. and using organic material, have been featured for two years during Savannah Fashion Week’s annual show in May and for four years in Savannah Fashion Night Out in September.

Through those partnerships, she’s connected with local designers such as Emily Bargeron of Mamie Ruth, who’s designed clothes exclusively for her boutique.

“(Designer) Troy Allen was featured in the show last May and is now doing a pre-teen line we carry at the store,” she said.

As for 2015, Stroupe is expecting an even bigger milestone as she prepares for the birth of her first child, a girl.

“I’m going a little crazy with buying the little girl stuff,” she said.

She’s also launched a new website complete with an online shopping option. She said she’s considering adding more merchandise, including strollers, and hasn’t ruled out a second mobile boutique after her father purchased another Airstream to remodel.

“We’re looking at franchising that part of the business, too,” she said. “That definitely would be good growth for us.”

She said her customers have been a major source for her as she looks at adding new lines and products.

“Just really knowing your customer and knowing what they would buy, which was hard for me at first because I didn’t have any kids and I wasn’t married,” she said.

Stroupe said she hopes she serves as an example for other entrepreneurs who may wish to start their own small businesses one day.

“I was 25 when I started my own business, which was really young, but it doesn’t matter about age,” Stroupe said. “Savannah has a lot of resources that make it possible for anyone to start their own business.”

 

 

What: Sara Jane Children’s Boutique

Where: 202 East 37th Street, Savannah

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays

For more information, visit sarajanekids.com. Check the website for upcoming mobile locations.

 

 

ABOUT THE SERIES

 

As 2014 comes to a close, the Savannah Morning News, Business in Savannah and savannahnow.com continue the tradition of profiling companies and organizations that made major contributions to the local business environment during the past year.

The Business in Savannah staff chose the honorees from a list of nominees submitted by local business and community members, utilizing broad criteria — from growth and success to philanthropy and community involvement.

Tuesday: Newcomer of the year

Wednesday: Manufacturer of the year

Thursday: Business advocate of the year

Friday: Entrepreneurial business of the year

Saturday: Retail business of the year

Sunday: Small business of the year

More Info

Breakout Box: 

What: Sara Jane Children’s Boutique

Where: 202 East 37th Street, Savannah

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays

For more information, visit sarajanekids.com. Check the website for upcoming mobile locations.

 

ABOUT THE SERIES

As 2014 comes to a close, the Savannah Morning News, Business in Savannah and savannahnow.com continue the tradition of profiling companies and organizations that made major contributions to the local business environment during the past year.

The Business in Savannah staff chose the honorees from a list of nominees submitted by local business and community members, utilizing broad criteria — from growth and success to philanthropy and community involvement.

Tuesday: Newcomer of the year

Wednesday: Manufacturer of the year

Thursday: Business advocate of the year

Friday: Entrepreneurial business of the year

Saturday: Retail business of the year

Sunday: Small business of the year

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