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Exploring Life & Business with Puja Patel of Blush Boutique

Today we’d like to introduce you to Puja Patel.

Hi Puja, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I feel like the beginning of my story is typical for a first-generation kid. When it came time to choose a college major, I chose a pre-med track at Saint Louis University, because in my head it was either that or Pre-Law. When you hear about the struggles your parents have gone through to get to where they are, you want to do everything to make them proud.

Unfortunately, I was not as dedicated to the idea of being a doctor as I had hyped myself up to be in high school. I wanted to believe it, but I was terrible at Chemistry. I suddenly had no idea what I was going to do, and I chose to continue my studies in Psychology for the sake of graduating. After graduating in 2013, it was a weird state of post-grad limbo doing random jobs from serving on the riverboats to after-school childcare.

It was during this time I really felt lost and spent a lot of time daydreaming about what my definition of a perfect career would be. I was searching for something that played into my interests but could help people in a different way; where I could be creative and be my own boss. So, I decided I would love to have my own boutique one day. I had always been into fashion, but it never seemed like a viable option before.

I ordered a few books on startups and retail basics and started jotting down notes on what I envisioned for my own future boutique. But I knew I couldn’t just dive into it. I needed the experience to get my toes wet, so to speak. The next step was finding a job in a local boutique. I started searching hashtags on Instagram and came across a boutique called Blush that was hiring.

I got the job in 2013 and instantly fell in love with the work. After a couple of years of working as a Sales Associate and Visual Merchandiser at Blush, I felt a calling to go back to school to get a degree in Fashion Merchandising. I completed my second Bachelor’s at Fontbonne University in the Fall of 2019 while still maintaining my position at Blush.

Shortly after, in the Summer of 2020, the owner of Blush at the time asked me if I would be interested in buying the store! I had just graduated, we were in the early, hairy stages of a worldwide pandemic, and my dream was just dangling within arms reach. To say, it was a risky time to buy a business would be an understatement.

But, I had grown to really love the business and the people I worked with and felt so connected to the culture and atmosphere around the store. And it was exactly my vibe – laid back, boho, peaceful yet fun. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

So, after lots and lots of thought, planning, and paperwork… I became the proud owner of Blush Boutique in November of 2020!

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Surprisingly, I would say my journey into this career was smooth, and I’m so thankful. I attribute it to starting at the bottom and sticking with the company for seven years through all of its growth, ownership changes, and getting the opportunity to see the ins and outs of pretty much every aspect of the business.

We were all given the opportunity to learn what we wanted and encouraged to take ownership and think for ourselves. I think this really helped my transition into ownership because there wasn’t too much I had to learn.

It also was a stroke of luck that I did my college internship in Merchandise Buying, so I had a pretty intensive experience learning that vital side of the business from another local boutique.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Blush is a women’s boutique located in Kirkwood, MO. We specialize in women’s contemporary fashion, which means elevated, trendy, designer aesthetics at a moderate price range. We also carry jewelry, hats, home goods, beauty products, shoes, handbags, and a small selection of doggy accessories. I think what sets us apart from others is that we’re laid back, and casual, and we keep it real.

We give our genuine opinion and love to provide one-on-one customer service. We try to grow our relationships with our regular customers, so when you come in, you come to see a friend and do some shopping as well. I’m proud of the fact that we haven’t succumbed to the pressure to over-advertise or over-promote ourselves. I think one of the most annoying things as a consumer is to get bombarded by advertisements, promotions, and the “like & share” Instagram tactics.

We want people to follow us because we have truly earned it, and they want to see more of what we’re posting and saying. I think one of the biggest takeaways that I want people to know and understand is that boutiques and fast-fashion companies have very different values, from who makes their clothing to how they treat their employees. Therefore, the quality and price of products are going to reflect that.

As much as we’re in the business of selling clothing, we want to share the message of reducing consumer fashion waste by buying quality over quantity. See if there is a story behind the clothing you’re buying – is that story one you would want to retell?

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
Growing up, I felt like a nerdy kid in school and loved science and math. I also spent a lot of time reading, playing outside, and going shopping with my mom.

I think that’s where my love for fashion started. I read all of the teen and adult fashion magazines and tried to grow up too fast with my style. But I always felt like even though I was a nerdy kid, I was at least ahead of fashion trends, so that helped my confidence a lot too.

I learned early on that when you look good, you feel good! And I thank my Mom for allowing me to express that in my own way, even though my embarrassing, punk-emo phase in high school!

Contact Info:

  • Email: blushteam@blushstl.com
  • Website: www.blushstl.com
  • Instagram: @blushstl

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