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Inspiring Conversations with Grace Toelke of Glamour & Grace Boutique

Today we’d like to introduce you to Grace Toelke.

Hi Grace, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I have always been interested in business but never fully knew what area of business I loved until I took a class in high school. In that class we had a project where we had to create a business. I had no idea what kind of business I would ever want to create, so I chose a boutique, solely based on the fact that I loved shopping. After starting the research for that project I quickly realized how much I really enjoyed the entrepreneurship mindset and the boutique industry as a whole. I remember texting my mom, dad, and sister that day and telling them that I would have my own boutique one day.

Fast forward a few years, I chose to study Business Management and HR Management in college, with a minor in marketing, and while in college, I pushed my boutique dreams to the side. I think it was a mix of being too scared to go through with opening a business and the fact that I didn’t know how to. So instead, I decided to try a few other things. I got my real estate license as soon as I turned 18, worked in the office of a dance studio, and even worked a retail job for a short time. All the while, I couldn’t get the boutique out of my head, so I finally told myself it was now or never. I was young with minimal responsibilities, so I figured if it went south, now would be the time to have it do so. I parked my real estate license, switched my minor from marketing to entrepreneurship, and started quietly working on my business in January 2020. I chose a launch date of June 20 and began my research. It didn’t truly hit me that I was opening a business until April when I announced the opening as Coming Soon. The amount of love and support I got was unreal and gave me the confidence that I could do this thing!

I kept working behind the scenes from April 2020 to June 19, 2020. It was new to me, but I figured it out as I went. My website launched on June 20, 2020, and I officially opened my online boutique. I was 19 years old, still in college, working towards my degrees, and working full time. The next 10 months were full of nothing but learning and growing. I experienced so many firsts – my first order coming through, my first Facebook live, my first Holiday Season, and so much more. Then, in April of 2021, a location came up for rent in Rosebud, MO. I had always told myself I would love to have a storefront by the end of 2023, so I didn’t even think twice about this location, only having been in business for 10 months. My sister texted me and told me to look at it. After her persuading me for a few days, I inquired about the space, went to look at it, and fell in love. It was in my hometown, small (making it perfect for my first store), and in such a great area. I worked simultaneously on opening my first ever store and completing finals in college. Funny enough, I scheduled that store’s grand opening for May 22, 2021, the weekend right after my college graduation. It was a busy few weeks, but unlocking the doors to my first ever store was the best feeling, making all the long days and nights well worth it. I was working full time, so my store was open only on weekends. In August of that year, I went into full-time entrepreneurship. It was so scary at first, but the next step needed to continue to grow my business as I knew I could. I was able to extend the Rosebud store’s hours and continue to grow the online side of things too.

Again, I experienced so many firsts – my first in-store events, hiring my first employees, having to merchandise, all of it! Shortly after opening the store, I also launched our free mobile app, giving people even more ways to shop. We were now selling through a website, an app, and a store. It was awesome! However, I can never let myself relax. So in late March of this year, I was messing around online and came across a vacant space at the St. Louis Premium Outlets. Something about it felt right, so I emailed the mall manager and scheduled a time to view the space. As soon as I walked into this space, I knew it was the perfect spot. This location was three times the size of Rosebud, so as scary as it was, I set a grand opening date and got right to work getting this space ready to open, knowing there was so much more at stake. Then, on June 4th, 2022, I unlocked the doors to Glamour & Grace Boutique’s second location. It’s been a learning curve learning how to go from managing an e-commerce store to one physical location to two physical locations in under 2 years of business. However, I couldn’t be happier with what G&G has become!

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has been a learning curve for sure. The retail industry is ever-changing, which is probably the biggest struggle. As soon as I feel like I have figured something out, everything changes, forcing me to constantly test new marketing tactics, styles, and ways of conducting business in general. The same goes for growth. While it’s such an amazing thing that I am so thankful for, growing pains are real. When I started, systems and set ways of doing things weren’t necessary; however, the more we grow, the more they become essential to success. This has caused me to think outside the box to create the most efficient, effective systems, but even those are constantly changing. They also say, “comparison is the thief of joy,” which could not be more true. So many other boutiques make it easy to get trapped in the cycle of comparing myself to them. I have learned that every business has unique challenges, and the best thing to do is stay in your lane and keep pushing.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Glamour & Grace Boutique is a rapidly growing women’s clothing boutique aiming to instill confidence through clothing. We work hard to serve women of all sizes by offering sizes Small – 3XL while working towards eventually carrying XS as well. We specialize in offering modern, unique, on-trend styles from loungewear to workwear and everything in between. Our customer service sets us apart from others. I truly care about my customers and want to ensure they know that! To me, serving them is more than just a transaction. It’s about finding their style – what makes them glow! I firmly believe that when you look good, you feel good, and I want everyone to feel good! With that being said, I am most proud of our style. One thing I hear the most is how unique our items are. While I follow the trends, I also make sure I bring in unique pieces that you can’t find just anywhere. It keeps us different in the best way!

I want all readers to know that I am here to serve them! Styling is one of my favorite parts of the job, and to me, there’s no better feeling than watching someone’s face light up when they finally find their ‘style,’ and I was able to help them do so! I love getting to know my customers and building lasting relationships with them, so I never want them to be scared to ask for help, whether it’s through DMs or in person.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I want to let them know that when they shop small, they make a difference. They’re putting back into their community by allowing us to create jobs, sponsor local teams, donate to local organizations, and much more, whether they’re shopping small with me or somewhere else within the community. Their order is noticed, their order is appreciated, and sometimes their order (no matter how big or small) is the one thing that motivates that small business owner to keep going.

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