Ashley LaBarre is the owner of Tropical Envy Boutique. From resort-style clothes to artisan jewelry, the boutique offers everything you need to feel like you’re on vacation year-round.
Though based in Brandon, Mississippi, Tropical Envy also has a robust online store so shoppers from all over can experience the peace and joy that is vacation life.
Can you tell me a little bit about what you do?
Tropical Envy is a resort-style clothing boutique that offers resort-style wear for your vacations or your staycations! We have easy-breezy clothes that you would find at the beach, including coverups, tops, shorts, and dresses. We also offer natural stone jewelry and other accessories including sunglasses, hats, and bags.
Our candles and bath products are made of all-natural ingredients that really make you feel like you are on vacation. We offer gift items that are mostly beach and tropical themed including decor, cups, straws, and other unique gifts you won’t find anywhere else.
What made you decide to start Tropical Envy Boutique?
My mother and I have always loved the beach, and we noticed there are not that many places around that offer a style of resort wear that you can get year-round. That is when we got the idea of Tropical Envy.
You know the way you feel when you are on vacation … free spirit, stress-free, and just happy. We want our customers to be able to feel that all year round. We bring in sweaters and great fall and winter clothing during those seasons, but our peak season is spring and summer. We will keep those kinds of items all year round for people who like to “fly south for the winter.”
How do you choose the pieces you sell? What are some of your favorites?
We really want our customers to feel confident and beautiful, so we really enjoy picking out pieces that cater to a lot of different body styles. We carry sizes small through 2XL so every woman can find something that they love and feel beautiful in.
We really strive to bring happiness to people. I love helping women who come in thinking they can’t find anything they like because they “hate shopping” and “hate the way they look in everything.” I enjoy being their personal shopper and watching them come out of the dressing room standing a bit taller with a smile from ear to ear because finally, they feel beautiful.
That is what I look forward to every day, and that is what I think about when choosing my inventory. We have a linen collection from Umgee that is our top seller, and it encompasses everything about the beach and vacation, but they are cute enough to wear to work and your everyday life even if you are not on vacation.
What’s your favorite part of running your own business?
I love ordering new inventory! It is so much fun because we are a small business, so I have gotten to know my customers really well.
When I am searching for new things, I often think “Oh, I know exactly who is going to love this.” Then when that item comes in, I call them and tell them that I have something I think they will love. They come in and love it!
That makes me feel like I am doing something right. It goes back to just trying to bring happiness to people. It also makes people feel good that I thought of them, and I believe that is what keeps them coming back.
What are some of the biggest challenges of running a business?
Our biggest challenge was probably in the beginning when we were trying to figure out what to order and how much to order of a certain thing.
You don’t want inventory to sit too long and it not circulating through. It can get stagnant if you don’t have constant inventory coming in, but it is hard to get new inventory when the old inventory isn’t selling.
How does Patriot’s Full Service Payroll help you run Tropical Envy?
We love Patriot! It makes it so easy to process tax documents, payroll, keep up with hours, and employee portals. The employees can log in to their portal and receive tax documents and their direct deposits.
It really keeps bookkeeping at a minimum and gives me more time to spend building the store and spending time with customers.
When it comes to your business, what are you most proud of?
2020 was a hard year for everyone and especially for retail businesses where people didn’t really want or need to spend money on things that were materialistic.
We made it through, and that was only our second year in business, so that was really rough. Our amazing and loyal customers knew it was going to be hard so they continued to come in or shop online with us. Even if they just bought a gift card to use later, they knew any amount would help.
I think I am most proud of my customers honestly and their loyalty because that is what keeps us going when times get tough.
What words of advice do you have for someone hoping to start their own business?
Know your demographic and who you are selling to. Have a specific target audience and go for that.
Also, you have to love what you are selling. For me, I love the clothes and jewelry we sell. I wear them constantly, so it is fun to be out on the town and people ask me where I got my outfit so that is my chance to earn a new customer and friend. I use our bath products because I believe in natural products.
You have to love it, live it, and breathe it. It is what puts food on the table and buys my daughter her dance costume and my son his soccer balls. Support small businesses, and you will see that your money goes straight back into the community.
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