Introducing Stories with Clothes
Bionic spoke to Abbey Booth, a leading body shape expert and personal stylist based in Hertfordshire. We got the low down on her brainchild ‘Stories with Clothes’, a unique body confidence site which helps customers embrace what suits them. We chatted about her highs, lows and why she loves boosting the self-esteem of others.
“I’m a full-time personal stylist and the inspiration behind my business was to bring back the joy of getting dressed every day” says Abbey, who proudly runs Stories With Clothes as well as hosting popular workshops via her site. Every aspect of her business is about empowering clients to look and feel good in what they wear.
“I work with so many different people” She tells us “But a lot of my clients are female entrepreneurs who no longer have to wear dark corporate suits, they want something fashionable, clothes that help them stand out and not fade into the background.”
Before Stories with Clothes burst onto the scene, Abbey already had wardrobes full of expert style knowledge, she’d trained hard and even ran her own boutique for a few years before she fancied a career revamp.
“It’s just me running Stories with Clothes, it’s been going for five years now. Before that I ran a boutique so got a feel of what women wanted from clothes and different styles.”
Pairing like a pro
But business hasn’t always been rosy, Abbey says the biggest struggle for her is keeping the site flowing through dry patches. Plus, like many other SME owners, the cost-of-living crisis has made her rethink how she spends money on her business.
“I think I’m quite good at adapting and being able to pivot when inevitable changes happen in the business” Abbey says thoughtfully before continuing:
“But the inconsistency is what I find most stressful. Sometimes I can be so busy and not have time to do the things that keep the business running smoothly. Then the next week it can be quiet, and I’ll worry about not having enough clients!” She laughs.
“It’s quite seasonal, really. Trying to manage the business around that can be tough. I just launched membership packages though and I think that will help a lot.” She tells us.
Abbey confided that another huge pressure she faces is keeping her vibrant energy alive and kicking, especially through lockdown where face-to-face stylist appointments were impossible.
“I think the biggest thing is changing the energy and focus of the business. It’s exciting when you have your own business, but it can be hard to keep that same energy going. I had to change my energy during lockdown and go completely online. But the silver lining is I’ve made some really valuable connections online and kept these clients long-term” She explains, proudly.
She also chatted more about her workshops and told us how they took off, becoming steadily popular with customers all over the UK.
“The workshops really took off when I launched them, I think partly because people were looking for a connection during lockdown, there was a lot of change in people’s lives, a lot of people gained or lost weight and wanted to find out more about their new body shape”
Boosting Self Belief
And what about the cost-of-living crisis, has it affected how Abbey runs Stories With Clothes?
“It has definitely changed the way I do things; I have a garden studio I love working in, but it can be expensive to heat. If I’m not going to be there- for example, today I’m out co working-I make sure I turn the studio heating off the day before. The crisis has made me more aware of the cost of everything.” She replies, before going on:
“At first, I worried about how it would impact the customers, I thought maybe I would lose clients. But I’m fortunate that the clients I have seem to see the value of what I do and keep using me. I’ve actually had the busiest March I’ve ever had, which was surprising!”
Bionic quizzed Abbey more on the workshops, and she told us her clients love being provided with the tools to learn about their own bodies.
“One of my most popular workshops is called ‘Body Shape Confidence’, some people already have a basic idea of their body shape, but maybe it’s changed and they want to understand it better”
She adds: “It’s a real variety of people who come along. It’s a really great way to see what its like to work with a personal stylist.”
Speaking of experiencing what it’s like to have a stylist, Bionic asked if Abbey had stumbled across any misconceptions surrounding her niche. She said she had.
“There are definitely misconceptions around personal styling. A lot of people assume it’s only for the rich. But running my business has been great for showing that’s not necessarily the case. It’s great to have people coming in and finding the service is not as expensive as they thought and it’s been really lovely, I’ve made some long-term connections that way.”
And are there any downsides of keeping a business running alone? Keeping all plates spinning and all cogs turning, so to speak? Abbey says isolation can be a huge factor.
“Being a business owner can be really lonely, when I was running the boutique there was always people in and out of the shop. There was always some kind of interaction. But I didn’t really take that into consideration when I started this business, it can be quite isolating.”
Abbey said that her clients make it all worthwhile though and she loves influencing their self-worth and encouraging positive views of themselves.
“I’m really blessed that I get to work with so many different people. My demographic is often women in their early fifties who maybe haven’t ever known what their style is.”
“But one of my favourite clients has to be a lovely lady who came for a body and colour shape. She’d been told by her mother since she was a young child that she was ‘ugly’ and ‘fat’ and it stayed with her all her life. It was really impactful to have the opportunity to change someone’s outlook on themselves. It’s really rewarding and she left feeling more confident in herself!” Abbey says proudly.
She continued: “It’s strange because a lot of the women I work with are running really successful businesses, but everyone has vulnerabilities. Some clients feel guilt about spending money on themselves, they think they should be spending it on their businesses or children, but its all about building self-belief and confidence.”
Abbey believes her personality shines through in her service and that’s what makes all the difference, giving Stories With Clothes that extra sparkle.
“I think because I’ve got so much experience in styling and I’m highly qualified, that’s what makes the business unique. But I’ve also got so much positive energy. I think that’s a superpower and people respond to that.” She says grinning.
Abbey has lots of future plans though, and ideally would love to collaborate more.
“I’ve always thought about having a small team of other stylists, in the future. I’m definitely not ready to do that right now, but I’d love to expand in that way. I’ve also thought about collaboration and sharing skills with other small boutiques.”
Sharing Stories on Social
Social media is a huge asset for small businesses like Abbey’s, but Bionic was curious, does she use it as her main form of marketing?
“All my marketing is totally through social media. It has shifted slightly now as I’m doing in person events which can generate some interest. But 80% per cent of clients find me via Instagram. People can get a real taste of your personality via social media, and you can showcase outfits and styles visually.” Abbey tells us enthusiastically.
And what advice would Abbey give to someone else wanting to start up their own business?
“Make sure you are utterly committed, and you’re prepared for the bad times as well as the good. There’s always something around the corner, take the pandemic for example. You need to be resilient, versatile and really determined!” She says.
So, if Abbey could go back to the start of her business journey, is there anything she’d change? She thinks hard before answering.
“I would invest in branding a lot earlier than I did, working on my brand got me thinking about my business values but it’s only the last few years I’ve realised the importance of it. I’m an expert in styling but not in marketing, so I wish I’d asked for outside help a lot earlier than I did rather than struggle on my own.”
Speaking of struggling, lots of SMEs are still trying to bounce back after the pandemic, plus they’re now feeling the pinch from the cost-of-living crisis and the energy market collapse. Does Abbey think it’s vital to shop small where you can? She says yes and cites the community aspect as a decider for shoppers.
“I think there’s so much passion involved in your local community; you’re always going to get better service. Small businesses really care about the service they give you, plus they literally do a happy dance when you order! But I think it’s important because it really supports your own community.” She trills.