Melissa Voss | Editor
For many, a business comes from a dream and humble beginnings mixed in with hard work and late hours. For Filly Flair’s founder and CEO Laura Benson, this is no exception. After finding a need in the market of affordable women’s clothing, Benson grew her online boutique over the course of 10 years, starting with only $110 and a box of inventory in her basement. Now, Benson has far outgrown her basement and now has a 20,000 square-foot warehouse north of Sioux Falls off of I-29, shipping over 2000 orders a day.
When starting out, Benson believed that her homegrown roots of a kid working on a farm built her sense of business.
“I am an entrepreneur, It is in my DNA and I never really looked at it as “pursuing to create a business”, for me, I saw an opportunity in a niche market and (at the time I started) was a broke kid, working on the farm and looking to make some extra money,” she states.
Seeing Filly Flair’s success and popularity grow year after year, Benson found that the success of her business tied to the individuals she works with on a day to day basis.
“It’s been really fun to hit some big goals and obtain them, but I have learned so much about myself, and that the only way to really scale a business is with the right team. I am extremely proud of the team I have that gives 110% and makes work fun,” she says.
Filly Flair’s success did not come about without challenges. Benson explained that throughout the course of Filly Flair’s operation, there has been a personal challenge of balancing work and personal life.
“I can honestly say I feel like I am finally making some progress on that, but it’s hard for me to shut it off. My life has changed quite a bit since Filly Flair started but it’s been awesome to see it grow,” she says. “I always thought with growth you would have more time. We have 32 employees, and I work more now than when we had 2. There are a lot more moving parts, and a whole team relying on me to get my job done. The responsibility level, in my mind, has changed the most, because now I have a team to not only be accountable to, but ensure that they all have a job they can come to and a place to be proud of. It’s been really fun to raise my kids in it, and see them ask questions about “why we sell clothes and why there are so many people at the warehouse!””
However, these challenges have been matched with Filly Flair’s ability to adapt to the ever-changing e-commerce market.
“I have seen more changes in my industry than I can count, but I love change and growth, and that’s probably why I love e-commerce so much. It’s the constant change and “game” of figuring out what’s next, how to do it differently and better, and how to navigate when social media platforms change,” Bensons states. “Facing adversity will truly tell what a company is made of and that year made me a better business owner/operator.”
For anyone with an idea of starting a business, Benson gives four pieces of advice:
Do not wait until you have the perfect anything, the sooner you actually get going, the sooner you will learn, get better and grow your business. I see too many people waiting, hesitating, making a million excuses as to why they can’t yet, and every day you wait, is a day that you could have learned and grown your business.
2. Get tough skin, and stop caring about what others say about your idea or business.
I didn’t tell a soul I was launching Filly Flair until it was already off the ground, I knew I needed to focus on just doing it, and if I would have let opinions in, there would have been a lot more ideas, (good or bad) that could have made me stall from starting.
3. Make sure you know WHO you want to sell to.
You can’t market to the whole world, so dial in on your market, and know why they should buy from you instead of someone else.
4. There are only 2 ways to scale a business, it’s either having time or money.
I did not have money, so I worked for 4 years, and never took money out of the business, I put it back in so I could build inventory. I also worked until Midnight, on Saturdays, and did whatever it took. It won’t be a 9-5 job, but if you love it and believe it in enough it won’t matter.