Resiliency of ALX: She's Unique

Resiliency of ALX: She's Unique

By Katya Ananieva, Owner

In 2012, my mother, Sibila, and I took over She’s Unique, a jewelry boutique in Old Town. Being co-owners of a brick-and-mortar store, we were obviously worried about what effect COVID would have on our business. We knew we had to pivot, but we never expected that our pivot would not only allow our business to survive but to thrive.

When COVID began ramping, we closed our doors on March 16th, before we were even mandated to do so. We’re small – around 600 square feet. It was the right thing to do. I just remember my mom in a total panic. She could not wrap her head around being closed. I said, “This will be short, it’s just temporary. We will be ok.” Only two weeks to flatten the curve, remember?

Of course, two weeks turned into almost three months. During that very first month, I decided to focus hard on the online store because we didn’t have any other options. We started the transition by photographing every piece because you have to photograph the product to put it online. We went from 30% - 40% of our inventory online to 90% in a matter of a month.

Aside from ensuring our online shop was fully stocked, I thought about how we could promote sales. We needed to be more proactive - more dramatic. The day after we closed, I jumped on Instagram stories and announced a 20% off sale, free shipping and local pick up. It resonated with people that if a small business is willing to take a hit, we can all do our part.

I began publishing camera-facing stories every day. I felt like I needed to interact with people and tell them what was happening – show my face and tell them what was going on from our perspective; the perspective of a small business that was now closed. I talked about everything from jewelry, to what was trending, to applying for emergency loans. I even took strolls down King Street to show everyone how empty Old Town really was. This reached people on a very personal level. It was a little escape for everyone who was indoors, quarantining during an uncertain and scary time.

Shortly thereafter, we began receiving quite a few local sales and then we began receiving orders from all over the country. I never thought, in a million years, that we would turn our business into a successful online shop, but we did... and it was incredible.

As for the future, the store, our brick-and-mortar location, isn't going away anytime soon. It's like my baby. I also just launched my own 14k gold line! I love being part of the design and production process. It's proof that the past year pushed me to do something I had been dreaming of for a long time but never had the time for. I’m so excited about this next step in my journey.

I think the biggest lesson for me is when you have a big idea, don’t sleep on it! Don’t wait for a global pandemic to reimagine your business or pivot to something better. Take the risks, act on your creative ideas. The payoff is worth it!

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VIP Alexandria Magazine is proud to present The Resiliency Issue. Featuring small business COVID-19 success stories, as told by the owners who lived in it, learned to pivot + survived.

You can read all of our Resiliency Stories in our digital issue HERE.

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