Proving that it’s possible to transform a hobby into a full-time business, Jennifer Siegeris matched passion with wisdom and opened a gorgeous (and growing) little shop for children who love to dance!
It may seem like a niche idea for a business, but in Wimbledon ballet dancing is a popular hobby among children. There are a dozen dance schools in the area, one of which is run by Jennifer Siegeris. That’s why, two years ago, she decided to open an accompanying shop. A small but carefully perfectly curated boutique of dance essentials for ages three and up. The name leaves no room for confusion, The Ballet Boutique Wimbledon.
I so realised that there was a chance to cut a link in the supply chain.
– I had run my own dance school for years – and then used a wholesale dance supplier. But that was much more expensive than going directly to the manufacturers – I so realised that there was a chance to cut a link in the supply chain, says Jennifer.
– Some years every child is dancing, others not so much. It depends on a wide range of factors: how many children are being born, what dance schools are hosting shows, and which children decide to take exams.
This fluctuation is one of Jennifer’s toughest challenges, and creates some complicated sums when you’re deciding how many satin slippers and pink tutus to stock up on.
Getting some support
Two years of running The Ballet Boutique Wimbledon has taught Jennifer Siegeris many things. The demand for ballet clothes normally rises three times a year. Also, it’s key to maintain good relationships with all dance schools in the region to stay in business. Why? Because as she knew, most parents ask their dance schools where to buy – making dance schools an essential marketing channel.
It’s so easy to overspend on stock, it was really a hit and miss in the beginning.
– I approached most dance schools in the area before I launched – because I wanted to emphasize and make it very clear that I was available for all of them. Not just my own! I also wanted the shop to be somewhere customers could get advice and information about local dance schools, and for teachers to market their schools.
How did you have the guts to get going?
– I had been talking about it for a long time, until my husband Jakob showed 3-4 potential places for a shop – that became the trigger. You could call him the enabler, she laughs.
The most difficult side of the business
– I had a tiny clue of what I had to be buying – from my dance school perspective. But running my own shop was totally different, when we launched I got approached by a lot of sales reps, Jennifer remembers.
So-called ‘inventory management’ is an ongoing challenge for every shop owner. It’s about eliminating unnecessary inventory to free up cash for other more urgent sides of the business. For someone selling highly seasonal items, such as ballet accessories, the optimal weeks of supply may vary.
– It’s so easy to overspend on stock, says Jennifer and admits that it was really a hit and miss in the beginning. About one year in, she started to get a more realistic feel for how to go about it.
Why offline is important
– Although we do offer an online service, the sizing makes online sales of these types of clothes very difficult. When they get it online – they have to deal with the hassle of sending it back. They’d rather pop in here with their kids and finding the right size from the very beginning. Feedback from local customers has been overwhelming and we made it into the final of the Merton Best Business Awards 2017 for Best Customer Service.
I still remember the excitement of going to the dance shop as a child, it was always a highlight.
What are your next steps?
– I hope The Ballet Boutique, Wimbledon is the first shop of many. We are concentrating on improving our online visibility and hope to become busy there too. We wish to give the customer a personal and magical experience each time they visit us. I still remember the excitement of going to the dance shop as a child, it was always a highlight.