26-year old Kristi Pawlowicz does not fit the recent college graduate archetype. In the four years since she graduated from college, she has successfully started her own clothing boutique, 522 Envy (formerly known as Envy Evanston), and is working to grow it beyond just the one small store and into a mail order and boutique box business.
Kristi has three brothers and no sisters so growing up, fashion was never a big part of her life. When she was an undergraduate studying Strategic Communications at the University of Missouri, she took a part time job at the Envy location in Columbia where her best friend worked as well. She quickly found that working in a boutique allowed her to pursue her business interests while also providing her with a creative outlet.
When Kristi graduated, she moved back home to Chicago and took a job as an account manager at a wholesale company. While this job was more in line with her degree, she found that she missed the boutique environment and when given the opportunity to manage the Envy location in Springfield Missouri, she took it.
In the spring of 2014, Kristi took the big step of opening her own Envy location in Evanston. With its reasonable prices and proximity to the university, it has quickly become a go-to spot for university women looking for a cute sundress or jewelry.
This May, Kristi demonstrated her entrepreneurial sprit once again and broke off from the original Envy chain, re-launching the store as 522 Envy; providing her with many new opportunities to grow her business.
A big factor in this decision was that as part of a franchise, Kristi did not get to do all of the buying for the store. A lot of the merchandise Envy was able to snag wasn’t appropriate seasonally, because most of the Envy locations are in warmer climates than Evanston. Now, all of the inventory the store gets is stuff that will actually sell.
Kristi explains that another change that resulted from this is that “when we broke away from the Envy brand we launched right into our online store”. The online portion of the business has provided many opportunities for growth: 522 Envy can now reach far beyond the Northwestern and Evanston communities.
“People are really starting to respond to the online store,” says Kristi; one of her biggest goals for the future is to continuing growing that portion of the business.
Furthermore, along with the online store came “Style by 522”, an online membership program that sends 3 items to the customer’s doorstep every month. There is no obligation to buy, just keep what you like and send back what you don’t.
This kind of innovative and big picture thinking has largely been what has propelled Kristi forward as a businesswoman. She says that the most valuable advice has she received is “Everyone is watching and no one is watching”. You can’t always focus on the small details of your business, because no one will notice but at the same time you have to be cognizant because as small business owner, you are the only one holding yourself accountable.