“How you can learn from the inside out”, with Lora LaPratt and Phil Laboon
Learn from the inside out: Working side jobs in the same industry as your business is a great way to make supplemental income while continuing your education. I did this when I started my business, and it helped me to hone in on my skills and what I wanted to specialize in to separate me from my competition.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lora LaPratt, of Shopping Girl XOXO, a personal stylist for clients nationwide. Lora prides her business on getting to know her clients on a personal level and helping to bring out each individual’s style based on their interests, body shape, coloring, and overall way of life! She works closely with local designers and boutiques to keep her clients looking unique and individual and opened the SGXOXO Showroom to support local designers as much as possible. She helps her clients to look and most importantly FEEL amazing in their new-found style! Based in Chicago with a degree in Fashion Merchandising, a BA in Organizational Communications, and stylist positions in Downtown Chicago, Lora has both the education and experience necessary to find what best fits you. She has close connections with department stores and “hidden gems” of boutiques throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured in The Health and Wellness Forum, WGN 720am with Jane and Pete, AEWheelhouse, Voyage Chicago, Huffington Post, Randolph Market’s Choice for Charity, Chicago View, Xoobies, Healthy Living, Glamhive, My Daily Find Chicago, CRAVE, Chiguide, Stef In The City, Monday Morning Jolt, Cheeky Chicago, WGN’s Turi Ryder Show, Central Lakeview Merchants Association, Chicago Woman, The Examiner, Fab-U-Wish, has been featured in and written numerous local blogs and hosts styling events in and around the Chicago area.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up I was always into fashion and experimenting with my style so as my family and friends began to graduate college and were looking for interview clothing, I started helping them to find new wardrobes and would ship clothing across the country. When they started referring their friends to me, I quickly realized I had a real passion for helping people feel confident in their own skin by finding the styles that fit and flatter them! I decided to get a second degree in fashion merchandising and just throw it out there as a fun part-time job. Luckily, I have amazing clients who I have been styling since the very beginning, and the referrals quickly helped me turn my part-time job for fun into a full-time dream job!
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First, can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
There are so many stories of highs and lows over the eleven years that I could share. I think that roller coaster of owning your own business will always be there, but I’ve learned to ride the rollercoaster with my arms in the air, enjoying the rush of it all!
When I first started my business, I had five jobs! Yes, five! I worked at corporate stores like Club Monaco and Anthropology doing window displays, and I managed a local Chicago boutique which is what lead me to my passion for supporting the amazing Chicago boutiques and designers before all else. And, I also bartended, which helped me to realize how much I love working with and getting to know all different types of people which another huge part is also of being a stylist!
The beginning years were all about having faith that the clientele would continue to grow, spreading the word of what I offered and really honing in on what I wanted to specialize in as a stylist. I would drop a job every six months to a year until I was able to run my business full time! When my business became my sole income was definite “pinch me” moment!
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I am beyond lucky to have a family that has always supported reaching for your dreams, no matter how crazy and far fetched they might be! I also have a husband who has been by my side since the very beginning. He even helping me come up with my business name when being a stylist was just a dream. I think the idea of giving up has never really been in my mind when it comes to something I believe in. I’m sure this is due to the amazing support system I have.
So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?
I love everything about being a stylist and running my own company. I know that is a very rare thing to be able to say, so I never take it for granted. I’m not going to lie, every single day still requires a little bit of grit, some much more than others, but I’ve reached the point of knowing that the hard work always pays off in the end. There will always be busier seasons and slower seasons, especially in the fashion industry. I’ve learned over the years to make the most of my downtime by catching up on the behind-the-scenes work like social media, paperwork and preparing for those super busy seasons that are right around the corner.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Oh geez. One of my very first clients, over eleven years ago, was a Styling Session at her high-rise condo downtown. I borrowed my friend’s car and drove a massive number of fabulous pieces to her place. Parked the car, headed inside, had an excellent styling session and five hours later left with all of my suitcases and dress bags to find that my friend’s car had been towed! I embarrassingly called my new client to ask if I could come inside to figure things out. (Which I would NEVER do today!)
Luckily taxi services have come a long way in eleven years (Uber is my office away from my office now!) I quickly learned driving to and from my clients and even boutiques for pulls is not worth the stress of finding and paying for parking. I’ve built Uber into my business expenses and get so much of my work done while having my own personal driver! 😊
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I hear two things over and over again from new clients who decide to work with me as to what makes me stand out against the competition. The first is that I focus on styling my clients in locally made clothing and pulling from local boutiques before all else. The SGXOXO Showroom has been a game changer for my business in helping me to display these great designers that aren’t always easily accessible, and the showroom is also something that sets me apart! It is a beautiful, warm, and welcoming place to be styled when a client is from out of town or doesn’t want to meet at their home. Because of the showroom, I’ve been lucky enough to work with multiple clients from countries across the globe who are happy to have a fancy showroom to visit and be styled in while they’re on their trip to our great city of Chicago!
The second thing that I believe sets me apart is my approachable personality. I love getting to know my clients on a personal level to help them find clothing that is best for not only their body shape, coloring, etc. but also their unique personality and life! I’m not the type of stylist who is just going to throw the hottest trend on everyone I work with. I think one of the most exciting parts of my job is to truly find each client’s individuality and help that shine with their wardrobe!
I always offer a free consultation in person in the SGXOXO Showroom so that we can meet, discuss exactly what they are looking for from a stylist and customize the perfect package for each client while instantly putting them at ease with the process of having a stylist! Champagne, tea, coffee, and cookies always help too! 😊
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I think my biggest piece of advice would be to stay open to new ideas and collaborations! I am always brainstorming different ways to work with other amazing small businesses in Chicago! It keeps things fresh, gets your name out to a new group of people and you never know what client you might meet at your next event!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I wouldn’t be able to do this dream job without the support of so many fabulous boutiques and designers throughout the city! Because I consider them my coworkers and spend so much time with them throughout the year while doing pulls, I started throwing an annual SGXOXO Holiday Party four years ago in the SGXOXO Showroom! I invite all my clients, designers and boutique owners. It’s such a great way for everyone to meet each other, build new connections, and for my clients to meet the designers and owners of the clothing that now hangs in their beautiful closets! There’s something special about knowing exactly who/where your garments came from.
I also must shout out my extremely supportive husband who has always been there to talk me through stressful business situations, to send me a good luck text before every client, to help me carry my suitcases full of pulls, and so much more. His support is endless, and I’m so grateful to have him in my corner.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The number one reason I love what I do is that I get to help women not only to look their best but most importantly FEEL confident and beautiful in their own skin. I adore that I can brighten my client’s days, so I feel like I get to bring goodness to the world one client at a time.
On a larger scale, SGXOXO has partnered with Hope For The Day, an absolutely amazing organization that has a very special place in my heart. Hope For The Day teaches mental illness education and proactive suicide prevention. We have some events coming up at the end of the year to raise money, but for now, you can donate to this organization by following the link! https://my.hftd.org/fundraiser/1843361
(Choose) What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Success Doesn’t Happen Over Night: Someone told me when I first started my business that on average it takes five years for a new business to begin making an income. Having this in mindset me up for success, helped me plan and not to get discouraged.
2. Never get too comfortable: I believe it’s important always to be setting new goals to reach for. Every year I make sure to set a significant business goal, and there hasn’t been a year that passes that I haven’t achieved that goal. It keeps me pushing myself and also helps me to focus on what is essential when setting those goals.
3. Learn from the inside out: Working side jobs in the same industry as your business is a great way to make supplemental income while continuing your education. I did this when I started my business, and it helped me to hone in on my skills and what I wanted to specialize in to separate me from my competition.
4. Figure out what it is that makes you happy: If you can build your career around your happiness, you are one of the lucky ones. As long as you are striving for an ultimate goal that makes you happy you will work your butt off to make it happen.
5. Always learn from your mistakes. There will be troubles along the way, but as long as you take a mental note of what you can do to prevent it in the future you’re always moving forward!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would start a body positivity movement!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
About the Author:
Phil Laboon wants to live in a world where actions speak louder than words, people shout their stories from roof tops, and where following one’s passion is the norm. As a serial entrepreneur and investor, his personal and professional life has spotlighted in hundreds of publications such as People Magazine, Rueters, Forbes, Inc, HuffingtonPost, and CBS This Morning. Phil also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column on the subject of how great leaders build great companies. When he’s not building memorable brands or launching exciting startups, you can find him backpacking exotic countries looking for new inspiration and challenges. If you would like to book Phil for an entertaining speaking engagement about inbound marketing or growing a business, he can be contacted HERE.