Lori Troutwine has always loved fashion. During her time at Centerville Senior High school she was elected Most Fashionable. But this wasn’t just some zany girl with a talent for making thrift store finds her own. She wanted her own clothing store, even then.
Lori first chose (and succeeded in) a more conventional career path. But even while pouring time and education into a respectable HR position, her dream of owning a store continued to tug at her.
How did Lori, as a mother of four, leave the security of her position at Reid Health to follow her entrepreneurial yearnings? What steps did she take to keep her business afloat during times of difficulty? How does Lori maintain a semblance of balance between her roles of single mother, small business owner, and involved community member? Let’s find out!
Lori Troutwine Is Ballsy
Lori started her business, Luxe Lizzies, in a bold way. She had a long term career in the HR department at Reid Health. Lori worked there for fourteen years (starting as a lowly secretary) and has a bachelors degree in human resources and fine arts. For years she quietly watched her retirement fund grow and grow. Her two youngest children were small and she was starting a Master’s program when she realized she didn’t want to be in the corporate world any longer.
Travelling for work, she’d tour famous shop room floors in her downtime and think, “I could do that.” Lori was ready to put her money where her mouth was. But she needed money. So she cashed in her retirement fund.
I asked her if she had any naysayers of her bold plan. “No, not really,” she responded, “But I didn’t share either. I had a plan of execution. I’m pretty hard-headed when I have something I really want to do. If my mind is set, I’m going to find a way to make it happen.”
Choosing Passion Over a Paycheck
But startup capital is just that: for starting up. The retirement fund had taken a hit when acquiring the space, inventory, displays, etc. There was so much to do but not enough money for employees. What’s a new business owner to do?
Cut coupons, for one. She remembers “going from spending $300 to trying to coupon it down to $75. I’d stay up half the night, finding coupons.” This went on for a couple years.
Work late, for another. Lori found herself at her shop at all hours, doing all jobs. She waited on customers, completed tax forms, arranged items, and cleaned the toilet. There was no job too big or too small in those early days (not that Lori is afraid to roll up her sleeves these days, either).
These were the times Lori didn’t think she would make it:
When I first started, I had self doubt. When I was struggling…I almost gave up. Because it just felt so overwhelming. Owning a business is a 24 hour [endeavor]…it’s endless. At any point in time I can find ten things to do. And [feel] that I’m not doing enough. I’m actually surprised that I made it through [that rough time]. And that I’m doing very well now.
Innovation in Adversity
Things started to go more smoothly. Just when Lori felt as if she’d found her rhythm, the orange cones of downtown construction showed up. At the worst possible time. “My block was shut down right before Christmas time. Right in the fourth quarter. That’s a huge time for businesses. Most businesses get 50% of their income for the year in the fourth quarter.”
Lori turned to social media with her woes. Not to complain—but to experiment with a form of selling her wares live over Facebook. She had already been posting selfies of her favorite outfits and noticed the interest generated. She had seen other boutiques go live and show their goods, but stop short of selling. Lori wondered if she could create an online, real time auction of sorts to sell her goods.
In the first live streams, Lori was more nervous and scripted. Soon, Lori loosened up, finding customers appreciated “realness, anyway.” These sessions became as much about sociability as shopping when customers began to connect with each other in the comments. Lori had found a way to turn poor in-store sales into online profit, while still creating an enjoyable experience for her customers. “It’s a like a girls night out, almost,” she gushes.
Of Course She Doesn’t Have It All, Don’t Be Naive
Most days, Lori can be found in her shop, Luxe Lizzies, as this woman knows how to hustle. But there is also her kids’ games, interior decorating, quality time with family and friends, and community events that demand her attention as well. She seems to slip between these roles with skill and ease.
Lori will tell you that she doesn’t mean to make it look easy. Cuz it’s not. “Some weeks it feels like I’m failing, I’m going to be honest. I haven’t spent much time with my kids, or vice versa, I haven’t spent enough time at my store. But there’s good weeks that go with the bad weeks. You just pick yourself back up and move on.” And she would know.
Lori starts each day (early) with her to-do list and does her best not to be frustrated by how many tasks are left over from the day before. She knows she’ll eventually get it all done.
Ok, One of the Secrets Is Not Sleeping
When I question Lori about how on Earth she gets everything done (“Where do you get your crack?” I ask, deadpan), she is sheepish about her lack of sleep. “I may not get a whole lot of sleep some weeks,” she admits.
Lori is an early rising night owl. She loves to use the time after her kids are asleep to do the majority of her ordering and paperwork for Luxe Lizzies. “I do all that late at night,” she says, “it’s nothing to me to be up until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning.”
Recently, research has shown that too much sleep can be as harmful as too little, anyway. Lori’s ahead of the curve.
Lori Troutwine is a helluva woman and interviewing her was a treat. I laughed, I cried, I was inspired (OK, I didn’t really cry). I’m thrilled to share her insights about the joy in risk, the potentials in trying something new, the power in following one’s passion, and the grace in forgiving oneself.