Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessie Senese.
Jessie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started Shop Sweet Lulu out of my home in the southern suburb of Frankfort, IL in the summer of 2010. I can’t say it was a new idea to me at the time, because I had started a very similar business back in 2001 – but without social media or a good ecommerce platform, my idea fell flat. But I had always loved planning elaborate parties for my children, and especially loved sourcing all of the unique items to create a party theme that was thoughtfully curated without just buying everything from one collection at a big-box party store. So that August of 2010, I started out with an etsy shop, carrying some lines of products that I sourced from all over the world, including some trendy pieces like colorful paper straws and glass milk bottles that were really hard to find at the time! As the first boutique party store of its kind, the business quickly gained attention from the media, and our products were soon mentioned in every national magazine that you can imagine. Business took off from there, and today we work out of an 8,000 square foot warehouse, where a team of “lulus” packs up orders all day to ship out all over the world. We’re still just about a mile down the street from our house, though, and still a very close-knit, small business.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced with running my business is competition! When we opened up, there was nothing else like our store – there wasn’t even a “party supply” category to fit into. We must have made it look too fun, because shortly after we opened, ’boutique party stores’ started popping up all over the place. In the end, though, I think it’s made our business stronger, because we’ve had to make sure we had better customer service, faster shipping times, higher quality products, and a better selection – just in order to stay in the game. It’s forced me to be malleable – if everyone is going to carry the same products as us, what can we do that’s different? We’re always looking for new items to carry that are unique or proprietary. We’ve come up with our own party line and produce a vast array of custom items in-house because other stores can’t carry them.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Shop Sweet Lulu – what should we know?
Shop Sweet Lulu is a boutique party store, offering a curated selection of party pretties from around the globe. Our vintage-inspired aesthetic is pretty, simple, and sweet.
Our online store is set up so that customers can shop by color, product, or themed party collection. The collections offer products that work together as though a party stylist helped select them – it’s better than a party kit because you can pick and choose which pieces and the quantities you need, but it’s still very curated.
We recently opened up our studio space for children’s crafty parties and look forward to hosting many workshops and parties this fall!
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I have a print in my office that says “work hard & be kind” and I think that sums it up pretty well.
- Children’s party packages start at $250 for up to 10 guests
- Address: 702 Center Road, Frankfort, IL 60423
- Website: www.shopsweetlulu.com
- Phone: 8154646264
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: instagram.com/shopsweetlulu
- Facebook: facebook.com/shopsweetlulu
Stephanie Pana (photo of Jessie only)