Three years ago, sisters Kimberly and Caila Brigandi were enjoying an afternoon of lunch and laughter. As dedicated recreational shoppers and fashionistas, the topic of conversation drifted to how much fun it could be to own their own women's clothing boutique.
"We joked and dreamed up fun ideas of just how amazing it would be to own a clothing store together since we both loved shopping and, of course, cute clothes," said Kimberly.
Jokes and dreams about opening their own boutique soon became legitimate ambitions of entrepreneurship. Ambition led to obsession, and, with hard work and dedication, obsession became reality.
In October 2017, the sisters filed for an LLC with Swyft Filings and were up and running just two months later. Their store, called "gandi," offers fashionable and affordable contemporary clothing and accessories for women. It can be found both online and in a Sanford, Florida brick and mortar location.
Now known affectionately in their community as "the Gandi Girls," the sisters are, as Kimberly put it, "living out our dream!"
We spoke with Kimberly about entrepreneurship, enticing fashions, and the profound embarrassment that comes with having an enthusiastically proud dad.
What's your background, and how did you get involved in this business?
My previous job was working as a forensic crime scene investigator. Before that, I spent seven years as a research specialist in the medical field. Caila was a retail store manager and has worked in the retail industry for seven years. We both had become burnt out in our jobs, and our hearts desired something new, something more!
We were always reminiscing on our favorite sister memories and asking ourselves what brought joy to our lives. We realized the times we felt happiest were the times we spent together, especially "sister days" when we went clothes shopping and enjoyed a girls' lunch out.
We quickly became obsessed with the idea of owning our own store and put together a business plan to see if we could make this dream a reality. After we finished with our business plan, we decided to do the scariest thing ever — leave our jobs to pursue our dream.
As scary as it was, we were so confident that it could work. Caila's retail background and my analytic experience was the perfect combination for our vision.
How did you choose the name?
The name "gandi" comes from the last part of our last name — Brigandi. It kind of just came to us one day during a girl's lunch, dreaming of what owning a business together would be like.
Caila just blurted out, "We could name our store gandi!"
As soon as she said that, a lightbulb turned on. The name is so special to us because it represents our family and our bond as sisters.
Along with our name, our business logo is a mandala. We have both always loved what mandalas represent — the universe, peace, harmony, and balance. These are all core values that represent both our personal lives and our business.
What makes gandi unique?
I think what makes any boutique unique are the people behind the counter. Every boutique has cute clothes, but my sister and I have made, and continue to make, such special connections with our customers.
They don't come to our store just for the trendy clothes, but for the experience. They come for that feeling you get when you first walk into the door and you're instantly in awe of the cute merchandising. They come for our greeting, our friendly faces, our conversations, our styling, and for the future compliments they know they are going to receive by wearing our clothes.
As boutique owners and stylists, we love to help our customers style different outfits and find what works for their body type and for the occasion they're shopping for.
Fashion plays such an important role in a young woman's journey to self-discovery. We are passionate about giving these women a voice and the right to express themselves the way they want. That is why we are determined to do anything and everything it takes to remain successful so we can continue to make people feel comfortable and confident.
What does your typical workday look like?
Because my sister and I are currently the only employees of our boutique, a typical workday for us consists of many different tasks.
The first thing we do every day is make sure our workspace and the boutique are clean and organized. This includes vacuuming the store and wiping down all the counters and mirrors. We make sure the store looks presentable by providing even spacing between the clothes on the rack so customers can peruse with ease.
As items get sold and new items arrive, we have to merchandise the store in a way that is presentable and exciting to customers. Rearranging stock and creating color schemes with transitions throughout the store is key to the success of sales. This has to be done constantly to make sure the store looks stocked and fun for customers to shop.
Every day, we post to social media, often in the form of an "Outfit of the Day" that's featured on our company's Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest accounts. These posts are vital for both showcasing new arrivals in our store and for enticing our online customers all across the US.
We categorize all of our daily business expenses for tax time. We also run reports within our point of sale system to see what we are selling, how much we are selling of a particular style, and which vendors generate the most profit and ROI for us. This helps us plan what we need to order for the upcoming weeks.
We constantly research the trends and tips so we can bring those new styles to our store at an affordable price. We also try to find new vendors to shop from and experiment with to bring our customers unique and trendy looks.
How has quarantine affected your business, and what are you doing to adapt?
Like many other small businesses, COVID-19 has greatly affected us. We rely on brick and mortar sales to pay business expenses like rent, utilities, supplies, payroll, and inventory.
To sustain us through this hard time, we had to pivot our efforts and immediately focus on our online store — going out of our comfort zone, coming up with new and creative ways to appeal to our online customers, and trying to give them the same experience they would receive in our store. This meant creating videos, try-on sessions, new photography, and re-merchandising" our online store to mimic our brick and mortar storefront.
Even though this pandemic has caused us anxiety, internal chaos, and uncertainty for our business, we are thankful for everything that we have gained during this time. Our customers are also going through this crazy time and transition, learning to support us in this unfamiliar way.
We are so incredibly grateful for every single person who has supported us during this difficult time. We didn't realize the amount of community support that we truly do have. It has kept our spirits high and motivated to continue creating content for them to love.
This time has also allowed us to truly sit down and look carefully at our analytics, gaining a deeper insight into where we needed to improve. We focused on these key areas and are now tackling them one by one. We truly believe that when this pandemic is over, our business will thrive and be better than ever!
What has been gandi's greatest challenge?
Time. There are never enough hours in the day. Time goes by so fast when you run a business, and balancing all your responsibilities can be challenging. Finding the time to do all the things we would like to achieve in a day sometimes seems impossible, but we manage to get by and make sure the most important things are completed first.
What's gandi's biggest win?
Instagram, hands down. Having a strong social media presence is crucial in the boutique industry and the most effective marketing tool for our target audience.
As soon as we started our business, we made a business profile and started posting pictures of our products and pictures of our store. We also made sure to tell customers who visited our store to follow us on our social media to keep up with our promotions and weekly new arrivals.
We encourage our customers to participate in our free monthly giveaways. Anyone who tags us in a photo wearing their gandi outfit or purchase is entered to win a super cute prize from our store, such as a store gift card, a top, a bottom, or accessories.
We have learned that social proof is a powerful phenomenon, and sometimes your audience needs to see a product in action before being enticed to make the purchase.
What do you hope the organization will achieve in the next year? The next five years?
For the rest of this year, we hope to increase our revenue to a point where we feel like March and April never happened. [laughs] No, but for real, we hope to achieve a 25% increase in revenue over last year. In the next five years, we hope to hire a staff of 3-5 people to run our brick and mortar operation so my sister and I can focus on expanding our online store and building our brand through other channels.
Who has inspired you in your life and business?
Our parents are our biggest inspiration. They have both worked so hard in their life no matter what they do. We strive to emulate their hard work and determination to create a version of success that makes my sister and I happy.
They are also our biggest cheerleaders in both life and business. Our dad is super embarrassing. He tells every woman he comes in contact with about our store. When we go out to dinner, he'll tell the waitress to go to our store or visit our website.
He constantly buys store gift cards and hands them out to women at his work. He goes through the drive-thru, and when he receives his food, he literally says, "www.gandiclothing.com" and then drives away! He leaves our business cards everywhere he goes. And when anyone mentions that they love our store to him, he starts to tear up and cry.
Even though we make fun of him, he is super sweet, and we are continuously inspired to make both of them proud.
What's the best advice you ever heard regarding running a business?
Know your worth, and then add tax!
Understand the value you bring, and don't let anyone bring you down. Don't assume someone's spending power, and treat every person that walks through the door with respect.
What part of boutique ownership is most satisfying?
We love making women feel good about themselves and helping build self-confidence by providing fashionable boutique brands at a great price. It makes us so happy when our customers come back and tell us they received lots of compliments from what they wore or how we styled them.
It makes all of the hard work and long hours we put into our business worth it!
And of course, making sales is the best feeling ever. Every time someone leaves the store with a purchase, my sister and I look at each other and then do a little dance. [laughs] Flossing, to be exact.
Also, when we hear that distinctive "You just got an order" chime on our phone from our online store, we literally jump into the air as high as we can! It's great, and it never gets old!
What advice would you give to someone thinking about opening a boutique?
Don't give up! Opening up a boutique is definitely not a get rich quick scheme. Having passion for what you do is critical, and with hard work and determination, success will always come. Every obstacle you face is a learning experience.
Stay true to yourself, and don't copy what everyone else is doing. You do you, honey boo boo.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Just a huge THANK YOU to the Swyft Filings Team. None of this would have been possible without you.
I can remember the overwhelming feeling of "Where do we even begin?" when trying to figure out how to start our business. Your website and your team made it super easy to navigate and choose the direction we wanted to go. The Swyft Filings team answered all of our questions so promptly and satisfied all the legal documents we needed to get up and running as quickly as possible. It was a huge stress-reliever, and we would recommend your services over and over again. --
We at Swyft Filings are blushing. We promise we did not prompt Kimberly to say that last part. Thank you to Kimberly and Caila and all of our other customers. We couldn't do what we do without you.
If you want to make the Gandi Girls floss and jump for joy, visit their online store, or follow them on social media. They are most active on Instagram but also post daily on Facebook and Pinterest.
If you want to make your own entrepreneurial dreams come true, Swyft Filings can help. Learn more about how you can start your own business today.