By TYLER ELLYSON
Columbus Telegram, Neb.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet the Nebraska mom who used her photography skills, laptop computer and the power of social media to launch her own unique online fashion boutique.
Sawyer Dion was busy in the weeks leading up to Christmas, sorting through orders and shipping bright pink packages filled with clothes, boots and jewelry to people across the country.
She filled 10 to 20 orders a day from women in search of a new look for the holidays and those needing something special to place under the tree for their wife, girlfriend or family member.
Yet, many people in her hometown of Columbus don’t know the business she runs from her 21st Street home even exists. That’s something the 25-year-old mother of three is looking to change.
“It’s kind of like this hidden gem locally,” Dion said of Steele Jayde Boutique, the online women’s fashion store she started about 2 1/2 years ago.
Dion, a 2009 graduate of Columbus High School, was working at a local bank when she came up with the idea to start a website offering the types of clothing and accessories she wished she could find here.
“I’ve always kind of had that entrepreneurial drive, and it just kind of took off,” said Dion, who left her bank job to focus on the online business and spend more time at home with her young children.
The local woman used her photography skills — another side job — laptop computer and the power of social media to promote the cyberstore she stocks with clothing sizes small through 3XL and other items that catch her eye.
“I just kind of pick out what I like and what I think other people will like,” she said.
She must have good taste, because Steele Jayde Boutique quickly gained a national following with regular customers popping up in states across the U.S.
The business’ Facebook page has more than 13,000 followers, another 3,600 are part of a private VIP group, and she’s also gaining traction on Instagram.
“It’s crazy what social media has brought businesses to and brought people to,” Dion said. “You can do everything while sitting on your couch in your yoga pants.”
That’s part of the appeal of operating an online business.
In addition to eliminating many overhead costs, Dion gets to set her own schedule while also working as a stay-at-home mom.
She uses her bedroom as an office and the basement as a product warehouse.
“My husband (Josh) just loves that,” Dion said with a smile.
However, there is one downside. Without a brick-and-mortar storefront, the majority of her local customers are family members, close friends and those who hear about Steele Jayde through word of mouth.
“I would love to have a storefront eventually here, when my kids are bigger and they’re not staying at home,” said Dion, whose children range in age from 7 months to 6 years.
In the meantime, she’s focused on growing her online clientele and developing a local customer base that will continue to support her business if she makes the move to a physical location.
“I have a lot to offer that you’re not going to find in Columbus,” said Dion, whose style is expressed by the phrase “Where leopard is a neutral” on her business card.
Dion has some go-to brands that can always be found on the website, but she’s always looking for something different.
“As I’m growing I like to branch out and try new stuff, and if it works for my customer base I’ll keep it,” she said of the selection of pants, tops, boots, bags, jewelry and other accessories.
Dion also prides herself on strong customer service and fast shipping, although locals can pick up their orders to save a few bucks.
Another goal is to keep merchandise affordable.
“I price my items what I would pay for them,” Dion said. “You’re not going to find me paying $70 for jeans. You’re not going to find me spending $55 on a shirt.”
Steele Jayde Boutique can be found online at www.shopsteelejayde.com or www.facebook.com/steelejaydeboutique. For more information, email [email protected]