Before Mandy Loveridge and Jessica Bullman met each other, both women had spent years providing health care services, Mandy as a doctor’s assistant and a care coordinator and Jessica as a dental assistant. They both had worked tirelessly with colleagues to give patients compassionate, professional care to the point that what they gave drained them.
They wanted a different sense of purpose than the purpose they found in health care. They also wanted to be great moms who could savor moments with their children.
What happens when two creative women with a keen shopping eye randomly meet and share their eagerness to have the best of both worlds –motherhood and a fun, flexible job?
Rustic Jem A Boutique, a child friendly shopping oasis for women in their 20s and beyond, is born. The boutique’s name confirms their affinity for all things rustic while giving a nod to their children and their top priorities: J = Jayce, Mandy’s son; E = Emery – Jess’ daughter; and M = Maddox, Mandy’s son.
Rustic Jem is a shop “for stylish moms who want unique, affordable clothes and a place to plop down their children,” Jessica explained.
The business partners have distinctly different personalities and roles with the boutique – a yin and yang they know contributes to their success. Mandy brings the working mom; Jess, who doesn’t dress up much, has the discerning eye for casual clothing.
“Mandy jokes that I’m the brains and she is the boutique’s social butterfly,” Jessica mused. “While I’m figuring the website, she shines on Facebook live. I’m a background girl; she keeps everyone in stitches.”
Popular items at Rustic Jem include shackets – a cross between a flannel shirt and a jacket – denim jackets and distressed oversized tops.
“We have a hard time keeping those [oversized tops] in,” Mandy said.
The boutique features a variety of vendors, which ensures that the inventory remains whimsical and fun and includes handbags, freshies, wax candles, custom wooden signs, children’s clothing, makeup, nail wraps, polymer clay earrings, farm hours signs, teacups, pens and custom cups.
Before the friends opened up their store in the heart of downtown Inman in June, they pushed items through Facebook Live sales – which soared.
“We fixed up a little corner in my basement,” Mandy explained. “Two pieces of white paneling, a nice rug, two shelves and that was about it.”
They’d show, tell and sell the items, and then customers would drive up to either Mandy’s or Jessica’s porch and pick up their purchases.
Next, the friends packed up their most popular merchandise and went to vendor events, including Market on Mill in Inman.
“We noticed that people wanted to touch, feel and know exactly what they were buying,” Jess noted. “It’s always better to know what you are buying rather than run the risk of having to send something back.
Getting the boutique’s name out as a small business in a small town is hard, Mandy and Jessica admitted. Shipping prices also make it more challenging to keep prices affordable. Overnight shipping on some items rose to $200 versus $40 for three-to-five business days.
Despite the challenges, the duo envisions growing the business to the point that they need more space.
“One of the biggest joys of owning this boutique is that we get to meet new people,” Jess said. “We can have our children here. Or, if our babies are sick, we can put a sign on the door and stay home. We get to be moms first, and that is rare.”
Rustic Jem A Boutique is located at 4A Highway 338 S. in Inman. To learn more, visit rusticjemaboutique.com.
By Lisa Moody Breslin