Lucy James began as an online shop in 2019. Then, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu, 37, got to work on opening her first brick and mortar shop, which opened its doors in early 2022.
Though the world had slowed down and most in-person shopping had come to a hiatus, de Urbizu was planning on getting people back to shopping.
One upside to the pandemic that she noticed was that people were more focused on supporting small businesses, especially when the big store brands were closed. The slowing down of the pandemic gave customers the opportunity to discover new brands on social media as they spent hours scrolling their feeds. People were less rushed and the need to pick up something on-the-go while getting groceries at Target was not at the forefront.
This gave de Urbizu an advantage when opening up her physical storefront. During the course of the pandemic, she was able to build her online following, which lead her to opening up her shop just as the world started to open back up again to “business as usual.”
Let’s learn more about what it took this mom of two to start her own storefront, while raising little ones and getting to enjoy sports and participating at school activities.
Tell us about your business?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu: Lucy James is named after my 6-year-old daughter. I carry everything from keepsake newborn gifts, to outfits and dresses for toddlers and big kids, as well as accessories. I focus on stocking smaller, mom-owned and family-owned brands to really bring the small business support full circle. When you shop from Lucy James, not only are you supporting my small business, but you’re also supporting the 30+ small businesses I stock! Pretty awesome.
How did this idea come about?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu: The idea for Lucy James came about when I was pregnant with my second baby, Lucy’s little brother, Alex, and I launched the online store when he was just three months old. In hindsight, that may have been a bit ambitious, LOL! I knew I wanted to be a flexible parent; one who could say “yes” to volunteering at school, taking the kids to and from their activities, and so on. When Lucy was a baby and toddler, I really became a lover of children’s fashion and small business shopping. I appreciated the special little outfits you couldn’t necessarily find at the big box stores.
What prompted you to starting your own business?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu: Aside from the flexibility of being your own boss with a growing family, I had always witnessed my dad as a business owner and felt a great sense of pride for his work ethic and achievements. When I felt the gap in the market as a consumer for a children’s clothing store with reasonably priced, quality pieces, I remembered something he always used to tell me, “If someone’s going to do it, why not you?” I took it as a great opportunity to show my own kids the determination and grit I was so lucky to witness growing up.
What drew you to starting your own business in the middle of a pandemic?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu: So, Lucy James was launched online pre-pandemic in April of 2019, but the brick and mortar location just opened in May 2022. My decision to move forward and expand during a pandemic has definitely been a scary one! Before the brick and mortar location, I relied so heavily on local markets and events, which were often cancelled or poorly attended. One of the most common questions customers would ask at these events, however, was “Where can I shop in person?”Because I stock items that can be appreciated so much more in person, I really felt like I needed to make it happen. How can I show someone online how amazing this fabric is if they can’t touch it? Or the craftsmanship of a wooden baby gift? I needed a store!
How was starting a business as the world was mostly shut down?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu: It was frustrating at times, but there was also a great sense of community in the small business world. I also noticed a shift of focus to small businesses as the big box stores were closed. People were home and scrolling social media, and they’d come across small businesses they might not have found during the hustle and bustle of “regular” daily life.
What challenges did you face? What challenges did you face that were particular to starting this during the pandemic?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu: A big challenge as a small shop is always how to compete with the conveniences of the Amazons, and the Targets of the world. They offer lightning-fast shipping for free, curbside pickups and the one-stop-shop for everything you could possibly need. Why wouldn’t someone grab their kid a new outfit as they shop for milk? I had to get creative and offer local deliveries, and I also changed my inventory to better reflect the clothing kids were wearing…cue the t-shirts and loungewear and say goodbye to the fancy dresses!
What did you learn about yourself during this endeavor?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu: I learned that you must be flexible as a business owner. Sometimes you might have an idea that you think is the best idea in the world, but if it doesn’t work out, you’ve just got to get over it and move on!
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu:
The cancelling of events and poor attendance was the hardest thing to get through. When you count on a great event so you can pay yourself that month, or invest in more inventory, and it doesn’t turn out how you expected, it can be crushing. I often chat about it with fellow vendors, and the ups and downs of events is very emotionally taxing. A great event will have you feeling like you’re living the dream, like this is your calling, and you’ve got it all figured out. A bad event, though? You’ll be driving home in silence questioning your life choices.
What was the toughest thing you had to do?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu: The toughest thing is probably the overall hours I put in. It’s just not in my personality to do things halfway, so if something needs to get done, I’m staying up late until it’s done. On that same note, it’s just me. I don’t have a social media team, customer service liaisons, an order fulfillment team… if there’s something that needs to be done, it’s me! I’ve fumbled my way through building a website, I’ve screamed in frustration while building facebook ads and Instagram reels…you know, all the stuff kids 10 years younger can do in their sleep!
What has been the most satisfying part of this experience?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu: By far, the best part of this experience has been Lucy’s interest. When I come back from an event, she’ll run up to me and ask, “Did people buy a lot of stuff from your store?” and it’s the absolute best. She squealed when I told her I was getting an actual store, and LOVES that all the shopping bags, clothing tags, and now a store window have her name on them!
What are you most proud of?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu: To keep it simple, that I did it. I opened a business with a credit card and an idea, and people seem to like it. I feel good about supporting the brands I stock, and I love being part of special occasions in my customers’ lives. It is the best compliment when someone thinks of Lucy James when they have a baby shower, a birthday party, or just need a few new things for their own children. That feeling of appreciation truly never gets old! I know my dad felt it when customers would choose his restaurant for a family gathering or just a night out. The fact that someone chooses YOUR business when there are so many others out there is so humbling.
What advice would you have for other women thinking about starting their own business during a pandemic or even during regular circumstances?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu: Go for it! There is truly room for everyone who is willing to work hard, but you have to WORK. I have never worked more hours than I do now with my “flexible” small business, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I might head back into the office most nights after I get the kids to bed, but that soccer game? That family vacation? I’m there, and you can’t get those moments back.
What goals do you have for your new business? What do you want to accomplish with your new opening?
Kristen (Kogut) de Urbizu: My goal for the moment is just to become a more recognizable name in the local children’s clothing store business. Again, when someone thinks of you for something special, or refers a friend to you, there’s just nothing better. With my new storefront, I’m hoping people will walk by and say, “Hey, I’ve heard of Lucy James!”
Don’t miss out on these cute styles at Lucy James. You can dress your child in the latest fashions and be sure everyone at the event one be dressed just like your kid. For online shopping, visit https://lucyjames.shop.
If you’re in Miami and want to visit the Palmetto Bay store, it’s located at: 13615 S Dixie Hwy, Suite 300.