Images courtesy of The Loft Girls
BY CASSANDRA LITTLEWOOD
Niki Hodgskiss and Claire Bouvier both knew that they would never have traditional careers; entrepreneurship always called them. Their business, the Loft Girls is a second hand clothing shop located in a pale pink truck that is bringing a new style to thrifting. They can be seen driving around selling clothes throughout the summer in the Kingston and Napanee area. While summer is their most popular season to go on the road, Niki and Claire are building their brand for the winter season. From having mishaps like putting diesel in a generator that needs gas, to putting together flawless lookbooks, there is a lot to learn about running your own business. Sitting down with these two business owners, we talked about their experiences with entrepreneurship, inspiration, and what it’s like to be your own boss.
Where did you first get the idea for the Loft Girls? Did you have a *moment* where you thought this could actually become a business?
Claire: Niki has a background in food truck manufacturing, so they build, customize and outfit different trucks for different clients. So, one night at dinner, I don’t know how we got into talking about it, we were talking about fashion and Niki and I were thinking of doing a pop up. Niki’s mom was like “you guys should get a truck!” And then we were like, “yeah?” and then, “okay?” It just became more real when we got to look at the trucks at the lot. It just went from there and kept expanding and expanding over the last two years. It just started out as a dinner conversation.
Niki: In the next couple weeks after it clicked for us, it was my Mom’s idea obviously, we really saw how doable it was and that we have the resources to pull it together. It’s not an easy thing to do, get a truck, jump through all the hoops, stuff like that. But us combined, we had a lot of resources to make it feasible. Within a few months, we had a truck, it was painted and within six months we were on the road. We used to share an apartment, we met sharing a wall, which is where the Loft Girls came from.
What is the best advice you received when starting your business?
Niki: Oh, everyone was giving too much advice.
Claire: See that’s the best advice, is not to take all the advice!
How did you see your business interacting with the community?
Claire: We really didn’t know what to expect. We knew that connecting with the community is inevitable and it’s important in Napanee and in Kingston. As much as we really think positively about the local scene and supporting that, we’re also thinking global and trying to figure out how to reach other markets and do things outside of Kingston, Canada, and throughout North America. We have some short term goals, sticking around here and building our following with the local community but also complementing it with more of a global outlook of thinking.
Niki: We started doing the Loft Market and hosting it at the Tett Centre. Basically, it’s an outlet for female entrepreneurs and artists and what ever it is that they make. It’s really social and it’s a nice environment, which seems to keep coming up. There’s wine and there’s music and it’s an evening event, it’s like a high end makers market.
What is one lesson you’ve learned from running your own business?
Claire: I get really excited and when I’m trying to be really helpful and sometimes when Niki asks me to do something, like take the Jerry Can and fill it up with gas for our generator.
Niki: We need it for air conditioning and on a hot day, for the fans, the lights, literally everything in the truck.
Claire: End of story, we needed it. But the truck is diesel and the generator is not and I ran to the gas station and got diesel. I filled the Jerry can with diesel and fried our generator. That day was the hottest day of the summer.
What are some of your daily responsibilities to upkeep your business?
Claire: We’re very fortunate because we both share a lot of the same skills sets but manage different parts and help out. So Niki is an amazing writer and she does a lot of copy for different things. We share a lot of the duties, but day to day, since we’re best friends, we’re always together so it’s easy to be doing our social media stuff because it’s pretty organic.
Niki: We consult each other on almost everything that we do.
Claire: Even what emoiji is going up.
Niki: Or we’re like, oh I don’t feel like emoijis today, that was a conversation that happened.
Claire: And I was like, “Me too!!”
Niki: It is a lot of vendor stuff since we’re gearing up for Loft Market, so everyday we’re answering questions. We always have items in the truck from up and coming artists and jewellers; it’s really nice to discover some of the talent that is here in Kingston and be able to show their work.
Claire: It’s the natural things like, planning and scheduling. When are we going to do our look book? When are we going to have this meeting with this person? When do we want to expand? Then we say, let’s research, let’s put some new things on our new online store. We’re really doing a lot of behind the scenes stuff that no one sees. We both have roles that are interchangeable but we both do the one that we’re naturally drawn to.
What is your favourite part about running your own business?
Niki: Having a creative outlet where everything is what we want it to be and the control over our environment, especially when we’re in the truck, everything about it is tailored to our vibes.
Claire: The fact that we get to control our environment, for us, is really really important. Niki and I are super sensitive to our surroundings, so we wanted to create the truck, it’s like our summer home on wheels.
Niki: Our little oasis.
This interview has been edited and condensed.