Back in March of this year we had the opportunity to interview Kristi Wozniak, owner of the Key Lime boutique in Sherwood Park. Key Lime is a testament to how hard work and dedication to loyal customers begets success. Kristi takes her customers into account with every business decision she makes, including her design choices. She struck us as incredibly intelligent, and someone who completely understands her end customers and her community. Here are the highlights of our interview!
A Pleasury: Tell us about Key Lime and the products that you carry.
Key Lime: I started Key Lime in October 2008. I opened it from scratch so it’s all my own ideas. It took us only 4 or 5 months to realize that there was a demand for quality yoga athletic wear but in Canadian sizes. It didn’t matter how many distributors or manufacturers we tried to contact to bring in other brands, we just couldn’t find what people were looking for, so then I started designing unique pieces that flatter all body types and sizes. That was my goal right away; to grab the market that wasn’t being looked after.
A Pleasury: Are you looking at branching out into Edmonton?
Key Lime: I would love to open a second location but everything costs money and you don’t want to expand too fast. We took the jump from designing our own clothes and now offering it to other stores at wholesale, so that was a big step for us. Maybe once that is established we can look at having something in the city.
A Pleasury: Can you describe the Key Lime Customer?
Key Lime: The demographic that I’m focusing on is the 30 year old and plus lady that likes the relaxed fit and still wears the clothes as athletic wear but as casual wear as well. She has children and is looking for quality clothing and wants to buy Canadian. We do have pieces that are for fitness instructors and skinny minis, but I am focusing on those want to be comfortable or are more self conscious about their bodies.
A Pleasury: Are there other retailers carrying Key Lime clothes?
Key Lime: I opened up 12 new accounts in the last week. They are all over Alberta and I have 2 in B.C.
A Pleasury: Key Lime had a temporary location set up in Southgate Mall. Did you notice a difference in the clientele out there in comparison to here in Sherwood Park?
Key Lime: Southgate is so close to Sherwood Park that we found that a lot of the people that live in Sherwood Park, often shopped at Southgate. There are younger crowds that shop at the mall as well. We also had to get use to the fact that at the mall location, you have a lot of lookers, where as out here, you have people that drive out to the store to get a certain item. The demographic is about the same; and it’s a nice mall with a lot of nice stores.
A Pleasury: If you were to open in Edmonton, what would be the ideal location?
Key Lime: It constantly changes. I would love to have the big West Edmonton Mall location and get the traffic; it’s a destination mall. At the same time, I love the community boutique feel and would like to go on 124th Street or 104th Street, where a strip of really cute boutiques are. Because we are a destination store, we do draw in a lot of people from Edmonton so I wouldn’t want to be too close to Sherwood Park. I thought of the west end in a place where there are a couple strip malls. It’s always constantly changing. I would love to go and just open up a bunch of them.
A Pleasury: Have you already started to design?
Key Lime: I have about 35 pieces. I test them too. I’ll get a sample made and I’ll wear it and test it and tweak it a little bit. I’ll do a run of them and then use the feedback that I get from the customers. That is how I design the product too, because that’s who knows best. I’m inspired by creating what I can’t find anywhere. I’m using of course unique designs, but still staple pieces that you can wear to the gym or out while you’re shopping. Versatile!
A Pleasury: Where is Key Lime manufactured?
Key Lime: The majority of our stuff is made in Vancouver. So any of the stretchy material pieces are made in Vancouver. There is an Edmonton company that makes the cotton.
A Pleasury: How has offering online shopping impacted your sales?
Key Lime: We don’t have a lot online. Maybe 1 or 2 pieces a month. It takes a lot of time updating the site and making sure that the sizes you have and the colours on the site are available in the store. I think it will be easier for me when I have a lot of stock. On the site right now, there are a lot of pictures but if you actually try to buy something, I’m out of a lot of sizes because of all the upkeep. Right now my focus is on growing the store and designing. The site is good for people to find out about the store, and then come here. Athletic wear is also hard to buy online without trying it on.
A Pleasury: There’s been an increasing demand for private shopping. In your opinion, why do you think that is?
Key Lime: Maybe part of it has to do with people wanting better customer service or more one to one with less people in the store. As busy women, when we go out shopping we want to really feel the experience and not feel rushed. That’s what we find. We get a lot of private parties booked and it’s the time out that they can make for themselves and they bring their friends along.
A Pleasury: How often do you book those private parties?
Key Lime: Depending on the season, we try to do anywhere from 2 to 10 per month. We have snacks and drinks and usually the women make an evening out of it and will go out for dinner before or after so it brings business to the whole area. It doesn’t cost anything to have a private party, we just ask for 5 or more people. If they email or phone me I can provide all the information on how to book a party.
A Pleasury: Are you feeling a shift in consumers moving away from the big name labels to wanting to shop local?
Key Lime: I would say it’s 50/50. There’s a quarter of that 50 that need the brand name, they want the label and that’s who they are. The other percentage need the discount and bargains and budget plays a big role in what they buy. The other 50% are loyal buyers that want to see you succeed because they see that you are supporting the community, you’re helping out sports groups etc. We meet with business owners to see how we can help each other because it’s so sad when you see local businesses shut down.
A Pleasury: What do the next few years look like for Key Lime?
Key Lime: Definitely building the inventory. We are kind of in a growing pain right now with the supply and demand. It takes much longer to make things in Canada, and even when you are designing your own product, it’s going through sampling and testing. So right now if you actually look in the store, we are running low in a lot of sizes. So my whole goal right now is building the inventory. When people drive all the way out here and we don’t have the sizes they need, it can be frustrating.
A Pleasury: Are there any parting words or promotions that you wanted to share with our readers?
Key Lime: Just a reminder that the 35 new pieces that will be coming out in spring. Also, we offer fitness instructor discounts. We sell a lot of team wear and offer discounts. Teams often do the private parties to raise money for their uniforms, as we will put the proceeds towards the team wear. A lot of our team wear is custom made. We are negotiating with the Eskimo Cheerleaders. We actually just sold to the basketball Energy Cheerleaders, so Octane is the next one I want to grab.
Pop into Key Lime today or book a private shopping party!
Interview date: March 18, 2011