A passion for fashion in the digital marketplace
Alison Grooms has turned her lifelong interest in clothing and design into a flourishing retail company using a business roadmap built on the information highway.
The quick ascent of Alison Grooms’ clothing company, Jules & James Boutique, is proof that when starting out as an entrepreneur, one of the most important things to have is a vision. For Grooms, 29, a former schoolteacher, the vision was straightforward: find a way to stay at home with her infant daughter while also channeling her passion for sales, clothing, and design. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved fashion. I was always watching QVC and infomercials where people would sell things for hours at a time,” said Grooms. “So I sort of used that as my inspiration and started buying women’s clothes wholesale and selling them through a Facebook group starting in 2016.”
The then-26-year-old’s eye for fashion and her focus on affordability — aided by purchasing in bulk — resonated with her growing customer base. By the end of Grooms’ first year in business, her Facebook group had more than 25,000 members, and the company had outgrown her family’s three-bedroom home in Georgia.
“Everything that I have learned in business has pretty much been self-taught. I would also admit that I had a little bit of beginner’s luck, and that really fueled my confidence to keep going,” recalled Grooms. “It’s exciting to be a young business owner in a world where we literally have all the knowledge at our fingertips — pretty much everything that I learned about owning a business, I learned online from YouTube videos, podcasts, and a lot of market research.”
With support of family and friends — many becoming employees — Grooms moved Jules & James to a storefront in Carrollton, Georgia, giving her customers an in-person boutique experience and her company the backroom space to manage online orders. But with sales continuing to climb, that space quickly proved too cramped, so it was on to a warehouse.
“It’s exciting to be a young business owner in a world where we literally have all the knowledge at our fingertips — pretty much everything that I learned about owning a business, I learned online from YouTube videos, podcasts, and a lot of market research.” — Alison Grooms
In 2018, only a few years since launching, Jules & James fulfilled nearly a quarter of a million of orders, with online sales representing more than 90% of the business. As Jules & James has grown, Grooms has also relied on the services and support of Wells Fargo, including business banking products and merchant services for processing payments.
“I’ve had an account with Wells Fargo literally since I was a teenager, so as Jules & James started to grow, it was a natural fit to continue banking with them,” said Grooms. “When you find a bank that you trust, it just makes sense to stay with them for the different things that your business needs to keep moving forward.”
Grooms continues to move the company forward by adopting modern approaches to retail, including opening pop-up shops to sell her clothing in person at additional locations during the holiday shopping season and launching a smartphone app — now the company’s top source for online sales. She and her team post write-ups, photos, and short videos modeling and describing the different items the company currently has for sale.
“Obviously there are thousands of places to shop online. So one thing at Jules & James that makes us unique is you’re buying from me personally,” said Grooms. “We really try to sell the whole experience — to give our customer the feeling that we handpick these items just for them.”