Balance Work with Your Personal Life

Cortney and Sheena Murphy of The Bra Lounge

Running your own business requires dedication, long hours and a fierce belief in yourself and your product. That being said, running your own Lingerie Retail Store, Website or Home Party Business brings with it a unique set of challenges.

Those challenges sometimes grind against our social and personal lives.

So, the Lingerie Journal wanted to know how retailers like you handle running your retail store (online and off) and balance a healthy personal and social life at the same time.

For part one of this series, we interviewed the owners of the Bra Lounge, a retail store that specializes in bra fitting consultations.

The owners, Cortney and Sheena Murphy, are sisters and we wanted to know what is was like starting the store and what it’s like working with family.

TLJ: Could you tell me a little bit about both of your backgrounds before you started the store?

Sheena: Cortney was working as a florist in a home decor store that carried a small selection of fine lingerie lines. She observed how busy the lingerie department of the store was, and when approached by her boss with the opportunity to buy the store, she researched the lines a little further. She decided that instead of taking over the already overwhelming shop, she should look into opening her own lingerie store somewhere else. When asking the suppliers of the lingerie where might be a good location, she was told Red Deer would be great. I was working full time in an accounting firm managing books and payables for multiple small businesses. When Cortney told her of the plan to move to Red Deer and pursue the lingerie business, I decided to start working from home on a few sets of books and help Cortney as she needed.

TLJ: What was the inspiration to start the store?

Sheena: Cortney recognised the value in the European fine lingerie she was selling. She had worked in La Senza as a teen and saw the difference in fit and quality, and was astonished to see women spend a lot of money on the beautiful, high quality styles. As women who had lost their Mom tragically as young teens, We have always had a great amount of compassion for other women and girls in their communities. Helping others was a big part of our growing up. The lack of knowledge behind buying cheap undergarments and compromising comfort and health was what inspired us to get behind our own boutique and educate and offer a better product to the women in our community.

TLJ: What were the biggest obstacles the two of you faced in starting the store?

Sheena: Our biggest obstacles would be our youth. We have felt inexperienced and overwhelmed many times over the last 3 years. Sometimes we don’t feel like we are being taken seriously. Every day, however, we gain more confidence and we are very excited to have come this far.

TLJ: Running a store becomes a lifestyle, how do the two of you deal with the stress of running The Bra Lounge?

Sheena: We are lucky to have the support we do from family. We both have commitments at home and everyday life can be hectic and very busy. Without the support of family and friends, we would not be able to keep it all up. We love all the areas of our lives and are grateful to have the opportunity to pursue both personal and business endeavours.

TLJ: Working together, what’s the biggest benefit? What is the biggest draw back?

Sheena: The benefit is just sharing so many parts of our lives with one another. We have always been close and as kids always said we would someday own a business together. It makes very good sense to work together knowing each other’s personalities and strengths. The drawback would be that even on family time, we can’t seem to shake work. We don’t have a cut off point where work is no longer a topic of discussion, or when we are working family issues can often come up. This is something we work on in the hopes we can soon be 100% work at work, and 100% personal on family time.

TLJ: How do you two share/divide up the responsibilities at the store?

Sheena: We have different backgrounds and experience, so we work in our strong areas. Cortney has sales and purchasing down, and I take care of the administration, marketing, and advertising.

Both of us do fittings throughout the day as well. We are getting into a better routine now that we have more staff; for a long time we were more focused on fittings and the back end of the business was neglected. It helped us to put things into perspective; every component of the business is important, and when one spoke is down, the business cannot run efficiently.

TLJ: Are there area of expertise between the two of you? Overlap?

Sheena: It’s important for Cortney and I to know each other’s jobs in case one is sick or away. However we try not to overlap too much, it’s much too time and energy consuming. When I do advertising or news articles I always confirm them with Cortney before sending them off.

And Cortney keeps me in the loop with new products on order and what is going on with clients so that I know what is current. We hold morning staff opening meetings so that everyone is up to date on the day’s tasks and issues.

TLJ: How do each of you balance your personal life with the demands of running the Bra Lounge?

Cortney: At this point we don’t feel like there is a consistent balance. Sheena has a toddler at home and has come to realize that you can never really leave things at home. We are closer than we have ever been to having a balance, but we are still very new at this business and family juggling act!

It’s getting a little easier every month. It’s when difficult issues pop up like staff shortages or sicknesses at home or with staff that makes the balance really hard. There is no one to run to for help, but each other, and that can be tough. We are both focused on making this come together.

TLJ: How has running the store affected your personal relationships with other family members and/or significant others?

Sheena: Having the responsibility of a busy, high demand shop can be stressful. We are very lucky to have the support of our loved ones and each other. We are able to focus at work because we make sure each other is taking the time they need to be with family and friends as well. We try very hard to balance each other out, and our loved ones understand and appreciate what we are trying to accomplish for the family and our community.

TLJ: How do you deal with the problems that might come up?

Sheena: We take everything day by day. Issues are bound to come up and they all must be dealt with appropriately. The difficult part is typically deciding which issues should take precedence and needs the quickest attention.

TLJ: What suggestions do you have for family members thinking of opening a retail lingerie store, or any retail shop?

Sheena: You must do a ton of research, and be familiar with the lines and products you want to sell. It’s been a huge eye opener for us; women have no idea the wealth of information that is behind fit, materials, manufacturers, and ordering procedures. You have to respect the value of the garments you stand behind. If you don’t appreciate the items you are selling, you can’t expect your clients to.

You must also expect to work 7 days a week for a while!

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