“Fashion is one of the most pollutant industries in the world,” explains Emma Olson, co-founder of Hazel & Rose boutique in Minneapolis. Before Hazel & Rose opened, Emma was working in mass retail and “becoming less and less comfortable with my work. I was beginning to learn more about the traditional fashion industry and how wasteful it was. I began looking for sustainable and ethical brands to shop personally and realized I couldn’t shop that way in person in the Twin Cities.” Recognizing a gap, Emma began putting a list of designers together with the future store in mind.
Emma opened Hazel & Rose in 2016. Bobbi Baron joined on in 2017 as a co-owner, bringing years of independent retail experience with her. “This year marked the 5th anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh when over 1,100 workers lost their lives,” says Emma. “Those were facts that, once I learned, I couldn’t forget” More and more shoppers are recognizing the impact of their buying behavior. “Our goal with Hazel & Rose is to show that style doesn’t need to be compromised to shop sustainably and ethically and there are so many benefits to investing in clothing.” Since the store’s opening, Hazel & Rose has remained true to three requirements for goods carried in the shop: well made, sustainably made, and ethically made.
Though just a few years old, Hazel & Rose has really resonated with local shoppers. “We’ve educated and converted shoppers who had never considered sustainable and ethical fashion before,” says Emma. “We focus on educating and telling the stories behind the goods we carry. Shoppers are really excited to hear about the individuals behind their purchases and feel connected to them.”
To raise awareness of their store and their mission, Emma and Bobbi hold semi-regular events that highlight specific brands or topics to help drive traffic. “Pop-up shops and trunk shows featuring a specific designer have done well,” Emma says, “And events that allow shoppers to customize their purchases have been successful as well.”
Their storefront is a multi-tenant building, so Emma and Bobbi also collaborate with the other small businesses in their building. “My advice would be to make connections in the community,” says Emma. “What’s happening in your area? How can you support it? How can you get involved? Events are a great way to drive traffic,” Emma continues. “Just make sure you’re not spreading yourself too thin and you’re hosting events that are relevant to your business and customers.” She also recommends using your network as a support system. “If you’re on your own it can feel really isolating. I think finding a network of small business owners that you can talk to is extremely helpful.”
As far as challenges go, “Truly the nature of being a small business owner is recognizing that nothing is predictable. Sales don’t always happen how you would expect, traffic patterns can be all over the place, and there are factors completely outside your control that will impact your business, like the weather or politics or the economy. The key is being flexible and knowing from the beginning that things will change and you will have ups and downs, and those ups will feel amazing and the downs can be really hard.” Overall, Emma says ethical products “are the future. It’s simply not sustainable any other way, and I think the demand from shoppers is increasing.”
For more of Emma’s insights, check out her interview on Small Talks, produced by Deluxe Corp.