Hi, I’m Stacia and this is the story of how a joke to my friends became my business and my life.
It was my first “big girl” job. I was fresh out of college, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and quite naive, may I add. I was living in New York City, commuting to New Jersey, and working as a Merchandise Assistant at a large retailer - any aspiring buyer’s dream (well, sans the commute). Or so I thought.
I worked with incredibly smart, creative and genuine people and I had amazing mentors. It didn’t take long for me to feel like I really had a work family. But despite the relationships I cherished, it also didn’t take long for me to question whether this job was for me.
Theoretically, I loved buying and merchandising. Collaborating with design, sourcing and planning teams to develop, assort and invest in the next line was energizing and optimistic. Reviewing development samples, seeing product make its way to stores, and watching sales actualize either felt like an accomplishment or disappointment - but was fascinating nonetheless.
But theory isn’t the same as reality and as much as I loved my co-workers and the high-level product lifecycle, I found myself complaining ALL THE TIME. I like to think of myself as a fairly positive person; I try to give the benefit of the doubt and look at the glass half-full. I was annoying myself with all the grouchiness (not to mention my colleagues, roommates, family and friends, I’m sure). But I realized it wasn’t just me. At work, I was surrounded by negativity and I think we actually bonded through our misery (sounds horrible but it’s true). I questioned whether this was just what it was like to go to work every day. Better suck it up and get used to it. Everyone hates their job, right? Wrong.
It was time for a change.
I gave merchandising another shot at an even larger company in the city. At least I wouldn’t have that heinous commute anymore! I had more responsibilities as an Assistant Merchandiser (yes, there is a difference between Merchandise Assistant and Assistant Merchandiser), and I felt empowered to make decisions and take ownership of my section of the business. I was surrounded by talented people who were dedicated to the brand - and they were happy! There was a focus on sustainability and doing the right thing. This was new. I found myself working harder and longer, yet smiling more and complaining (FAR) less. I felt fortunate to be working in a healthy environment and I really liked my job. But something still wasn’t quite right.
<<< Rewind <<<
While I was at my first job (just after bitching to them about how much I hated it), I Snapchatted my friends and asked,
“What’s a job that we can all do together?”
We had a business/tech/finance guru, two engineers, an accountant, and me - the fashion girl. It wasn’t more than a minute before I answered my own question.
“A boutique! I’ll do the buying, M can do the nitty gritty business stuff, J can find ways for us to be sustainable, A can do other engineery things, and S can do the accounting. We can call it 5 South, because there are five of us and we went to CB South High School.”
I was half joking and it was a stretch for sure - but it planted the seed in my mind and I started researching. I decided I was going to do it, it was just a matter of time.
>>> Fast Forward >>>
I’m six months into the new job, genuinely happy, but clear that this is not my forever. I didn’t aspire to be my boss’s bosses. And not because they weren’t awesome. These were intelligent, influential and successful women I’m talking about. Women I looked up to, for sure. But when I thought about where I would be in five and ten years, I wasn’t in a corporate office, so what am I doing here now?
If I want to have financial freedom + scheduling flexibility, be my own boss lady, and run a successful boutique in 5 years, I need to start now. That’s when I seriously started planning and by the end of May 2019, 5 South Fashions LLC was formed.
While I knew I wanted to start online, I also recognized that I couldn’t continue giving my all to another full-time job for much longer.
I had been in a (semi) long distance relationship for a couple years and had realized that the city isn’t so glamorous when you’re taking the subway twice a day. My roommate, a Philly native, was also getting over the initial allure, and we decided we were not going to renew our lease. I was going to move in with the boyf in New Jersey (by the beach, might I add), and I was going to do the damn thing.
The Monday after I moved, I put in my notice. I spent the next two weeks commuting from NJ to NY (sound familiar?) and my website went live the following Monday, October 14, 2019. It was real.
>>> Fast Forward One More Time >>>
5 South has been online for six months and I am in my happy place (physically + mentally). We received an outpouring of support during our launch, had a few successful holiday selling events, and learned A LOT!
Lately, life hasn’t quite gone according to plan - but does it ever? We had loaded our spring and summer calendars with selling events, but due to pandemic restrictions, many of these have been postponed (some as late as 2021). The past couple of months have been disappointing and full of uncertainty. We have had tough days. But we are choosing to look on the bright side.
We are appreciative that our events have been postponed, rather than canceled, and we are hopeful that we will be able to get out there in person again soon.
We are grateful for our customers, and that we are still able to operate, sending out online orders each week.
We are healthy and thankful for local leaders who are taking the difficult, but necessary measures to slow the curve.
And most of all, we are reminded of our true heroes, our health care professionals and frontline workers.
So for now, and for them, we are shopping from home. <3