When Lauren Plasencia and a childhood friend, Kailyn McLaughlin Fazio, started Chic Underneath together in Saratoga Springs, NY in 2011, what they brought to the table was a great business idea – to combine a high-end lingerie boutique with waxing services. And what they lacked, as Lauren admits, was any experience with retail sales or business management.
“When we went lingerie shopping together, we never found what we’d hoped to find in the stores,” says Lauren. “And we knew that if it was a problem for us, it was likely a problem for others, too.”
Chic Underneath helps clients of all ages and sizes feel their absolute best, offering personal-care services from waxing to fittings for their clientele, who love the way the store’s luxury lingerie brands make them feel. The shop and salon are located in an elegant and discreet boutique location in downtown Saratoga Springs.
Moving forward with a dream
With Lauren’s interest in running the business and Kailyn’s licensing as an esthetician, they put together a business plan, did some online research and found some potential funders for small businesses. Among them was Pursuit.
“It was amazing. We contacted them and they actually took the time to meet with us! And it just kept getting better. While we had a business plan, it wasn’t really where it needed to be, so they helped us think through every aspect and strengthen the whole presentation,” Lauren explains. “And then, they approved a loan so that we could open our business!”
From partnership to solo success
That was the first lending experience that Chic Underneath had. The next would come several years later, when Kailyn realized that she wanted to spend more time with her family. Determined to keep the business going and growing, Lauren contacted Pursuit for a microloan that would enable her to buy out her partner’s piece of the business and obtain full ownership.
“The business was doing well and we’d already paid off the original loan,” says Lauren, “and when I needed funding to buy out Kailyn, I knew immediately that I’d go back to Pursuit. I wouldn’t have been able to buy out her stake if Pursuit hadn’t been there to help.”
Significantly, too, Lauren says that the help she’s received during the pandemic has been particularly important: With the closures, she lost revenue from foot traffic and waxing appointments and she wasn’t able to order inventory, either.
Lauren says that Carol, her advisor from Pursuit, reached out immediately.
“When Carol called, I literally cried. It was such a relief to know that Pursuit understood the impacts and was there to help. Pursuit provided more microloan funding, which helped take some of the immediate financial stress out of the equation,” Lauren says. “And when I mentioned to Carol that I was going to try and improve our online presence during the shutdown, she immediately put me in touch with Camille, one of Pursuit’s Consulting Corps members. And that changed everything!”
Finding new opportunities and support
Lauren describes Camille as a digital guru who helped Lauren completely transform Chic Underneath’s digital presence and more.
“Every detail was considered, from the fonts we use on the website and in digital ads to icons and flow and every other aspect,” Lauren says. “We reviewed product offerings and target markets and more.”
She continues, saying, “The changes are already having an impact and the response has been great. Our clients love what we’re doing and the ways in which we’re tailoring our products and services. We’re hearing that the information we’re emailing and posting is relevant and helpful and our communications are so much better than before.”
Lauren says that without her Pursuit team’s help, she wouldn’t have been able to dig out of the pandemic-related hole. Happily, though, Chic Underneath just reopened its brick-and-mortar location and business is brisk, including personal-shopping and waxing service appointments. With the improved digital presence, too, Lauren anticipates a significant boost in ecommerce.
A steady path to success
“Looking back, it’s kind of amazing that I knew so little. I had no business background but I had a vision for how this business should be and went for it,” Lauren admits. “And now, I’m looking ahead to my dreams of relocating to Saratoga Springs’ main retail street and opening a second location upstate!”
She continues, saying, “Fortunately, the team at Pursuit has helped at every step. When I get overwhelmed, whether it’s working on my business plan or applying for a loan, they break it down and walk me through it. I think of them as my business’s angels, leading me where I need to go. And they’ve helped me make my dream come true!”
And now, Lauren offers advice to other entrepreneurs that’s totally aligned with go-getter spirit that helped her launch Chic Underneath nearly a decade ago. She says, “I’ve learned so much over the years and one of the most important lessons is that as a business owner, you have to really just go for your dreams. If you’re thinking about opening a business or expanding, ask questions, get help and go for it!”