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women in careers: Therese Scarano, Dressing for Two

Starting a small business is no small feat – but starting a small business as a working mother with two small children? That’s one big mountain to climb.

I chatted to Therese Scarano, public servant by day, owner and manager of an online boutique clothing store, Dressing for Two, by night. Specializing in fashionable, affordable clothing for pregnant women, Dressing for Two fills a much needed gap in the maternity wear market.

Read on to find out what Therese has to say about starting a small business, the state of available maternity wear, and the difficulties of juggling a new venture with a day job.

What made you start Dressing for Two?

The main reason I started Dressing for Two was because I wanted to establish a business where I could work from home and still be with my small children. During my pregnancies I realised that most maternity fashion is available online but inter-state. I thought it would be great if mums-to-be in Canberra, were able to access ‘inter- state’ maternity fashion without the cost of shipping. At Dressing for Two there is no cost of shipping to Canberra and the surrounding region.

The idea of an online business also appealed to me because I was looking for a project for myself. After having two babies close together I felt like my identity of ‘Mummy’ was taking over ‘Therese’ and I wanted to take on a project that would improve my IT skills and help me regain my pre-‘mummy’ identity.

Do you think that there are enough options for women in terms of maternity wear out there?

In Canberra and the surrounding region there really are limited maternity wear options available. We need more specialist boutique stores rather than the mass produced fashion sold by the department stores. One of the things I feel most strongly about is the right of pregnant woman to have the same opportunities as everyone to express themselves through fashion. It’s for this reason that I chose to establish Dressing for Two as an online boutique. When purchasing stock I try to choose a range of both casual and business in varying colours.

Tell us a bit more about the business – how do you source stock? How do you run the website? Do you have staff?

I’m still working towards being able to leave my day job, so I manage Dressing for Two in addition to my current job. Each evening I fill orders and send/deliver them the next day. As you would expect some evenings are busier than others. I source stock from all over Australia and I’m happy to say that a lot of the stock now comes to me rather than me looking for it. I purchase all stock and personally check all items before delivering them to customers. All design work including advertising and the boutique itself has been designed by myself and my husband. Being married to a Graphic Designer certainly has a plus side! Although I do not have employees yet, I do have fantastic sisters who help me out during busy periods.

Starting a small business is a huge ordeal – was it as hard/easy as you thought? Any tips for young women who may want to start their own online business?

The set up phase was definitely a hard part. I would tuck the kids into bed by 8pm and be in front of the computer till late most nights. The web site development company was fantastic and didn’t mind the thousands of questions I would ask them nor did they mind the fact that I worked at night. I used a project plan to keep me on track, so I could tick off each milestone as I achieved it, which was a great feeling. Keeping up my confidence was definitely the hardest part though and still is. Even now I have days where I’m like, ‘Who am I kidding, I can’t do this!’ but I just pick myself up brush myself off and keep going.

As far as starting your own online business, go for it! The World Wide Web is full of information on how to set up your own business. If I can do it anyone can!

Do you think things are pretty equal out there for women wanting to start their own business?

Yes, I do. Obviously it will vary depending on the industry the business is in but ultimately, I think the same hurdles are there to be jumped by both men and women.

What’s the best/worst experiences you’ve had with Dressing For Two?

Worst experience is accepting the critics. We need critics in order to improve in business but sometimes it can still sting a bit.

Best experience was my very first bonafide customer. I felt such a sense of achievement. We popped the champers that night!

Any final words for Lip readers?

I guess my message to Lip readers is if establishing an online business is something you are interested in, then have a look online at the resources available to you. There are also some great government web sites out there to assist small businesses. So, jump on and give it ago. Dressing for Two was conceived by one initial google search.

You can check out Dressing for Two here!

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