Eye Candy Boutique offers a collection of clothing for plus size women


It was February 2020, and Elsa Fernandez had just made what she described as the most difficult decision in the history of her business, plus size clothing store Eye Candy Boutique.

After operating for nearly five years in a downtown Houston Street storefront, she moved her store to Zarzamora Street on the West Side. The rent would be lower, and while she would get less foot traffic, she planned to sell clothes at pop-up shops in town as well as her store and website.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, forcing him to close his new storefront for several months. Yet this led her to create an innovation that has become the heart of her business.


She started showing clothes to her clients and telling them what they were looking for, via live video chats on Facebook and Instagram, which she calls “lives.” She now makes about half of her sales this way, she said.

“I had always been reluctant to try new things because I didn’t think it was going to work, but it made me try everything and everything I could,” she said of the pandemic . “There was a good six month period where it was just like, ‘Okay, we’re going to make it work somehow. “”

Fernandez, who grew up in San Antonio, came up with the idea for the Eye Candy store while he was a student at Texas State University. She and her friends struggled to find clothes in this neighborhood and wrote a business plan for a plus size store as an assignment for an entrepreneurship class.

After earning a fashion degree, she earned a master’s degree in fashion merchandising from the University of North Texas. She opened Eye Candy after working as a store manager and a stint in the insurance industry.

“I realized that 10 years had passed and I always had this desire to have my own business and I never really pursued it,” she said. “At that point, I was like, ‘Well, why am I going to work for a company when I can work for myself three times as hard? “”

She is now preparing to open her first pop-up store in nearly two years, on December 3 during the Winter Wonderland celebration at Incarnate Word High School, her alma mater.

Fernandez recently interviewed to discuss her decision to move to the West Side and how she coped with supply chain disruptions, among other challenges. The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.



Question:
Do you like being on the West Side?


A:
I find it invigorating because I have a lot of customers who come to the showroom and say, ‘Oh my grandma lives around the corner’ or, ‘We used to come and visit. my aunt all the time here ”.

Also, the community I’m in here – there are businesses in the following 11 units, so we have a good neighborhood here. Mrs Chocolatier, who settles down at the pearl farmers market and has her chocolates at the Emma hotel, she is in the next part of the building. And my friend Lika from In The Weeds Natural Skin Care. When we see each other in the parking lot, we say to ourselves: “Oh, how did your pop-up go? We are able to encourage each other.



Question:
Do you find that your clients who live on the North Side are thinking about coming here?



A:
I think they prefer to park here rather than park downtown. Although I don’t have the route I did when I was around the corner of the River Walk, the location itself was not a deterrent.

I will miss downtown during the holidays because it is my favorite time of year in San Antonio, so beautiful. Being in this atmosphere for a good six weeks makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside because it reminds you to be younger. So I miss downtown, but I don’t regret my decision.



Question:
Tell me how you started your business.


A:
I thought it was going to be easy! I had had a business consultant at the Small Business Development Center (University of Texas at San Antonio), and she said, “Go ahead, your business plan is amazing. I doubt we have any problems getting funding.

Then I had a meeting with the funding she put in place. I distinctly remember meeting the gentleman on a Monday, and he said to my face, “I dreaded this meeting all weekend. I couldn’t take advantage of my weekend because I knew I was going to have to come on Monday and tell you that we couldn’t give you money to fund your business idea.

After devoting my life to the business plan for three months, I didn’t know what to do, so I let myself cry a little. Then I called my business advisor, and she helped me change my mind. She said to me, “OK, this is going to test how badly you really want this to happen. So I started the online store instead of a brick and mortar one.



Question:
Is it difficult to compete with chain stores?


A:
I like to think about what we can offer our customers that the national chains cannot. The way national chains usually buy is by season. Right now, in the fall, they are already buying for the spring and summer. I approach the purchase and custody of the collection more in response to the needs of clients.

Because I get newcomers every week, I’m able to meet their needs, and they know that, so they can text me and say, “Oh, I have a quinceañera I’m going to. two weeks “or,” My friends and I are going on a girls’ trip to Vegas. “Before all this supply chain fiasco, I might say,” Let me text you when I get something that you might like ”.



Question:
How to monitor their needs?

A: I’m a one-woman show, so it’s me who talks to them every day, and I listen to what they need, what they like. Even though I have girls who have come in saying, “I only wear black and gray”, now I am able to put them in a little color or a pattern here and there. And that makes me happy too.



Question:
How do you find the clothes?


A:
I go through a weekly process, outside of trips to (Dallas Market Center), where all the designers settle in and show off their seasonal lines. Because I’m a one-woman show, I don’t go to Dallas that often. So once I know the seller and designer I love, can trust their size chart, and know the quality of the clothes is going to be good, I buy exclusively from them. I probably have a list of maybe 50 or 60 vendors that I rotate through.



Question:
You mentioned supply chain issues.


A:
I didn’t realize how bad it was until maybe the end of summer. (Normally) my suppliers would have 85 percent of their items in stock and a 15 percent backorder. Now 40 percent are out of stock and 60 percent are actually in the warehouse. So the things I would normally get within 10 days, it takes up to two months.



Question:
How are you doing?


A:
Uh, coffee? At first I didn’t know what to do. I was panicking because I was ordering from eight different vendors in one week, and only getting goods from five of them. This means that “lives” that would have lasted an hour and 15 minutes could only last half an hour – and that means that is half of the sales.

What I had to do was make a wish list. Then once I get a response from the supplier, “We’re out of stock in, like, 35% of that,” I have backups. It takes twice as long, but at least I’m ready when those fail.



Question:
Do you find the plus size clothing industry underserved?


A:
Yes, seriously underserved. But I am here to help.



Question:
Why is that, do you think?



A:
It’s really, really hard to buy properly for a size 16, 18, which is the national average for a woman, when you have four women of the same height with different body types. This therefore implies that I make sure that I always have dresses that adapt to different types of body. So like a trapeze dress, trapeze dress, fit and flare dress, something off the shoulder.



Question:
On top of that, is there any stigma attached to the industry?


A:
I think the whole body acceptance and body positivity movement really helps. I feel like I’m that generation, even though they have to put up with social media, they are also able to say what’s real and what’s photoshopped. I hope, fingers crossed, they can make a difference – that social media isn’t real life.

I think a lot of national chains that have tried to expand their sizes to offer plus sizes, if they do it right and put enough intention and research into it, they can be successful. But if you don’t put effort into the plus size collection and customers don’t flock to buy it, the national chain is like, “Well, that’s why we don’t offer plus sizes, because no one is going to buy this. ”But no one is buying it because it’s not done right. So you have to do it carefully.



Question:
Are the options available in plus sizes often inferior?


A:
Oh, my God, I go through hundreds of designers, manufacturers a week. I can see what they offer for straight sizes versus plus sizes, and they don’t offer the same variety. They will choose, for example, 25 percent of what they offer in a straight and plus size.

Then on the other spectrum, some of the sellers that only offer plus sizes are obsolete: you see like the rhinestone, airbrush, butterfly, poncho that you would see your tia wearing in the 80s or something. of the kind.



Question:
Are you doing better ?


A:
I think so. People are realizing that there is a market for the plus size community.


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