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Brilliant Business Tips From Two Brazilian Sisters

I recently saw my old friend, and successful business owner, Fernanda Bohme, and her sister Vivian Bohme, speak at the Silicon Slopes event in Utah.  It was inspiring to see these two, beautiful, smart, Brazilian women share their story and success journey from the ground up.

I met Fernanda back in 2005, through various fashion shows and events we did together over the years, and she was always so creative and talented.  I remember when she opened her first retail store, Böhme. 

Now, with over 17 stores and counting, Böhme was named one of the Top Women-Run Businesses on the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies and featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, US Weekly, and Cosmopolitan Magazine. 

Most recently, Böhme was awarded the SBA Utah Top Business of the Year and Vivien and Fernanda were named the Utah recipients of the Small Business Person of the Year awards, and voted a top workplace.

 The Backstory

Two sisters from Rio, Brazil, immigrated as kids to the USA, not speaking any English.  Their parents got the only jobs they could, cleaning buildings, and it was a family effort, everyone contributing, cleaning and hustling.  

At the age of 23 and 24, these two sisters decided to take a risk and open a retail business, Böhme, with nothing but a credit card.  The rest is history. 

 I'm sharing some key takeaways from the Bohme's founder's chat about how they got started and where they are today, as well as my insights. 

The question everyone is asking... Is retail dying? 

We've all seen stores like the Gap, Banana Republic, J.Crew, Victoria Secret, Michael Kors, being hard hit, and closing stores left and right.  

I recently walked through a Dillards department store, and felt as if I was in a ghost town, with no customers and sparse employee representation.

Is this the end of retail as we know it?

Well, kind of. 

There's no doubt that retail is an industry in influx.  It's insane.  China is coming, and they're taking instagram images, recreating and selling products faster, and it's hard to compete with their speed and cheap prices, according to Vivien. 

Some argue that Amazon and online shopping are the future of retail, but another serious threat is Instagram, as it's become a powerful and unregulated tool for retailers, bloggers and influencers.  

For the smart businesses, that are staying ahead of the curve, there's a lot to learn.  How are they doing it? What are they doing differently?

 1. You Must Make Data-Driven Decisions

In short, look at your numbers often, and adapt or die.  Businesses need to be quick on their feet, know how to pivot, and adjust to meet the demands and changing trends in the market. 

Marketing, is the lifeblood of any business, and right now it feels like the wild west.  Everything is changing, you need to be agile, and know how to forecast and keep up with your customers. 

Bohme talked about how strengthening their online presence is not enough, they need to do both, physical store and online, it needs to work together.  You can no longer ignore the need for a strong online presence in your business. 

Be aware of changes in the industry.  For example: It use to be top down fashion- lead by runway shows in Paris, Milan, Tokyo, etc. Now it's both top down and from the ground up- meaning that everyday people are influencing fashion through the internet. 

The questions all businesses need to continually evaluate and ask is, "What do customers want?"  Sell them what they want. 

2. The Starbucks Theory

Vivian, CEO, explains a theory that she's brilliantly applied to the business.  Why do people still shop at Starbucks, when you can make your own coffee, even Starbucks brand, at home? It's much cheaper to do it yourself. 

Think about this for a moment.  So, if people can make their own, at a better price, why do they still shop at Starbucks?

The reason is that Starbucks is not just a coffee shop, it's a meetup place.  A place you go to gather with your friends. To take a break from work, or go with your co-workers. You're not just buying the coffee, it's a place to meet and have an enjoyable experience. 

Bohme took this idea, and said, "Why not do this with our stores?" 

We all know you can shop online for clothing.  It's easy, and you can price shop for cheaper things, but they discovered that what people are really craving, is more human connection.

They decided to strategically make their stores a unique gathering experience. 

A luxurious place where girlfriends can hang out and spend time together.  Bohme is not your average retail store.  They've taken it one step further, to draw you in and make it a place you'd want to hang out, gather, and stay a little longer.  A beautiful meeting place, and so far, it's working! 

3. Upgrade the Customer and Employee Experience 

Bohme took a look at what other mall stores where doing, not doing, where others were cutting corners, what they didn't like, and decided to do the opposite.

Fernanda talked about a time she went shopping and needed to use the restroom.  The store didn't have a bathroom, so they sent her far away, to walk and find a bathroom in the middle of nowhere.

This just didn't cut it. 

She decided that wouldn't be the case for her own store and customers.  They created a solution, a public restroom in their store, and took it one step further.  This wasn't your average shady mall bathroom.  They created a luxurious, beautiful, and fully stocked restroom with complimentary toiletries for visitors and customers alike.  A pampering experience. 

Now, other retailers are sending their customers to walk through Bohme, when they need to go.  Bringing in more potential customers into their store.  

4. What about Employees? 

They thought about the typical experience mall workers have, when they go on break. A dingy food court, or a dark backroom with sack lunches and nothing more than an outdated microwave and ugly furniture. 

Again, this didn't cut it.  

Bohme created lavish details for their employees, including gorgeous Italian tile, a fully stocked fridge and a stylish break room. 

Paying attention to these details matters.  They upgraded the experience for their employees and splurged, where other retailers cut corners.  Their employees feel like they're well taken care of, and pampered,  in a beautiful work and break room environment.   

5. Employee Hiring, Doing Good and Motherhood 

Hiring can be a struggle, but Fernanda believes that everyone has a gift.  the question she asks is, "What's your gift, I'm going to put you there so you can thrive."  

The company also focuses on giving back, and doing good in the world, their employees get 3 days PTO to volunteer, and the company donates clothes to charity and people in need. 

When asked, how do you do it, you're Moms? 

Fernanda is a mom of 3, and Vivian, mom of 5, I loved the real honest answer here.  "Things fall through the cracks, things aren't perfect." They talked about having supportive spouses and how that has made a big difference, but being mothers doesn't stop them. 

Action steps: 

What's 1 key lesson you can you take from Bohme, and apply it to your business or ideas? 

I'd love to hear from you. 


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