Amanda Ronan was never happy with the fashion options around her, and if you want something done, you’ve got to do it yourself.
So she took the entrepreneurial leap, and opened Pretty Little Freak Boutique in downtown Fredericton.
“One day, my husband talked me into trying on a cherry pinup dress,” Ronan said. “This was at a time where I felt I had lost my identity, and when I wore the dress, it was the first time I had felt beautiful in years.”
Then came the heels. Soon, red hair and a tattoo followed, and just like that Ronan was hooked on rockabilly fashion.
“I wanted to feel like this all the time,” she said. “It was hard to find in Fredericton, so I decided to bring it closer. And the idea for my boutique was born.”
But starting it up wasn’t easy, and not just because it’s a risky venture.
“I was dealing with many things I didn’t know, like permits, GST numbers, the things no one talks about . . . not to mention finding the downtown location,” Ronan said. “But I knew the downtown location was very important.”
Right from the start, it hasn’t been an easy ride, but Ronan’s biggest challenge has been a rather unusual one. Many people think her store is a sex shop.
“People judged the store by its name,” she said. “Almost daily, I had people coming in saying, ‘Oh, I thought you were a sex shop,’ or ‘Do you have a back room with other things?’ I still get it, even though the store has transparent windows.”
Despite the assumptions, Ronan forged on, building her business into what it is today. Part of it was getting the word out.
“I did some advertising with newspaper and radio,” Ronan said. “The Gleaner has done a story on me, as have Here Magazine and the university papers. I also peppered the city with flyers for the grand opening. Word of mouth has been great.”
However, every business owner knows that the hardships never really end. Ronan said she is still struggling financially. She said it’s not just advertising that’s expensive, but also the daily costs.
“Power bills, Internet, phone bills, customs charges, it’s all more expensive when it’s commercial,” she said.
“I’m in year two, and I still don’t pay myself.”
It’s in these darkest moments that an entrepreneur’s resolve is tested. Some will crumble under the pressure, but others will go on.
“There are moments where I wonder,” Ronan said. “Working 40 hours a week, no paycheque and bad sales. But then I see my shop, and the friends I’ve made, and I feel proud again. It was totally right for me.”
Ronan has done quite a bit to make the boutique’s mark in Fredericton. That includes donning roller skates and both dealing and taking bruises.
“I happen to be Cherry Von Freak, a jammer for the Capital City Rollers roller derby team,” Ronan said. “I sell their merchandise and bout tickets. I also bring in monster makeup for the zombie walks. I try to support community events wherever I can, especially when they pertain to my store’s theme.”
The best way to learn is through experience, and Ronan has certainly learned a lot since she started.
“Don’t expect to pay yourself,” she said. “Be prepared to be the only employee sometimes. Learn to say no, because you cannot do everything,” she said.
“Even if people think you’re a sex shop that gives massages in the back.”