Fashion-forward sisters find success in retail

Picture of Fernanda and Vivien Böhme

The Utah SBA 2019 Small Business of the Year Award was presented to Böhme LLC, a growing chain of 16 fashion boutiques, during the National Small Business Week Awards Ceremony May 9, 2019, in Salt Lake City.

Raised in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Fernanda (owner/designer and Vivien (owner/CEO) Böhme moved with their parents to Utah when they were 8 and 9 years old, respectively. Vivien, a self-proclaimed “numbers queen” was always interested in numbers and could make a financial spreadsheet at age 11, proving to her parents they could indeed afford a bicycle. Fernanda was and remains the creative one and built artistic displays as a child.

They have found their niche by focusing on helping their customers as individuals find something that makes them feel great. “Every woman deserves to be thought of as the most beautiful person in that minute. If Bohme can be in that moment we’ve done our job,” Vivien Böhme said in an utahbusiness.com article by Sarah Stokes dated March 18, 2018.

With no retail experience, no investor and a faltering economy, the odds weren’t in their favor when the sisters opened a women’s clothing boutique in a temporary mall location during the holidays of 2007, or when they opened their first permanent store in 2008. But with Vivien’s head for numbers and Fernanda’s eye for design, the women bootstrapped their way to entrepreneurship, funded only by a credit card at first.

Within a year, Böhme was first place in Fashion Place Mall sales per square foot. The next year, Fernanda and Vivien opened a second location, learned the basics of everything from flooring to fixtures and remodeled it themselves, since they lacked the funds to hire a construction crew. From that point on, the sisters added multiple stores per year, landing on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies in 2012.

Böhme now has 16 stores in five states through the Midwest, along with a thriving online presence. It ranked among the Salt Lake Tribune’s annual listing of top workplaces in 2015, 2017 and 2018. In Utah, there are eight Böhme stores from Logan to St. George, with a new location in Salt Lake City’s City Creek planned this year.

Böhme as a brand values creativity above all other business skills and breaks all the rules along the way. “Never underestimate the power of creativity.  Not only visually, but also when making business decisions,” said Fernanda Böhme.

While Böhme stores had been able to attract customers through the so-called “retail apocalypse,” the company experienced challenges that threatened its future as it struggled to secure financing to give its stores necessary updating. As part of their growth plan they were able to apply for and secure a small business loan guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a) Loan Guarantee program. The Böhmes were able to steer the company back to growth through careful rebuilding and extreme cash management efforts. Last year, the company experienced record profit and revenue growth.  The company currently has 225 employees, most are women.

 

Company Name: 
Böhme LLC
Location: 
Salt Lake City, Utah