Amélie Thellen of Boutique Unicorn in Montreal
For Amélie Thellen, being an entrepreneur is all about thinking on your feet. When the pandemic struck, she had to quickly create new digitally-driven solutions to support her fashion boutique Unicorn, pivoting to the online world after years of focusing on face-to-face relationships.
"Being an entrepreneur is being creative. Reinvent your business idea if you have to, and make sure to focus on what sells." – Amélie Thellen, co-owner of Boutique Unicorn.
Montreal is a city that holds itself to exceptionally high fashion standards, and the creators behind Unicorn have carved out a loyal fan following since opening their doors in 2008.
"We decided to open Unicorn because Melanie [Robillard] and I were both dreaming of running our own fashion business," explains co-owner Amélie, who quickly identified a locally-driven niche. "We both had experience in retail, and it was pretty new at the time to put so much focus and promotion towards local designers."
For over a decade, the Mile-End store has been a go-to destination for thoughtfully curated clothing, accessories and local brands. But when COVID-19 forced Unicorn to lock its doors, the team had to make some swift and difficult decisions in order to survive.
"We had to close the physical store, so we decided to offer free shipping on all orders online," Amélie explains. The team was also forced to let go of some employees in order to stay open. "It was very difficult and emotional."
But adversity breeds innovation, and Unicorn has been able to weather the pandemic by reinventing their brand online. They’ve also eased and adapted their return policy, offering to accept refunded goods upon the store’s reopening – part of their effort to minimize unnecessary travel and interactions.
As life returns to a more normal state, Amélie says the team will be ready. They’re already thinking about how to safely reinvent the in-store shopping experience. "We want to make sure people still get the best service possible," she says.
In the meantime, Unicorn is building upon their newfound digital success, putting even more energy into their online store. Little by little, Amélie knows her business will come back stronger than ever.
"This is a difficult time for everybody," she says. "But let’s focus and take steps towards getting back to a normal life, together as a community. Let’s embrace this new reality and make the best out of it."
Click here to view more owner stories.
Click here to learn more about #StandWithOwners.