A pandemic growth story: Tea clothing company Lauriebelles adds second storefront & warehouse

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Retail has been a volatile industry for years, even more so during the pandemic. But one KELOLAND clothing boutique owner says the pandemic became the catalyst for growing her business.

“I was just looking for something, something small to help make some extra money to help pay the bills,” Lauriebelles owner Laurie Karlson said. 

Seven and a half years ago, the former teacher and stay at home mom decided to start a clothing company.

“Being in my basement with two z-racks, people coming into my cul-de-sac and shopping in my basement,” Karlson said. 

Lauriebelles owner Laurie Karlson had already experienced a lot of growth before the pandemic hit.
“Our online location was doing really well; we had just added a second location in downtown Sioux Falls,” Karlson said. 

Then the pandemic brought some added pressure.

“How do I keep everybody in a job? How do we keep this business from not only declining, but I want to continue, if we can, to grow through this,” Karlson said. 

A challenge she and her team took head on, rapidly expanding sales online.

“With growth comes more issues, more technical issues,” Karlson said. 

Lauriebelles hired another 30 to 40 employees since the pandemic began in March.

“Not just store employees, warehouse employees, more to our marketing team, our coding team, our back-end logistical side to help manage this growth,” Karlson said. 

“My job interview was in March, right as the pandemic was heating up,” Lauriebelles marketing manager Taylor Kenney said. 

Kenney started work in May of 2020, with some reservations.

“What is going to happen to this business during covid, is it going to be something where it sticks around during the pandemic?” Kenney said. “The business did the exact opposite; it just grew during the pandemic.”

“We’ve had to continue to expand our warehouse,” Karlson said. “We actually just purchased a warehouse right next to us that’s another 25,000 square foot warehouse that we are moving into in May.”

Taking her clothing company from her basement to a 50,000 square feet footprint in just seven years.

“When I really take a moment and take it in, I realize how life-changing it’s been for myself and my family and I hope for the people that work here,” Karlson said. “It all happened so fast. Its pretty incredible.”

Karlson also credits her incredible customers for supporting her local business throughout the pandemic. 

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for people who were willing to go out online and spend the money, maybe even if they didn’t have the money sometimes, to support these small businesses through this,” Karlson said. 

She also says being able to manufacture her own clothing line, Lily & Lottie, is another huge reason for her company’s growth during the pandemic.

“We were having supply chain issues; we’re still having supply chain issues,” Karlson said. “Lily and Lottie, that is our own personal clothing line, we manufacture that start to finish from sketches to picking out the colors….it filled that gap of getting product in. When really no one else was getting much of anything in, we had that to bridge that gap.”

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