What is Out of Town?
Out of town is a contemporary clothing and accessories boutique for women and babies with stores located in Bismark and Dickinson, ND.
Brooke Leo is the owner of Out of Town, which she started fresh out of college. She talked with Ladyboss about the importance of building a great team, figuring out how to be a good leader and what she wishes she’d known when she first started her business.
Tell me a little about yourself.
I’m originally from Dickinson. I went to school in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota for retail. I kind of knew from a young age that this is what I wanted to do. I always wanted my own store. When I graduated, the oil boom was happening in Dickinson, and it was a great time to go for it. I had a mentor of mine tell me, since I was scared to open a store out of college, “What’s the worst that could happen? Just do it.” In that time, I got married. My husband is also from Dickinson, and we moved together to Bismarck about five years ago and opened the Bismarck store.
You started your business right out of college! That is incredible. It must have been really scary.
It was! It was nerve-wracking, but I had a lot of support and mentors who were encouraging me to do it.
Did You Know?
Out of Town carries products from many different lines including UGG. Sorel. Good American, 7 for All Mankind, Free People, Mother Denim, Copper Pearl, Magnetic
We hear a lot from women that the first step in starting their business or getting their career off the ground is just having support and encouragement from other women. Why was it important for you to have that mentorship early on?
It’s one of those things where you just attract like-minded people. I’ve always been really driven and motivated, but I have been fortunate to be surrounded by similar people. I worked at a store called Evereve during college and the owners were always huge supporters of me and are to this day. I reach out to them with business questions. It was cool to work for a company that so closely supported and believed in their employees. I also did a mentorship program with a buyer from Macy’s while I was in school and she was always helpful. She is someone I feel I can always lean on. Funny enough, the photographer from our wedding was heavily involved in the retail world before she got into photography and she has been a great resource. She was the one who said, “What are you waiting for?” There have been these great influential people in my life. My family has also always been supportive. My parents are always in my corner and my husband too. It’s not luck, you really attract like-minded people.
Now that you’ve been in business for 11 years, what would you say to that 22-year-old version of yourself just starting out, or someone just graduating who is ready to hit the ground running?
I think that you have to know how much work you’re getting yourself into and be willing to put in the work. If you’re willing to put in the work and create something and do it well, those people that have helped you along the way are more than willing to keep helping if they see you’re driven and work hard. Reaching out to those people who’ve been there for you in the past is a great way to keep those relationships going. When you have questions, they’ll be there rooting for you. I have leaned on the people who have been supportive of me. I’ve even reached out to those Evereve owners for help on negotiating recently. It’s been 15 years since I worked there. So, it’s about working hard and keeping connections.
There are so many things you aren’t taught in college, and as a young business owner and especially as a woman, so much is gatekept. What are some of those things you had to learn by trial and error that you wish you’d known earlier on?
For me, the biggest thing was leadership. Coming right out of school, I had never led a team or been anyone’s boss. I worked in retail and understood that, but the leadership side of running a business was new to me. After 11 years of doing this, I just feel like I have a handle on this. It took a long time to figure out what kind of leader I wanted to be, and how to effectively lead a team.
And that’s something you can’t learn on paper.
You really have to learn as you go. Now I’ve been through most situations and navigated them.
I’m sure owning a clothing store in a pandemic has been one of those challenging situations.
It’s all about the people who are on the journey with you. As you grow, you learn that you can’t do it all yourself, and need a good team to make that happen. Keeping those people and keeping them satisfied is something that has been really important to me, so even just in the last year I’ve worked with a business coach to work on the leadership side of things. We’ve nailed down core values and those things you don’t consider when you’re more of a small business.
We’ve been talking a lot about balancing parenting and having a career, and especially these last few years, child care and caring for the home on top of work has been difficult for a lot of women. I’m wondering what those challenges have been like for you and how you’ve kept things going?
It’s very difficult! I have a 5-month-old and a 4-year-old. The first one I felt I could handle, but having two has rocked my world. Part of it is having a supportive husband. I wouldn’t be able to work the way I do if I didn’t have a partner who is equally involved with our kids. I have also realized that giving up some of our profits to hire more team members and to get help is what I’ve had to do to make things work. It’s something where I’d rather give more to have the help I need. On the more personal side, we need help too. We have a cleaning lady, and so we’re spending money for help because we need it.
I think that’s something that doesn’t get spoken about often, you know, the help you need to keep things going. There’s such pressure on women to do it all and do it all well and without help.
Everyone talks about work-life balance, but it’s truly important to me. I’m not willing to let my kids grow up without spending time with me. I want to be there at night and on the weekends, and it wasn’t always like that. Now I have managers who can be there on the weekends, and I’ve worked hard to be at a point where I don’t have to be there all the time. That takes having good people around you and a good team who can really help you.
Support Out of Town
Phone: (701) 751-2506
Email: [email protected]
Address: 628 Kirkwood Mall, Bismarck, ND 58504