"shop local, shop small" retailer series: kai conversations with... sharla bush, owner of sharla's
kai is proud to highlight our beloved small boutique retailers in our “shop local, shop small” kai conversation features. some of these retailers have been with us for many years; in this case, i have had the pleasure of working with sharla bush, retailer extraordinaire and founder of sharla’s since 2004! sharla is a delight – i always look forward to our phone calls as i can feel her energy, passion, and kindness through the phone in our many conversations over the years. she is also an endless source of style and business wisdom. it’s inspiring! to get inspired yourself, i encourage you to read her story here and in our conversation with sharla below. you will discover not only her impeccably luxurious curated store but also how she “celebrates everyday and lives beautifully”.
how are you taking care of yourself and your business during this time? are there certain things that are proving to be sources of motivation/inspiration? if so, please feel free to share.
staying positive and expecting the best! my faith carries me through the best of times and the worst of times. i fuel up by reading my bible daily as though whatever i read was written expressly for me. there will always be bad news in the world around us. we can’t allow the pain we go through personally or what we see get down into our spirit and rob us of our joy. we can prosper in a pandemic! we have to think creatively and use any negative circumstance as a catapult to something greater. i am naturally wired up and stressed. i had to make some decisions this past year that i could no longer live thinking i had to do everything and the results of everything rested with me. i decided this business belonged to God and i had the privilege of running it! what a difference this has made. i made a radical decision to tithe the net profit on the business from 2021. my sales so far this year are up 30%!
how did you start your career?
i grew up in retail. my mom opened her flower shop in 1957 when i was two years old. as a depression era lady, she had an extraordinary work ethic and probably taught me more about running a business than i learned with a bba from smu.
how did you end up with your current role?
i worked for her a few years after college, married and was a stay-at-home mom for 24 years. when our daughter left for college i decided to open a cosmetic and bath boutique on the historic square in downtown mckinney, texas. it was a tiny space less than 300 square feet. i was there seven years, and moved to a 3,000 square foot square where i have been for the past eleven years. i believe all women should have their own source of income regardless if you are married and don’t have to work. most of the women in my generation and circle of friends married and did not work outside the home. my mother was a pioneer for her time in the 50’s and i saw what she was able to do and it really inspired me. my daughter opened a retail boutique in dallas as she graduated from smu (she also sold kai!). she is now 38 with four children living in naples, florida, but still runs the boutique long-distance. it can be done. she does not have to work, but it allows her this added dimension in her life. and, she and i can do what we want with our money!
can you please share a few sentences about your retail business and what makes your platform unique and special to your community?
we are all about customer service, beauty and joy at sharla’s. we try our best to keep everything merchandised beautifully. we make sure every person who walks through the door is greeted within 15 seconds. this is our home; how do you treat someone when they come into your home? we want every customer to leave happy and know we are here to take care of any concerns. every package that leaves the shop is beautifully wrapped. our bags are really popular and make a nice presentation with gifts. we try our best to contribute to all requests for donations.
how did you first discover kai?
i can’t remember! it’s been 18 years, but i want you to know that of all the lines i carry, kai is the only one with the same rep, the adorable one and only tyler!!
what is your favorite kai product?
can you please share a memory of a customer experience with kai?
it was the year oprah listed the butter and buffer as her favorites. i arrived one morning and by 11:00 i had 5 requests for the buffer. i thought that was so odd, as my kai sales were actually off and i was a bit discouraged. then tyler told me the good news. well, it was time to put on my seat belt because every person between here and the moon wanted a kai buffer and kai butter. i was ordering 36 at a time. i remember telling someone if the last shipment of kai buffers did not get here by christmas eve, i would need a one-way ticket to south america! they must have been under every christmas tree that year.
what do you like to do for fun when you are not working?
i love being in my yard taking care of plants. my favorites are gardenia plants which i do believe are in kai.
what is your favorite thing to do on the weekends?
as a retailer, weekends are busy with being open on saturday. we are closed on sundays. (we decided to stay closed on sundays during december this year and our sales actually increased!)
can you share a little about where you live, and who you spend your leisure time with?
i live at the edge of the historic district of mckinney in a house built in 1964. we’ve gutted and added onto it twice. i love my home and can’t imagine ever selling it. my tag line is “live beautifully” and i carry out that inspiration at home. i am currently redoing the back yard and it will be a slim aaron’s theme with yellow and white striped and polka dot umbrellas. everything is yellow and white from the flowers to the placemats on the patio and the monogrammed pool towels. (speaking of monograms, every piece of bedding, towel, napkin, including the knobs in my bar and home office are monogrammed!) my husband, george, and i have been married 42 years. he is struggling with parkinson’s so i am balancing my business while making sure he is not neglected. our son is 40 and lives in dallas and loves telling what he thinks i need to do next in my business. we adore our grandchildren and enjoy every opportunity to visit them.
where do you look for inspiration for your business?
when i travel, i try to go to as many stores as possible to see what others are doing. before covid i always went to market in new york and paris, but sadly the way covid has been handled it has made a mess of so much.
are there certain instagram pages or pinterest boards you follow?
not really. i loved to merchandise and feel i have a gift for it.
are there podcasts you listen to?
i am currently doing classes with my staff with whiz bang retailing.
thank you, sharla!