On a mission to make every woman feel confident
Lauren Rutkovitz wants every woman to look and feel her best. The Baltimore native created her
business, A Style Studio with that goal in mind. Stepping into the store, despite being surrounded by clothes, accessories and a full service makeup area…you can’t help but feel as if you’re in a part of her home more than a store. That reflects Lauren in a nutshell. The fashionable, gregarious and very entrepreneurial Lauren just pulls you in. Her spirit is in essence, the vibe of the store, and like her heart…it’s expanding in the late summer.
Our founder, Monyka Berrocosa, met Lauren while participating in a very unusual and fun fashion shoot, which featured a range of women of different sizes and ages to promote the message that every woman should look great in jeans. Lauren made the specific choice to focus on real women with natural style because this ethos reflects her philosophy that every woman should look and feel her best. “Bathing suits and jeans are a torturous experience for most women, I don’t want a visit here to feel like that” emphasizes the business owner, who wears what she sells proudly because “the reality is, anyone can look great in jeans, it’s really all about the fit.”
We recently interviewed Lauren to learn more about how she got started…read on below
What problems do you endeavor to solve with A Style Studio?
I’m all about making women feel more confident and helping them to see their natural assets versus focusing so much on their flaws.
What do you offer in terms of fashion, makeup and merchandise?
We carry premium denim size O to 25 to 34, we try to offer something for everybody. Some of our brands are DL1961, joes , 7 for all mankind, Frame, Mother, AG, J brand, and Articles of society. We also offer jeggings, leggings, and pants ranging from size xs to xl, again this is on purpose. Our tops and sweaters include the brands such as Parker, Bailey 44 , Amanda Uprichard, White and Warren, Lisa Todd, Minnie Rose , Lynn Ritchie, Wilt, Johnny Was and Sanctuary, again expressly size xs to xl. To complement a great outfit you can feel awesome in, we offer full line of private label cosmetics called Alexandra Cosmetics, as well as accessories, to complete the picture. We even have gifts, so you can grab everything you need. The coffee is next door though… but most of all we are popular with our clients because of our attention to detail, understanding of your unique personality and needs and superior customer service!
How long have you owned the store, or when was it officially started? How would you describe it?
I took the plunge in November 2009, not necessarily the top time economically but I saw a need not being filled and I felt compelled to forge ahead.We just weren’t seeing what we wanted to provide, which is essentially, a whole experience. We have a consultative approach because we realize every woman is beautiful and also, different. Here, we can dress you from head to toe…we can provide a complete makeover, if you so choose, that starts with your wardrobe, then accessorize you, then complete the makeover with a professional make up consultation and application. Our goal is to give you confidence and if you leave feeling great, and special, we’ve done our job.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur, or start this studio/venture?
I was a professional make-up artist and personal shopper, working from home during the week and also freelanced on weekends. I really wanted my own workspace, a place where people would feel as comfortable as my home to visit, find their unique style and shop. It became evident as my client base grew that I needed a place where I could invite people to do that.
What did you do prior to owning a retail operation?
My first venture was a nail and skin care salon in 1986 called Natural Beauty for 6 years then decided to sell the salon to raise my 3 children and be a full time mom. After only 6 months I started free-lancing on weekends. I loved my kids, but I missed my career doing makeup, and needed some adult time to myself! Because I loved my profession; working on the weekends was my free time.
Does your business work specifically serve women only?
I only sell women’s clothing, but my makeup business allows me to do commercial work and sometimes I work with men.
What was the most intimidating part of opening your store?
The risk of not having as much time for my family
What resources did you use to get started?
I used our finances, money that my husband and I had saved over the years; and a small bank note.
Do you have partners? If so, how many?
No, it is just me.
Do you have employees.
Definitely, we are way too busy for me to do this alone, I have 8 people working with me, each bringing their own personality and talents to the store.
When did your business grow from just you to plus one (one employee, or more)?
I started with two others, my sister Amy and 1 other employee, then within 6 months we had the need for 2 more sales people. By year one we had 5 employees and a part time bookkeeper. We have continued to grow, now we have 8 and a part time social media expert.
Who were the key players in helping you get your business started ?
My husband has always been my rock and biggest supporter, from helping with my kids to financially, but mainly just believing in me and telling me I could do it all. My sister has also worked with me for 7 years and always had my back. She has since moved to Florida, but she was a great help in starting the business. Over the years I have hired women who were very strong in retail back grounds. Most of my stylists have been in the clothing business for 30 plus years which I think is important.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever gotten and why?
Always aim to provide the best customer service you can! People will always remember good service, and return if they feel they have received the service they deserve.
You are expanding in the future, what prompted that decision?
I take great pride in the fact I carry xs to xl. That’s also why our clientele is loyal and returns, and refers us. Sadly, most boutiques forget about the fuller figured women, and don’t include offerings in that area. That’s not realistic, nor does it serve a broad client base. I need more room to carry all sizes, and because our business has really grown we need a bigger back room and office to accommodate our growing inventory. I also wanted more space for unique gifts for women and more space for people to come shop with friends, and or family.
You recently did a campaign that featured women in their teens up to seniors – different ages, different sizes and different races…what prompted that vision?
I have always believed in the term “real clothes for real women” We all know celebrities and models are beautiful, but real women are and should feel beautiful as well. Most don’t have stylist dressing us on a regular basis, so I wanted to offer my expertise to women like myself. I have been told my whole life that I was confident, and beautiful. I am a size 14 and not a model, just an ordinary women, housewife, makeup artist and stylist. I have always loved fashion, clothing, and makeup. However, I have found it very difficult to find fashionable clothing in my size in Baltimore, it was always a hunt! Just because you aren’t a size 4, doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to look stylish and confident. So, when I opened my store, I decided all women should be able to shop here and feel special, whether you are a size 2 or 16!
Fashion should not be exclusive, everyone wants to feel good in their own skin. For some women they can afford many outfits for others its just 1 or 2, why not cater to all women? It makes sense. When they go out to a party, dinner or a date night, or just do their day to day; all women should feel special feel that they look their best.
What do you think women’s biggest issues with body image and presentation are?
That is a loaded question…all women have issues…I have often said I should have a therapist on staff!! Most women don’t feel confident and need reassurance that they look good. Sometimes the more fit a women is the more particular she is about her body. The smaller lady usually focuses on one area she doesn’t like and doesn’t appreciate all of her good areas. The larger one often doesn’t realize she has assets. Some women have a lot of confidence and work very hard at their bodies and want to show that off. The larger lady however just wants to feel like clothing fits her well, gives her confidence, maybe even a little sex appeal. The smaller, size 6 women that looks good in everything is sometimes so picky and critical she buys only 1 or 2 items. The larger size 14 or 16 women struggles in most stores, and sometimes hates shopping, she is so happy to find clothing that fits, she is a worthy consumer too, and sometimes purchases even more than a smaller woman might, on account of being comfortable and confident that she looks great. I cater to both…and both have body image challenges. It’s not a size thing, it’s a universal thing, often.
How do you measure success – in your business and in life?
I feel like I am a success in business because I started during the recession and I could only improve, and that we did! I work very hard and always endeavor stay young and fresh. I hire young interns so they can keep me up on the latest technology! I am constantly researching new ideas for the store and business. In life I feel like a success because I have raised 3 beautiful and confident children. My oldest daughter Alex is working with my husband Steve and their new cyber security company called Choice Cyber Security. My middle son Matt has a startup company he created called Surge Curve in Tampa, Florida. My youngest Peri is a singer and songwriter at Berklee College of Music. Watching my children succeed and grow makes me feel very successful!! They all make me proud every day. A big part of being successful is feeling I have been successful at being a Mom, despite also nurturing my career.
What is your personal “philosophy” about business success?
I can bring home the bacon, fry it in a pan and never forget my man…because I’m a women!! Old commercial but still my mantra.
Where and how do you network, grow your business?
Very little advertising, mostly social media, and word of mouth. Referrals really are the key.
What is your biggest challenge as a business owner?
Managing my family life and work. My three children now live out of town and of course, I want to travel and spend time with them. My parents are aging and need a lot of support. Keeping current is a full time job! Constantly researching products and new ways to reach customers takes up a lot of time. Finding time for myself…
What do you do when you’re not working?
I travel, spend time at my home in Delaware and visit my children. I also love shoe shopping.
What are four things you love about Baltimore?
- comfort , I’ve lived here my entire life
What do you do when you get discouraged?
Vent to my husband, and get a good night sleep, knowing tomorrow will be a better day.
What causes are important to you and if applicable how do you give back?
I love all causes related to children, I have 2 dyslexic children , so Jemicy is always close to my heart. I chaired their fund raiser for a number of years. I support Mount Washington Pediatric hospital through the business. I have held shopping events as well as fashion shows to raise money for the hospital. I also love the organization Baltimore Child abuse BCAC. I have had events for them as well. I feel blessed to have 3 healthy children so I always want to give back! I also donate to area schools and synagogues when asked.
Lauren is a successful entrepreneur, Makeup artist, personal stylist and the owner of A Style Studio, a cutting edge, on trend, women’s clothing boutique and make up studio. She is the founder of Alexandra Cosmetics. Lauren has a passion for making women feel beautiful, and comfortable in their own skin. She is a Mother of 3… Alexandra, 28, Matthew, 25 and Peri, 19 as well as a wife of 30 years to her best friend, Steven. When she is not spending time with her family, working, or fund raising, she can usually be found surrounded by family and friends. Lauren loves to entertain, host parties and have family gatherings in herfree time. When she can, she loves to travel and spend time in her Delaware home at the beach.
A Style Studio, founded by Lauren Rutkovitz in 2009, fuses cosmetics, clothing and accessories for the fashion forward woman. From professional makeup application to a custom wardrobe, are all within this stylish store front. A Style Studio offers women a complete transformation,” classic style with a twist”. The store carries size 0 to size 16. A Style Studio carries a private label line of cosmetics, Alexandra Cosmetics, as well as other cosmetic lines. The store focuses on denim for women in all shapes and sizes, great basics and more. A Style Studio emphasizes chic accessories to pull the latest looks together with great jewelry. This store appeals to women of all ages, offering chic and casual looks that are both timeless and hip. A Style Studio offers “real clothes for real women.
To learn more visit www.astylestudio.com or call 410-484-1115 . A Style Studio is conveniently located off the Reisterstown Rd exit on 695. The address is: 25 HOOKS LANE SUITE 110 PIKESVILLE, MD, 21208