Interview with Yvette Dudley, Business Owner of Soultry Shoes
Located in Pilsen’s Art District, Soultry Shoes is a quaint boutique that offers a variety of shoe styles and accessories for women.
Yvette Dudley, owner of Soultry Shoes opened her business more than three years ago after being laid off from her job in the financial services sector. Eager to move her life into a new direction, she established her boutique out of a desire to follow her lifelong passion of owning her own business. One idea was providing an environment for women to network and connect; and what better place than a shoe boutique.
Yvette has committed herself to supporting the Pilsen community; and she features handcrafted jewelry, clothing and art work by local artists.
She sat with the Pilsen Portal to discuss her business and her involvement in Greater Pilsen Economic Development Association.
Pilsen Portal: What inspired you to open Soulty Shoes?
Yvette Dudley: I would really say that my passion started as a child. I always wanted my own business. I used to tell my mom that I wanted my own restaurant and I wanted to call it Yvette’s. Then I wanted my own dance studio because I danced from a really young age through college. Furthermore, several of my relatives had their own businesses when I was a child and I spent time working with them. My family instilled values in me to have something of your own that enables you to create jobs, have independence and see your ideas come to fruition. So by going through college and working in corporate America, I felt that I had a really strong foundation to start my own business.
After going through the transition of being laid off and not finding work, I said to myself, what better time than now for me to go give this a try. I attended business classes and did some research, which confirmed that it was vital to choose a business that I could eat, drink, and sleep. Owning a business is a twenty four hour a day job, you are never really at rest. Even after your business day ends, your mind is still thinking about the business. You wear many hats. Sometimes you are the accountant and sometimes you are doing maintenance. You need to be prepared for all situations. Many people think that owning a business is living your dream and yes, it is living your dream, but it is also a huge sacrifice. You have to love it!
A pretty common thing among women is our love for shopping, especially for shoes. So, I decided to open a ladies shoe boutique. I wanted to create a comfortable environment where women could find and create their own unique style, but also have it to be a place where women could network, be inspired, and share.
Can you describe the significance of the name Soultry Shoes?
Actually, someone gave me the name “Soultry” as a nickname. This was years and years ago and I always liked it, and thought it was kind of cool. When I started thinking about names for my store, I felt that it described or encompassed what I wanted in my store.
Why did you choose Pilsen as the home of your boutique?
Pilsen has a family and cultural feel to it. I wanted to be in a place where people would enjoy coming to visit, enjoy the community, and be easy to access. I also wanted to be in a place where I could be an integral part of its continued growth and give back to the community. To me, Pilsen encompasses all of that. I love the art, the food and the people here. Once I located the storefront, all the pieces fell into place.
You have been here for more than two years; can you describe what has been your success?
In the beginning, I found it difficult because there wasn’t a lot of retail in Pilsen. Within the three years, I have established myself in the community. I have worked with other business owners and have become acquainted with people who live in the community to let them know about my business. As I expand and grow, I would like to hire from within the community. I make a point to inform my clients of what is going on in the community. This is a great community with lots of art and culture, and people need to know about it.
What’s interesting about your boutique is that it feels like you are walking into a friend’s home in regards to the décor. Was that intentional?
Yes, I wanted people to feel welcome. I wanted warm colors so people would feel comfortable. I came from a customer service background and I think it’s very important that people feel comfortable in any environment whether it be their work environment, or whether it be shopping, visiting with friends, or meeting new people. If they feel comfortable, they are more inclined to purchase and come again.
You are also a member of the Greater Pilsen Economic Development Association (GPEDA). Can you describe the importance of this new chamber of commerce and the role that you play as a member?
I thought it was critical that all the businesses in Pilsen bond together, including the businesses here on Halsted as well as throughout the community. I truly believed that there was power in numbers and after talking to others, we were all feeling the same pain. We really wanted to be part of the community and help support it. Number one, we needed to exchange ideas and support each other. So, I and some of the other business owners like Gus from Ciao Amore, decided to call a meeting. One of the first things that we wanted to do was to create an advertising piece so that people outside of the community would know that we were here. We did a little advertising in newspapers to show that there are nice businesses here and to come check Pilsen out. Not only was it important for us to support each other and embrace each other, but it was also vital to reach out to the community, making residents and business owners aware that we are here to help. We wanted to stress that we are not here to cause dissention or to separate and divide, but to provide support, job opportunities, internships, work with the schools and with the Alderman so this community can thrive.
Before there was a Greater Pilsen Economic Development Association there was the East Pilsen Business Alliance. We had the same goal in mind of bringing businesses together to work toward a common goal of supporting one another and the community; however, it was short-lived, because we lacked the necessary resources and funding to get things done. GPEDA came at the right time and as has been able to obtain some important resources and is currently working to form a board, so that there is an official business chamber for Pilsen. New or established businesses can finally say there is Chamber that they can join, which can be shared by all, and we can move in the same direction for common goals as opposed to individual entities, struggling to try to stay alive. Hopefully, we can continue to move forward and stay the course, showing the Alderman, the Pilsen community, and surrounding communities that Pilsen’s business community is strong, here to thrive, and help. We want to embrace the community and drive more traffic to local businesses so they can see what a great place Pilsen is.
Posted in Pilsen Community, Local Business Profile, Local Businesses