Small Business Profile: Natalie and Bitsy Rhoda, Owners of STYLE CAMP - Philadelphia
Hi Bitsy and Natalie! Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
We're Bitsy and Natalie, the mother/daughter creators and owners of STYLE CAMP, a boutique in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. We curate a unique selection of womenswear, accessories, and gifts in our shop- and also offer personal shopping/ styling services to our clients.
As a mother/daughter team, how did you come together to become business partners? What led you to start STYLE CAMP?
Bitsy has done a lot of interior design, decorating, and styling, as well as retail. Natalie has a degree in fashion design and has worked in the industry as a an intern to Norma Kamali, a fit model, a designer, and currently teaches fashion design at a local University.
We both were looking for something new and through a combination of good timing, a good relationship, and sweat, we were able to leave our previous jobs and strike out on our own. We've always been close and knew we would work well together. Luckily, we were right! This has only brought us closer together.
What is the style and vision of your shop?
Our shop is comfortable and relaxing, like a cozy living room. We want you to feel at home and never feel pressured. We'll regularly change up the layout—our customers and friends discover new things each time they come to visit.
How do you go about finding brands and designers to carry? What are some of your current favorites?
Finding brands is our favorite part of running STYLE CAMP. With trade shows, customer recommendations, magazines, and social media—we find more than we can carry! Our current favorites (it changes constantly): Beautifully designed scarves from Heti's Colours—the most amazing color combinations and stunning prints; unique clothing from eka—hand detailing to die for; and creative down vests, hats, and bags from Think Royln.
How does your neighborhood play a part in your business? How do you connect with your customers and community?
Our neighborhood plays a huge part in our business. Chestnut Hill has a main street shopping district that offers everything a person could want—other boutique clothing shops, home, food, specialty stores, exercise studios, bars and restaurants—it's all here within walking distance, and it's beautiful! Bitsy walks to work, Natalie grew up in the neighborhood. It's so nice to know all of the store owners (mostly women!). We're a close knit group. We try to get together for monthly happy hours after we close up shop. The neighborhood business association is active in promoting the businesses and planning special events to attract others. Our locals are our main supporters. We couldn't do anything that we do without the support of our regulars—and the wonderful people that make up this community.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
Two things: first, of course, are the people. We meet incredible people in all aspects of this business—our customers and fellow business owners, but also the makers who come from all over to share what they've created. We meet them, listen to their stories, and try to convey that passion to our clients. The people that walk through our doors at CAMP—countless meaningful interactions (big and small) and many new friends have come from us having this business. It's really special.
The second is that we stay creatively hungry. We're never complacent. We are grateful and proud of what we've done, but that never means we'll stop trying to do more.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with STYLE CAMP?
Trying to do more but not knowing what or how! That really is our biggest problem. We constantly want to evolve and it's difficult to keep up with our ambition. It's also difficult to give up some control. The two of us still do almost everything, but we do know that in order to grow, we'll have to let other people help us.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other? How have women supported you?
Women are strong but everyone needs other people to cheer you on and encourage you. We are both lucky enough to have a solid group of sisters, cousins, girlfriends, and fellow entrepreneurs that continue to inspire us to move on. But then there's our relationship. We have a special relationship—a lot of our communication is just a certain look. We often know what the other is thinking without having to say anything. Of course, the partnership is helped by our relationship as mother and daughter, but it's also about the support that we lend each other at the store when we've faced challenges.
What women bring you inspiration?
For both of us, Bitsy's mother (and Natalie's grandmother) was particularly influential. She had immense talent. Bitsy is reminded of her mother's many gifts every day. From painting to sewing, decorating, reading, listening to music—this lady was worldly! Having traveled very little—and having only limited resources—she surrounded herself with culture. Bitsy believes that we both inherited that creative, resourceful, can-do-anything spirit.
We've also both worked for numerous women-owned businesses and learned so much along the way. These women worked hard, raised their children, and shared their knowledge. I admire their positive attitude and fortitude. All of these strong women have their own sense of style, and remain true to their vision.
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
With any creative endeavor, research is important. We spent months reading, visiting various boutiques, planning, and brainstorming with creative people we admire. Also physically collecting ideas- tear sheets, inspirational articles, creating mood boards, and taking many many notes. You have to free your mind to allow ideas to form, be true to your vision, and trust yourself! Letting go of fear of failure is difficult, but imperative.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
Bitsy is looking forward to taking business classes, and Natalie has been meaning to teach herself how to start making quilts.
What are some of your favorite places in Philadelphia?
We live and work in one of my favorite places in Philadelphia. Chestnut Hill is extremely charming. We love the historic architecture, other small businesses, proximity to parks, and walkability of it all. An easy train downtown, we'll often go walk around Old City, or Rittenhouse- making sure we stop for lunch and a glass of wine at Barbuzzo, A Kitchen or Zavino.