By Sharon Verbeten
Trish Bosman thought she knew all the ins and outs of retail. But then the pandemic hit and the owner of Twist Boutique, a women’s clothing and accessories shop in Ashwaubenon, says the retail landscape became a whole “new ballgame.”
The pandemic was hard on the business, which features items from family-run American businesses. Twist, like most other small retailers, closed its doors and stayed that way for three months.
“The first month we closed, I didn’t know how long I could last. Bills kept coming in. Nobody knew how bad it was going to get,” says Bosman, a native of Two Rivers. “We didn’t know if the three months of closure would be enough; it was all the unknown.”
Bosman says it was a tough few months. She shut off her heat, cried every day and ate only every other meal. While she made some sales on social media, she says people are more focused on buying food than clothing during uncertain times. “You just hoped that you had one sale,” she says.
During the shutdown, Bosman created face masks with N95 fabric filters inside. She set up sewing machines in her store, used fabric she had from her shirts and crafted the masks before selling and sending them to local hospitals as well as those out of the area, including the East Coast.
But Bosman remained focused and made it through the toughest days. She has been in the retail business since she was 12 years old. “I put two and two together and moved my way up,” she says.
“You dream as you grow up — someday, if I have a store, how cool it would be. Then you realize all the work,” says Bosman, who launched her business in 2013 with a slightly different focus — recycled denim for customers to personalize.
“The odds were against me,” says Bosman, a stay at-home mom who created a business plan and funded the business on her own. Landlords didn’t want to take a risk on a first-time business owner. And the recycled denim trend fizzled after Pinterest debuted and people realized they could bling out their denim on their own.
With her background in textiles and design, Bosman shifted focus. She always looked to Chicago and Madison for her own apparel — artsy, with flair — but failed to find her personal style in Green Bay.
“I just knew that we needed a ladies’ boutique,” she says. “I could see very easily I could put my expertise to what would sell best. I grew my business one legging at a time.”
In addition to running her now-7,000-square-foot store, Bosman selects all her inventory — ensuring none of her items can be purchased on Amazon, Etsy or at farmers’ markets — and designs her own line of apparel under the Twist moniker.
“I tweak and work with owners on designs,” she says.
Featuring all American-made products sets Twist’s price points a bit higher, Bosman says. “There’s not enough money in American product markup. I was told so many times it wouldn’t work,” she says, but adds, “for the quality of clothes, the price is so inexpensive for what you get.”
She’s also focused on merchandising and customer service. “We post and boost constantly,” she says, noting that her daughters, who studied marketing and business management, help her with the store’s social media presence.
Ultimately, Bosman’s goal is supporting women, one dress at a time. “Women helping women is important,” she says. “I’m passionate about what I do, making women feel positive and empowering themselves.”
And that goes double for herself. Having survived the pandemic’s rough hit on retail, Bosman says her drive and determination kept her — and her shop — going.
“If you think you can, you will,” she says. “No matter how tired you are, no matter how hungry you are, you can.”