BLLA’s Stay Boutique Live Event brought the boutique world together

Stay Boutique Live 2019 brought out the very best in the boutique community at this year’s Trifecta Event featuring the Boutique Bootcamp sponsored and held at The Line Hotel LA, the Leadership Conference, 2019 Awards Celebration Dinner and the Female Empowerment Conference all held at Magic Box @ The Reef in downtown Los Angeles on February 11-13th.

The two and a half-day conference, powered by BLLA & Stay Boutique, proved that boutique is here to stay and is more important than ever in today’s world.

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Frances Kiradjian and Ariela Kiradjian, the dynamic mother-daughter powerhouse duo behind Stay Boutique Live 2019 welcomed members, speakers and guests from all walks of life to educate, celebrate and inspire the boutique community which continues to flourish worldwide.

“Providing a safe haven for boutique thinkers is what Stay Boutique Live is all about,” says founder Frances Kiradjian who created its parent company BLLA, Boutique & Lifestyle Leadership Association in 2009. “This is our 10th year anniversary. I started this in a down economy when nobody believed in boutique, they said it was going away.” Well, she certainly proved them wrong!

Stay Boutique LA and BLLA have transformed the boutique community into a booming industry. Gone are the days when the word boutique only applied to hotels and fashion. “We are transforming our membership to include the ENTIRE boutique community,” says co-founder Ariela Kiradjian. “Inclusivity needs to be the new norm.” And inclusivity is what makes boutique one of the fastest growing movements in the world.

Take for example Damon Lawrence and Marcus Carey, the founders of Homage Hospitality who discussed the future of the boutique industry, and the importance of inclusion and preservation of culture. Lawrence recalled his journey as a newcomer in the hospitality business, and what ultimately inspired him to go boutique. “I started working at Thompson Hotels and it was my first job out of college. I remember working Obama’s inauguration and Thompson had this knack for having everybody cool stay at its property. It was a who’s who of Hollywood in the lobby. And I said this is cool, but how much cooler would it be if it was owned by the culture dominating its space. So, it really started there, and that was eleven years ago.”

Fast forward, Homage Hospitality now operates The Moor in New Orleans which opened its doors in 2018. Described as an innovative boutique hotel, the Moor celebrates the African American culture in the Big Easy. It’s the first in a planned series of openings that pay homage to the African American culture, hence the name Homage. “We choose locations that are just rich in culture,” says Carey who is a graduate of Howard University along with his partner Lawrence. Together, they are revolutionizing what it means to be boutique. They are looking for cities all across the globe, with the intention of creating properties that are capsules of culture. “We want to be in the center of cities, where the entire community knows they have a place where they can go and can see, smell and feel the culture and the people that took care of that city for so long. We want to preserve our culture. I think we are taking a museum approach to hotels.”

Stay Boutique Live’s impressive lineup of speakers was a true indication of just how diverse and colorful the community has become over the years, something Frances had envisioned from the very beginning. “This is our platform to unite and excite fellow boutique thinkers and leaders. This is much more than just a business conference, it’s a movement that we have created. A movement for innovation and change,” Frances says. From cannabis, wellness and fitness to coffee, travel and tourism, guests were exposed to the many emerging concepts within the boutique world. The themes discussed throughout Stay Boutique Live echoed those of connection, community, experience, and deviation.

“Consumers are smarter, they don’t want just a transaction. They want to feel connected to the brands they love and trust,” says Zak Normandin, CEO of Iris Nova, parent company of Dirty Lemon which is a direct to consumer beverage company that sells all of their beverages exclusively via text message. “We developed a technology platform that allows customers to place orders for our products over text message and we feel this type of intimate connection with customers are what customers are looking for and something that brands are going to be paying attention to in the future.”

Conversational commerce or C-commerce is the next generation of e-commerce, says Normandin who coined the term and continues to think outside the box with The Drug Store, a brick-and-mortar experiential location based in New York City. The Drug Store which opened its doors in late 2018 puts its customers on the honor system when they pay. “At the front of every space, we have a cooler where you can grab a bottle of Dirty Lemon and then just text us and tell us what you took and we charge your account on file. With its huge success, The Drug Store now plans to expand to multiple cities, including Miami. “We also have 24/7 live customer services, we actually have a full-service team. It really goes back to the relationship with the consumer. That meaningful relationship with the customer is what we want to support,” says the entrepreneur who built his fan base with the help of Instagram which now boasts over 100,000 followers.

The many colors of the boutique industry were revealed in riveting conversations with an emphasis on leadership and female empowerment. Guests were invited to explore the world of cannabis with the help of Lola Langusta, Founder of Stoned Fox, who shed light on its emerging role in the boutique community. All true pioneers, these passionate speakers shared their secrets to success and discussed the ever-evolving definition of what it means to be boutique.

“There are so many definitions for boutique, but the number one word in all those definitions is small which I thought was really interesting,” said keynote speaker Joey Gonzales, CEO of Barry’s Bootcamp which now has 53 locations and is in nine countries. “What we are trying to accomplish is to actually maintain the feeling there was in West Hollywood in 1998. It was just one little studio with no showers, just one toilet, but what was there was customer service to a level that doesn’t exist anymore. Everybody knew your name, it really was like the show, Cheers. All of these efforts that we are putting into from client experience to community marketing is all to try and maintain that small, family-owned and operated business because that’s really resonates with people. In boutique fitness, in any boutique, I think relationships are key. Learning how to navigate relationship, making sure people are paid attention to. Ultimately showing love goes a long way.”

“I think boutique is out-of-the-box thinking, doing something that doesn’t exist, finding a hole that needs to be filled in the marketplace,” says Dave Neupert, Co-Owner of Gold-Diggers, a unique boutique hotel, bar and a recording studio all under the same roof. “I did discover that there was a little niche that we could fill. I have traveling producers, traveling songwriters, labels putting people up, not having to get an Airbnb for artists. It’s all on one campus. That’s something that boutique is trying to make something out of nothing.”

Felicia Alexander, who describes herself as a recovering corporate executive, says “in order to create real value, it’s hard to be everything to everyone.” With twenty years in the marketing and sales world, the boxing enthusiast was able to parlay her skills into a lucrative fitness company called Box Union. “I’ve always been wildly passionate about fitness…I have a deeply personal connection to boxing. As we started to develop a concept, boxing seemed to be a white space. We didn’t feel like anybody had figured out how to make it warm and inviting and welcoming.” This was something Alexander was able to do and with flying colors. Box Union in Santa Monica just celebrated its two-year anniversary and plans to open a second studio in Beverly Hills are in the works.

“Again, this idea of specialization and experience really comes into play,” says Alexander. “At Box Union, we focus solely on fitness boxing classes. As a result, we can really deliver an experience rather than just a work-out. I would also say it’s boutique because we really have an opportunity to get to know the people that are coming thru our doors. We have created a sense of community where people have met some of their closest friends here. We are like family. It’s really about innovating and keeping consumers at the forefront of everything.”

For Colby Barr, Co-Founder of Verve Coffee Roasters, boutique means there is something more than just the offering. “So if you’re a hotel, you’re more than just a room, if you’re a restaurant, you’re more than just the food, if you’re a boxing gym, you’re more than just a place where people come to box…what’s beyond the product? Beyond the service? We don’t want to just be a coffee company. We want to elevate our company to be considered a lifestyle brand.”

And elevate is what Stay Boutique Live did for all its guests and members, making sure to live up to its name by making sure every single person was treated like a VIP. From the flowing Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s to the scrumptious snacks and delicious meals, every person was left with a memorable and unique experience. Founders Frances Kiradjian and her daughter Ariela Kiradjian walk the talk. Everything they do is boutique. Even the conference space was transformed into a beautiful boutique itself with music, photo booths, immersive experiences, and a timely Valentine’s Day themed arts and craft table where guests could make homemade cards with heart-shaped colored paper, stickers and scented markers.

“Being part of boutique, I’m really proud to be here,” says Kim Malek, Founder & CEO of famed ice cream company Salt & Straw. “I hope we can all continue to be a force for good.” All in all, speakers, sponsors, members and guests were left feeling inspired and connected to this rapidly growing community which promises to keep thriving in the coming years. Boutique is truly here to stay!

Thank you to the event’s wonderful supporters and sponsors! Headline: Atomic Design, AKA Hotels, Enseo, Greenberg Traurig, Luxe Collection, iVvy, Rainmaker, Suitelife by Venture, Tempur Sealy, The Gettys Group.

Allbridge, Beyond TV, Eight Inc, Hotel Emporium , LATHER, Mill + Thread, simplehuman, Westminster Teak, Eugene Stoltzfus Furniture Design, Stoned Fox, Barrineau, Bravo Your City, Catherine Fulmer, Devall Design Home, Easton Porter, Harry Roa Studio, High & Dry, itouches, Love + Destroy, MAKEREADY, MCOMS, Meier Lake, R + E, Summerland, Tonic, Wanderfuel, Boutique Design, Canadian Lodging News, Digital Travel, eHotelier, Hospitality Design, Hospitality Net, Hotel Business, Hotel Executive, Hotel Management, Hotel News Now, Hotel Online, Lodging Magazine, NEWH, Today’s Hotelier, AAHOA, CCMI, CLR Home Staging, HOTEC, Hotpoint, itm Mobile, Lodging Conference, One Stone, The Agency, The Line, Colors Collective, The Bosco, 88 Acres , Boxed Water, COOLA, DIRTY LEMON, Four Sigmatic, Good Day Chocolate, Icelandic Glacial, JUST Water, Nuun, Pop & Bottle, Public Goods, Simply Gum, Skinny Dipped Almonds, SMASHMALLOW, SuperGoop!, The Mochi Ice Cream Co, Topo Chico, Aperol, Art of Tea, Aurora Elixirs, Beekeeper’s Naturals, Black Bow Sweets, Canyon Coffee, Gem & Bolt, La Colombe Coffee Roasters, Raw Juicery, Rise Brewing Co., Splendid Spoon

About the Boutique & Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA)
BLLA is the world’s most innovative and progressive organization dedicated to the luxury independent boutique lifestyle industries. The association connects the world’s most dynamic executives with cutting edge business and operational insight. BLLA’s membership benefits allow access to the world’s leading minds in the space through events, research and education. Our mission is to provide leadership and opportunities for global recognition and connections to the world’s best companies, investors & developers. All resulting in strategic interactions and access to information that helps people and organizations thrive. Join the movement that BLLA gave birth to in 2009 and become a part of something that is truly unique, exciting and inspirational. www.blla.org

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