When Sherry Gummow opened her Ponoka lingerie store in 2008, Alberta was deep in a recession. Twelve years later the world’s turned upside down again and Busted Ladies Lingerie is still thriving. How? Gummow’s grit as an entrepreneur is certainly part of it.
“We had a record year going and it came to a screeching halt. I had to lay off staff, we stopped in-person shopping. But I decided I wasn’t going down without a fight.”
Embracing change has also been key to Gummow’s success. There’s a new quote from Grace Murray Hopper up on the Busted Ladies Facebook page that defines her new attitude: “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way.’”
There’s nothing so constant as change
Gummow remembers bra shopping as a teenager when everything was white and no one helped her find the right size.
“I didn’t know how to choose, and of course the cups weren’t the right fit and the straps dug into my shoulders. I don’t think I even owned a black bra back then.”
One reason she started her own store was to offer women the guidance she’d missed, and help them find comfortable, flattering support. Busted Ladies carries sizing up to an O cup, and staff have extensive training to give customers the perfect fit. That quality service has been central to the store since the beginning, but other things have changed over time.
“When I picture the store back then it was 70 per cent beige, beige, and another shade of beige,” she laughs. “Now the store is full of colour.”
Gummow encourages customers to be open to change as well.
“Sometimes it’s a mental thing. A customer will say ‘I’m a C-cup, I’ve always been a C-cup.’ But none of us have the same bodies we had when we were 18. Whether we gain an ounce or not, have babies or not, our bodies change!”
With some big chains closing stores in Central Alberta, Gummow says there’s no better time to shop local. Plus, Busted Ladies is currently nominated for an Intima Award for Best Lingerie Shop in North America, meaning it’s sure to become your go-to store.
Going virtual, keeping it personal
In the last three months Gummow has shipped through her online store, delivered to front porches, offered curb-side pick-ups and scheduled virtual fittings.
“I’ve had customers send me pictures of their torsos, and I’ve gotten pretty good at virtual fitting. But I still prefer helping people in person where they can try things on.”
While the pandemic has made some of her regular restocking markets less accessible, it’s also allowed her to attend an annual conference virtually.
“We have to evolve,” Gummow says. “I’ve done a lot of re-evaluating, and I’m determined to thrive.