Stardust & Me – The Woman Behind The Brand: A short story by Kirstie Logan, Publicist
Running your own business requires dedication, resilience and faith. Once those facets are factored into the equation, being your own boss isn’t always so desirable, even when it is achievable. It is natural to be idealistic, dreaming of a career which would allow you to sustain your own successful brand. So many of us fall at the first hurdle, and that failure hurts. Even more of us never try in the first place, which is arguably far more tragic.
There is one woman though who defies the abovementioned challenges in every sense. She’s the woman who actions her dreams. She takes an idea and runs with it, like a bull to a red flag. She’s a force to be reckoned with on every level and this is the story of her, her business and how she came to change my life. So Kylie, here’s to you.
I couldn’t possibly surmise Kylie. She’s not somebody I can squeeze into a nutshell – but here goes:
Kylie Hearne studied Classical Civilisation at Swansea University, which by all accounts, is a world away from the glamorous career she enjoys with Stardust Boutique. Nonetheless, Kylie has always been naturally academic and enjoys history, politics and the Arts. She sometimes muses about pursuing a PhD – just because she can.
Kylie is also a former national beauty queen, having represented Wales internationally. That is where THIS story begins…because that is where the seeds for Stardust Boutique were sewn, if you’ll pardon the pun!
Originally, Kylie set out to establish herself in the UK prom and pageant market. After all, back in 2011, there was little in the way of choice for young ladies searching for gowns and import costs were astronomical. So, with the help of the Princes Trust, Kylie opened Stardust Boutique.
I mean, it wasn’t an actual shop back then – Stardust Boutique existed in the home which she shared with her now-husband Ian and her beloved cat Harvey. From there, she sold prom dresses from an old rail she kept in a back bedroom. “That was the start of my business,” she recalls. “I had all these sequin gowns in all colours, and the beads would fall off.”
That was way back in 2011, and although I didn’t know Kylie well back then – I was under no illusion: This girl was going places.
It seems like decades have passed since we first became friends, but I still remember realising that she was on to something good. Kylie was using social media as a sales platform way before any of her competitors – and people were buying. Buying into her, not just the dresses. Even then, she possessed an incredible ability to market herself and this where her business model deviates from the norm: When you buy from Stardust Boutique, you’re buying into the brand and the woman behind it. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that customers will return if they feel that they’re understood, valued, listened to, appreciated and above all, NOT ripped off.
This is where I come in. I had watched Kylie’s brand grow online, I had witnessed girls winning national beauty contests in her gowns, I had experienced the opening of the first Stardust Boutique gown shop live on Youtube…and I wanted in. I wanted to get to know this lovely young woman who seemed like a friend to many and a sister to all.
So, Kylie and I got talking, and we became close friends almost instantaneously. The synergies between us were astounding and our shared interests made our conversations compelling and for the most part, whacky. We would talk late into the night on Facebook and that’s when I realised just how hard she had fought for her business.
Kylie had nobody to rely on – only herself. Her ambition was clear: Succeed, be financially stable, and look after everybody else. I realised pretty quickly that she was mentally tough, and I liked that.
She’s an interesting one, Kylie. She can’t lie, so her ability to sell is vested firmly in her approach to the customer: “Well you could buy that but this one would look far better, it would make you look slimmer and it’s £200 cheaper”.
Her honesty gets her everywhere, because in today’s consumer driven society, we’re just not used to somebody being frank and open – especially when they have mouths to feed. But it works, it really works. For me, it’s this desire to see people content and happy – rather than penniless and ripped off, which makes my girl stand out.
If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, then I suggest you take a look at her website. A number of the gowns Kylie stocks are couture and are worth in excess of £3000. It would be in her interest to sell her customers these gowns because the mark up is higher on those gowns, than it is on your every day prom dress. But that isn’t the way Kylie thinks. She’s a long-term strategist and above all, she’s human. She isn’t going to sell a dress to somebody it doesn’t suit to make a quick buck: She’s going to suggest another alternative – probably at half the price. If you’re happy, you’ll come back. As I said before, customers want to be understood and looked after, and all of Kylie’s Stardust Boutique customers appreciate this sentiment.
Kylie’s personality has always been a winner for prom and pageant parents – after all, who wants to spend the afternoon dress shopping with their daughter only to be subjected to fake smiles and over the top “Oh my god hun you look so amazing” from the overly keen sales assistant? You won’t get that with Kylie, because she says it as it is. My dad trusted her so much, that he used to get his secretary to ring Stardust Boutique and ask Kylie to pick me something and send it for my birthday – that level of trust is what I’m talking about, and I know full well that my dad was NOT alone.
So what else makes Stardust Boutique the ABSOLUTE BEST? Well, the choice of gowns of course! Since starting the boutique seven years ago, Kylie has earned the trust and respect from international designers and as a result, her collection cannot be rivalled. I have NEVER shopped elsewhere for an evening gown or pageant dress – because I know I won’t get a better choice. I’ve bought more than ten gowns from Kylie and she’s sent me countless pieces over the years for various functions I’ve attended.
In my line of work, style is everything. I’m a celebrity publicist so I can’t afford to look frumpy next to A listers on the carpet. But I trust Kylie – sometimes she’ll pick a gown for me and send it to me without showing me an image, but I’m always safe in the knowledge that she knows what suits me better than I do. I’ve met ambassadors, Prime Ministers, Royalty and celebrities in her gowns – and I wouldn’t have anybody else dress me. I have even called on her to dress my clients for premieres when their stylists have messed up. On one occasion, she picked a gown and sent it down to us – and it was here 12 hours later for the client to wear. That is exceptional customer service…but there’s really no difference for Kylie: She could be dressing the Queen or plain old me…everybody receives the same level of respect and professionalism.
It is impossible to know Kylie and not be inspired by her dedication to her work: She understands the world and she’s terribly empathetic to the situations we as humans often find ourselves in. She works around the clock and hardly sleeps, and she puts herself out every day to ensure that customers receive only the best. This is why she’s an award-winning business woman. This is why she is adored by thousands of pageant girls and prom queens. This is why parents will happily part with their money – because their daughters are looked after, and they come away with investment pieces which are often priceless.
She’s a facilitator of dreams and special memories, she’s a queen-maker and a tour-de-force…but best of all, she’s one of my best friends, and I love her for all that she is.
By Kirstie Logan-Townshend