Business

Ground Floor: Wild Moon in Cedar Rapids opts for online 'try-on' parties

Lena Long shifted to organic, fair-wage clothing

CEDAR RAPIDS — Owner Lena Long said her clothing business, Shop Wild Moon, offers a whole new way of shopping for women’s apparel.

But it took Long some time to find her way as a women’s clothing retailer. Her current business model bears little resemblance to the business she first envisioned 17 years ago or even to the one she finally launched more than a decade later.

In 2001, Long and her sister left Cedar Rapids for Los Angeles, where Long’s sister worked in the fashion industry. Living just off Melrose Avenue, the sisters often walked along that street and dreamed of having their own little boutique similar to the ones they saw there.

Fast forward to 2014. By then, Long was living in Phoenix with her husband and young daughter while her sister remained in L.A. Meanwhile, online shopping had begun to catch up on brick-and-mortar sales.

Long got a call from her sister, who told her about a women’s clothing wholesaler she’d found. The clothing was stylish, yet comfortable and well-priced, exactly what Long had been looking for, she said.

“I flew out to see, and in three days we bought a ton of clothing,” Long recalled. “We were going to have our own online boutique and make it happen together. It was so random the way it started after we had been wanting to do it for 10-plus years.”

Long’s husband, an applications developer, helped her create a website, and his company provided marketing and branding services to the fledgling business.

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The next year, Long and her husband moved back to Cedar Rapids to be closer to family. She took the business with her, but it was struggling.

“Advertising wasn’t feasible because it’s so expensive,” she said. “The website didn’t reach enough people to make the business worthwhile. I had no time to get creative to make it work.”

Long shut down the website in February 2017 to focus on her home and family. But she couldn’t stay away from the business.

“This is my heart, something I love almost as much as my family,” she said. “I wanted to make it all work.”

After a couple months away from the business, she began seeking a niche to set herself apart.

“I was competing with way too many big brands and stores,” she said. “I stopped buying fast fashion and trying to beat prices. Now I only offer high-quality organic or recycled-fabric clothing made in the USA by hardworking people making fair wages.”

She also changed how she sold the clothing, eschewing online sales to focus on personal shopping services for her clients. She also provides shopping events — pop-up shops, in-home shopping parties and virtual shopping “experiences” via a Facebook live feed.

One such virtual try-on party is scheduled for 5 p.m., this coming Friday, Jan. 12.

“People can sit back on the couch and watch online as we try on the spring and summer styles,” Long said. “It’s the perfect shopping experience.”

AT A GLANCE

Owner: Lena Long

Business: Shop Wild Moon

Email: lena@shopwildmoon.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/shopwildmoon

l Know a new business — in operation for less than a year — that would make an interesting “Ground Floor” feature? Contact us at michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com

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Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.