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Women-owned Boutiques Create a Buzz in Ames MSA

Find out why businesses in Ames and the surrounding communities thrive.

By Amy Antonation on May 12, 2023

Bizzy’s Boutique in Ames, IA
Dan McClanahan

Starting a small business is no mean feat: It takes creativity and perseverance, plus community support in the face of changing retail and economic trends. People are the secret to a successful business, and success is what two female-owned boutiques in the Ames MSA have found.

Busy Business in Ames

Sydney Petersen, owner of Bizzy’s Boutique, didn’t envision a career in design and retail, but when her daughter Izzy was born with a rare genetic condition and spent the first seven weeks of her life in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the former social worker found a new path.

“I was the mom buying all the cutesy, girly clothes and I could barely touch [Izzy],” Sydney says of that traumatic time. She wanted to help parents in similar circumstances bond with their newborns and settled on the idea of designing and donating stylish swaddling blankets to NICUs.

The blankets’ bright colors and prints are a far cry from utilitarian hospital blankets and provide a much-needed bit of normalcy for parents and children. The nonprofit Love, Izzy Project was born in 2019 with the mission of donating one swaddling blanket to a children’s hospital for every blanket sold.

As Sydney was conceptualizing the Love, Izzy Project, she also launched Bizzy’s Boutique to support the endeavor. The retail business sells Sydney’s own swaddling and children’s clothing designs as well as select women’s wear.

Sydney Petersen, owner of Bizzy’s Boutique, sells her own swaddling and children’s clothing designs.
Dan McClanahan

“I’ve always had an interest in design,” says Sydney, who constantly imagined modifications she’d make to the outfits she bought for her little ones.

As a self-taught designer, she takes advantage of continuing education and collaborations with Iowa State University textile and clothing students to help expand her skills and grow her businesses. “I prefer to be surrounded by people who are smarter than me,” she says with a laugh.

That’s paid off when it comes to Bizzy’s, which opened in Ames in 2020 and Altoona in 2022. When settling in Ames, Sydney says she wanted to be someplace that supported small businesses. “We participated in some farmers’ markets on Main Street and thought people were really supportive and kind,” she says.

Expanding to Altoona wasn’t something she’d considered, but the Ames storefront saw a steady stream of customers from Altoona requesting she open a second shop in their town.

“I’ve been surprised and thankful that people treat our business as part of a community,” she says. “It started as a way for parents to connect over cute baby clothes … I’m surprised how much it has bonded people.”

A Booming Business in Boone

Modern Dress in Boone, Iowa

Modern Dress
Boone, Iowa

Ashley Redeker is another area entrepreneur who didn’t set out to make a living in retail. In 2012, the Boone native and corporate events planner purchased a wedding gown store where she’d previously worked and renamed it Modern Dress.

“I was looking for a career that I could have for myself in Boone,” says Redeker, who liked the in-person aspect of bridal retail.

Five years later, she acquired a spacious women’s clothing boutique, and in late 2020, she consolidated both businesses under one roof, with half the space allocated to bridal gowns and half stocked with casual clothing, accessories, jewelry and home decor. Seeking out unique items for her boutiques serves as a fount of creativity for Redeker.

“Every time we go to markets, we’re seeing new lines – whether clothing or bridal – before anyone else. I’m always getting that dose of creativity from new styles and new colors,” she says.

Redeker parlays that into fun social media posts that include weekly Facebook Live fashion shows and chatty happy hours as well as eye-catching TikTok and Instagram posts. She also makes it a point to offer unusual services and hard-to-find designers.

“There could be three [area bridal] stores that all carry the same designers. We’ve always sought out different designers; that’s how we attract a lot of our customers,” she says.

Those customers keep coming back: Redeker recalls one family in which all three daughters purchased their wedding gowns from her store. And former brides become regular customers; she has some who stop by the clothing boutique weekly.

“We’re more of a specialty boutique,” Redeker says. “We don’t have huge quantities, so if you find something you love, you should snag it!”

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