Adventures of an Online Boutique During COVID-19

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Knowing that women have limited time to shop, Renee Sembera and Heather Stansbury, owners of Hazel Lane Boutique — an online clothing store based in Covington — teamed up in December 2019 to increase their business’s online presence. They have since successfully altered their business plan and made online shopping easier for their clientele.

Online sales have been critical to their success. When the pandemic shutdowns started last spring, Sembera and Stansbury could no longer host in-person popup shops or happy hour events around New Orleans to sell their items. Instead, they relied on Facebook to post inventory and highlight sales where customers could safely shop using Facebook’s “View Shop” feature.

“Renee and I both love connecting with new people and providing a service and products that make women feel good,” said Stansbury. “There are so many crazy things happening in life right now that if we can offer someone something beautiful and it makes that person feel good about themselves, we are fulfilled.”

Sembera started the business in late 2016.  Her first child was almost two at that time and they both shared hazel-colored eyes and she grew up on Piper Lane in Mandeville — thus, Hazel Lane was born.

In late 2019, Stansbury began helping Sembera with a little modeling, some social media, holiday pop ups, and other efforts. They became official partners in January 2020.

“Three months later, in March 2020, the world officially stopped, and we were forced to brainstorm and come up with a way to reach new customers without seeing anyone face to face,” said Stansbury. “It was time to get creative. We put a lot of effort into stepping up our social media game and buying inventory that catered to a worldwide pandemic — hence all the loungewear we sold during that time.”

The two moms love fashion and describe their taste as fun, relaxed, effortless, comfortable, feminine, trendy, contemporary, pretty and girly. They also believe affordability is important to their customers.

“Women wear many hats while juggling careers and households, but finding affordable clothing to wear while conquering a variety of daily tasks is still challenging,” said Stansbury. “We want to offer women an easy and convenient way to shop affordable pieces stress free.”

The duo rely heavily on Instagram and Facebook for marketing, using weekends to plan a social media schedule via the Facebook posting scheduler.

“We make sure Instagram and Facebook stories are used throughout the day to share fresh content,” said Stansbury. “We look for exactly what our customers need and want and the only way to see that is to pay attention to what our customers are doing on social media. If you pay attention closely, your customers will show you exactly what they want.”

Their goal is to continue to grow their online presence.

“I always find it really cool to see how far we ship,” said Stansbury. “We’ve shipped out of the country one time to a military base and that was really neat to think someone sitting at their phone or the computer outside of the U.S.A. was looking at our website.”

In five years, Stansbury envisions the two walking through a warehouse where all of their inventory is stored.  They said they’d also love to give back to the community by creating jobs and opportunities for other women.

“For now, we will continue grinding in our small, in-home offices and playrooms in our houses next door to each other,” said Stansbury, “with a Suburban packed to the gills with clothes until we reach the stars.”



Categories: Labors of Love