While many women dream of working in fashion simply because they love clothes, Shelby Jewel’s shop owner and blogger Shelby Tucker has a more business-minded approach. She loves the styling, of course, but she’s also a savvy entrepreneur. Over only three years, she built her online boutique — from an idea to explore her passion for business and customer experience to a brick-and-mortar retail store.
Shelby brings new and unique brands to Memphis, curates stylish looks women can feel confident in, and even partners with other Memphis-based businesses to expand the creative community. Shelby is a powerhouse, and we were delighted to talk to her about her journey. Please welcome this week’s FACE of Memphis, Shelby Tucker!
So many little girls dream of working in fashion, did you?
Crazy enough, I didn’t. When I was little, I was into Mary Kate and Ashley and Disney Princesses, but then I was more of an athlete and tomboy going into middle and high school. It wasn’t until college, when I watched The Hills, that Lauren Conrad sparked my interest in fashion with the website she built. That was my entry into blogging.
Tell us about your journey from blogger to entrepreneur and shop owner. When did you know you were ready to take the plunge from Instagram to a brick-and-mortar location?
It may look like it grew over time, but it was quick in the span of life. I graduated with an accounting degree and a minor in marketing from the University of Memphis. The business side always intrigued me, and blogging didn’t necessarily fulfill the fire burning inside for fashion and styling. My best friend worked at a local boutique right after graduating, and I realized I wanted to help style the customers, work the register, merchandise the store, etc. I started working there to gain business experience, and I wasn’t even there a year before I knew it was laid on my heart to start my retail journey.
I opened Shelby Jewel online in late 2017, and it grew organically. In late 2020, Saddle Creek offered me a six-month temporary pop-up lease. I had outgrown my home, and this was a way to try out brick and mortar. A month and a half after opening, I signed the lease for a permanent spot at Williamsburg Village. The path was set, and, with prayer, Shelby Jewel opened in mid-2021.
What’s the most exciting part about owning your shop?
I love the excitement of getting new pieces that I have meticulously picked, and having customers put them on, create an outfit, and feel confident. I love styling — so much so, that we provide styling appointments. It is a core part of who I am. I was born and raised here in Memphis, so to be a part of the business community, bringing my hometown something I believed was missing in the market, is very dear to my heart.
How do you choose which brands to feature and discover up-and-coming designers?
I try to bring in brands that aren’t already available in Memphis, and hand-curating each piece is important. With the brands we showcase, I either use them personally, or I love their mission. I find new brands at market or through research or outreach from the brand. It takes a whole village to get the shop curated for our customers.
What inspired you to work with Beg & Borrow? How do the custom appointments level up the styling experience?
Beg & Borrow is a Memphis-based clothing company owned by Monte Stewart and Lauren Draffin. They started the brand with custom appointments. They had a business plan to insert into local shops, and I was honored to be the first to see if it would project well. The Beg & Borrow Core Collection was born! They wanted to bring higher quality pieces that would be continuously replenished throughout the year. The next tier was seasonal, limited collections that we had fun collaborating on. It reflects their brand with what is best for my target customer. They still offer custom appointments. All the appointments are at Shelby Jewel with the Shelby Jewel experience.
What is The Jewel Box, and how does it differ from other subscription services?
As an entrepreneur, you constantly see what works best for your customers and think of new, unique ideas. My husband and mother-in-law thought of this idea in a brainstorming session with me. The core of Shelby Jewel is the experience and styling, and I ran with it. The Jewel Box differs from traditional shopping in a few ways. First, it supports a small local business. Second, I handpick every piece for every client based on a quiz they take and our communication. Third, it is a mystery box. They don’t see the piece until it shows up at their doorstep, and many pieces are brand new (not out on the floor or website yet!).
What’s your favorite item in the collection right now? Do you have certain go-to’s?
I have many! My go-to for date night is something you are comfortable in, and a dress is a one-and-done situation. Add some heels, curls through your hair, and gold earrings. A go-to for a big work event is either a one-and-done semi-casual dress, or I highly recommend killer trousers and a statement top. Keep the trousers versatile and then give a bang with a detailed top.
What is the creative and fashion community like in Memphis? Have you built relationships with other bloggers?
The blogging and fashion community is so supportive. The relationships hold a dear place in my heart, and I want to help grow, educate, and inspire Memphis. We have a lot to offer in this industry, and I am proud of what each individual who has developed this community has done.
What are you reading right now?
Who do you consider the most exciting Southern entrepreneurs right now?
Right now, I am taking classes from Tara Austin, who owns Ruthie Grace. She also owns Manifest with Josh Orr. Molly and Eric Farrell of Maggie Louise are phenomenal at honing in on their clients, understanding the business and market, and pouring back into their community. Jordan Smith of Glo Spray Tans in Nashville has been another exciting and upcoming entrepreneur in the Nashville area. She knows how to network, provide an incredible experience, and build a strategy around her industry.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Trust yourself. God gave you a gift; if He has laid it on your heart, trust your gut and go for it.
Build that strong support system. I call them my “safe people.” Have mentors who can teach you, friends and family who rally around you, and a group that can be open. I have a tight-knit group of faith-based women entrepreneurs that meet once a month, with whom I can open up about everything. We all understand each other and can be a shoulder to cry on, a problem-solving whiteboard, and a cheerleading squad.
Beyond faith, family, or friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Fitness (whether soccer or cycling), my dog Scout, and books (shout out to Novel Memphis).
Thank you, Shelby! All photography courtesy of Shelby Tucker unless otherwise noted.
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