We had the good fortune of connecting with Kathryn McGinnis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kathryn, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
When I opened Darlin’ in the winter of 2017, I was working 24/7. Eighty hour work weeks were not uncommon, having a brick and mortar retail shop and learning how to place orders to fulfill my clients needs took much of my free time. Along with working the shop alone.
I had no lingerie or business ownership experience. I saw a need for size inclusive beautiful lingerie in the Nashville community and plunged in head first.
The hours I put in those first few years helped shape the work life balance I have today. A friend once told me, that email you need to send will still be there tomorrow. I think it took about two years for myself to really embrace that advice. We live in such an instant have to have it now culture, and applying that frenzy to my work ethic was burning me out.
I expanded the brick and mortar into a much larger space in the winter of 2019, right before Nashville was hit by a tornado. Weeks after the community was still reeling from the massive devastation, Covid-19 entered the United States. We shut down, like so many other businesses to help stop the spread. During this time I decided to teach myself how to build a website. After a lot of googling and iced coffee, launched a bare boned online store. The sales from our dedicated clientele helped me stay open that year. I am forever grateful for the community surrounding this business.
Covid changed the world for so many of us, and I’m not sure my work life balance would be the way it is now had we not spent two years social distancing. I implemented appointments after we were able to open our doors once again, minimizing the exposure to not only myself, but customers.
The past two years in business have been a constant juggle of trial and error. Darlin’ still offers appointments, but not just for health reasons. I’ve found that body conscious, mothers and teenagers, and those dipping their toes into cross dressing prefer to shop privately. It has expanded our reach to those that would not feel comfortable shopping in person amongst others.
After analyzing our peak hours I chose to move our walk in shopping hours to four days a week, instead of six. By doing this I am able to take Monday’s off completely. I call them “no email Mondays”, which isn’t always the case, but making sure I take that time to unplug and focus on my well being has been detrimental to avoiding burnout.
The spring of 2022, I had a web expert rework the online store. Andi Dunn of Honey Creative made all of my online store visions come to life. It’s easier to navigate, and our analytics have skyrocketed thanks to her work. Having an online retail store is a lot like having another business, but making sure it’s easy for myself and customers to navigate helps things run smoothly.
I think burnout culture is being spoken about more after returning to “normal” life. We are seeing more entrepenuaers emerge post pandemic. Finding what works for you, your industry, and your clientele is a delicate balance. The key factor in maintaining that balance is you, because you can’t fill a cup when the pitcher is empty.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Darlin’ was created as a space for everyone to feel welcomed and beautiful. My mission was and always has been celebrating the body you have. I am proud that I sought out size inclusive intimates before larger brands had caught on, and thankfully many of them have.
Our clientele is usually celebrating something: a date night, wedding, breakup, birthday, surgery, any sort of major life change. We have become a tradition for many of our clients and get to know them and their stories on a personal level. I think that the intimates industry is unique in the sense that it’s so personal.
I’ve learned that a proper fitting bra is the key to comfort. Many women come in wearing the incorrect size, and I encourage a fitting at least twice a year. Our bodies are always changing, so even if you’ve worn a certain size your entire life, there’s a very high chance it’s incorrect. Sharing that knowledge with our customers helps them feel confident in their purchase.
Being in sales is an art, but being an honest sales person is what retains clients. I love problem solving, and sometimes I don’t have the answer. Instead of pushing the incorrect product on someone, I will help them find what they’re looking for. It may not always make a sale that day, but helps maintain the integrity of the business. Customers will remember honesty, instead of regret.
The shop is in a quirky location, inside of a train station. We have no visibility, but online advertisements and word of mouth have helped us gain new customers. Darlin is at the end of an art gallery, which also adds to the experience. I always encourage everyone to explore the building, there are nooks and crannies throughout. We’ve had original photos of Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol first prints, and Helmut Newton’s framing our entrance. We currently have an original photo of 90’s Dita Von Teese, who also makes lingerie, hung in our shop next to her collection. The experience is absolutely part of the business.
We have a stage as well. We’ve hosted and live-streamed burlesque shows with the Tipsy Teasers, plays written by women, the Vagina Monologue troop performed a play by Eve Ensler for International Women’s Day. On our fourth anniversary we hired Rachel of Bright Eyes Messy Hair boudoir photography to take photos in store, and had it catered by Sip and Bite Cocktail. We try to include the community in ways that are always unique and interactive.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Nashville is so much fun to visit! I love giving visitors an itinerary.
The Wedgewood Houston neighborhood, where the shop is located is bustling. Earnest Bar and Hideaway has the best dinner. Bastion is great for cocktails and if you can get on their dinner reservation list (their hidden restaurant only seats 29 people) it is beyond worth it. Jackalope Brewery is across the street and they offer tours and tastings. Corsair Distillery is right down the road if whiskey is more your thing. Diskin Cider makes boozy cider slushees, and their patio is great for summer nights. Americano Coffee Lounge is where I hold most of my meetings, I am obsessed with their iced americano.
Soho House recently opened next door and they have an olympic sized swimming pool, venue, small golf course, and 40 bespoke hotel rooms for rent.
12 South is a great walkable neighborhood, and I frequent Sevier Park with my dogs. Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James welcomes shoppers with fresh iced tea. Love Shack Fancy just painted an entire building pink, which suits their over the top tea party style. Jeni’s Ice Cream will have a line out of the door all season, but it’s worth it. You could spend an entire afternoon walking, sipping, shopping and eating along the street.
East Nashville has been known to be home for most musicians out of any zip code in the world. Dive bars, small venues, vintage goods, and restaurants that excel at what they do. It’s the mom and pop haven of Nashville, with small boutiques in the Shoppes on Fatherland, and right down the road the Porter Road shops. Apple and Oak Nashville sells quirky and witty homewares. The Nashville Blanket Project gives a blanket to a neighbor in need for every blanket sold.
If you’re looking for live music, The Basement and it’s brother The Basement East book artists from all genres. The Ryman is on Broadway, and is a breathtaking church where you can listen to a show from the pews. For someone looking for honky-tonk Roberts Western World is a local favorite, even amongst the cowboy boot tourists. Ascend Amphitheater, City Winery, Bluebird Cafe, Brooklyn Bowl, and the East Room all deserve a shoutout.
Tennessee is a gorgeous state and with a quick drive out of the city you can visit waterfalls, kayak, hike, camp, and boat. Fall Creek Falls and Cumberland Falls are some of the prettiest I’ve seen. Kayaking on the Harpeth can be a little crowded in the summer, so it’s best to go on a weekday.
Cheekwood is a bit closer to the city for nature lovers, and you can pack a picnic and have lunch in the sprawling botanical gardens. They host events often, including live music.
There is always something new to explore since Nashville is growing so quickly!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would love to give a shoutout to Rachel Lerman of Skarlette Blue and Natori. I have never met someone so dedicated to her clients with endless knowledge. Her work ethic is unlike anyone I’ve ever met, I have no idea how she does it.
She sent me words of encouragement all throughout 2020, doing everything in her power to make sure the store survived. She was one of the only brand representatives that took me seriously when I started this venture in 2017, and her mentorship, shared knowledge, and support has helped propel Darlin’ into a top North American lingerie boutique. We’ve been a finalist three years in a row with the Best of Intima, and I attribute so much of that success and recognition to Rachel.
Yelp: Darlin Lingerie