Surfside Beach entrepreneur targets fashion shoppers with online savvy

Today marks the one-year anniversary of a thriving online business called Lila Rose – A Chic Boutique [], the brainchild of entrepreneur Alexandria Cowell and named after her daughter, now 18-months-old.

Cowell arrived on the Grand Strand in 2004 from San Francisco with husband Bill Cowell and firstborn son, Jack, now 9. “We both worked full time in California and decided that I would be a stay-at-home mom – but the cost of living there was just exorbitant,” she says. They began looking for options for places to move. “My only prerequisites were that it had to be warm and didn’t snow, because coming from [Toronto] Canada, it was something I dealt with my whole life.” Her in-laws had recently moved to the Grand Strand from New Jersey, so Cowell says they gave the beach a try and never looked back. They live in Surfside Beach with the aforementioned kids and son Will, 5.

In direct sales here for seven years, she says she experienced decent success with that, but with the birth of her daughter, the prospect of continuing this became less viable. “I just felt that my season in direct sales had ended.”

But she liked to shop and buy things online, and the idea for her business began to emerge. “It all just came together and I said, ‘well, let’s give this a try. If nothing comes of it, then no harm, no foul. And if something does, then great.’ It literally was that. I don’t have any retail experience, and wasn’t something I ever planned to do.”

50,000 Facebook fans later in less than a year [], the decision paid off, but not without sleep deprivation for Cowell. “Maybe I was delirious,” she says.

Lila Rose – A Chic Boutique is all about putting together weekly clothing collections – and offering these on Facebook first by way of a flash sale every Sunday night.

“A lot of women would tell me that they didn’t know how to put together a whole outfit or they are so busy that they just wanted to see a picture of the outfit from head to toe – accessories, top, bottom, shoes, and purse – and they just wanted to be able to buy that whole look.”

Cowell sources from national and international designers, hand-picking pieces to create the weekly Lila Rose offerings. “Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I preview the pieces on Facebook that are going to be available for that Sunday’s collection – and then they can pick and choose. We give them information on the fit – the size, the material – and they can figure out what they are going to buy.” Shoppers have the option to make out a wish list. “On Sunday night they have to be ready because at 9 p.m. the sale goes live – and when it’s sold out, it’s sold out.” She adds that anything left over then gets uploaded to the Web site. “That is the second step. Facebook is the first stop.” Throughout the week on Facebook there are also fashion tips, giveaways and specials.

The equation of entrepreneur, wife and mother of three makes for a full dance card – so decompression can be at a premium.

“We’re heavy frequenters of the beach and the water park,” she says. “My kids are all beach bums and would like nothing better than to spend every single day of their vacation outside on the beach or on a waterslide. That is high priority for me in the summertime – to make sure to get as much time in as possible.” She keeps up with son Jack’s golfing, travel soccer and piano activities.

But a bit of alone time with her husband is also in order.

“After 12 years of marriage, my husband and I have recognized the importance of a date night,” she says. “We try to get out to restaurants and have settled on places that have given us great experiences, and we tend to not venture from those that we love.” This could include a bacon cheeseburger at Five Guys or a trip to the Market Common to hit up Travinia Italian Kitchen or the King Street Grille.

Do the Cowells ever play tourist?

“Absolutely,” she says. “Last year we took our kids on the SkyWheel for the first time. We try to experience the touristy things in the off season.”

And the family has laid down roots here. “Our children love living here and we love living here. I have often said to my husband that he would have to drag me out of here by my hair. I don’t see us ever leaving.”