Babes in Business

The Sunroom, Columbus, Ohio


Chloe Crites and Suzanne Riska are the inspirational feministas that started The Sunroom, one of the only all-sustainable and ethical clothing and lifestyle shops located in Columbus. This creative duo is here to show us what it means to be women in the business and fashion world!

Tell me about yourselves! How did you start in the fashion industry?

Chloe: We both separately worked in the retail world for multiple years. I worked at both Urban Outfitters and Madewell, and while this was a good experience, I had this dream to scale down. I wanted there to be a place where I knew exactly where the clothes were coming from and who was making it. Once I met Suzanne, I knew that I wanted to do this together, and that it was possible!

Suzanne: I’ve had a lot of retail experience at bigger companies. I love the retail world, but I started becoming uncomfortable when a customer would ask me where things were made. People thought everything was made in the United States, because it does seem like it is, and it was difficult to answer that they were actually made in China, and that none of it was ethically or sustainably made. I started looking into sustainable fashion, and there were a ton of small brands that I started falling in love with. These brands had all women designing and making the clothes, and I knew that this was what Columbus really needed: a store with sustainable and ethical fashion that’s truly made to last. I’ve always loved fashion and styling, but I became passionate about the quality of good clothing, and I wanted to spread this message.                                               

How did you know that starting your own boutique was right for you ladies?

Suzanne: We knew each other from work and realized that we both had the same ideas about ethically made clothing. I didn't want to work in a mall anymore. I wanted to work somewhere I really believed in, especially now that I have Ava (Suzanne’s daughter). I knew this was right when I met Chloe, who held me accountable and also had the same beliefs.

Chloe: We would try different things and see where that went, basically just dreaming about a place of our own that we believed in. But, eventually, our ideas started to progress; we made a business plan, got laughed at by some bankers, and definitely had our obstacles. But then, we all of a sudden found this space and we knew this was right. We knew we could do this and not have to work at places that didn’t inspire us anymore. And that was it! We decided this was our best option and that we really could follow our dream. It was a lot of pressure but we had each other to lean on (yay sisterhood!)

What's so special about your business?

Suzanne: We know who makes every single item in our shop. The designers that we carry have so many unique ideas and you can’t find the items in our store anywhere else in the city. Also, our clothes are made for any body type, age or ability. We like to have items that can transition into the many aspects of a woman’s life. We spend a lot of time and deliberation picking out the clothes for you all. If we’re unsure about something, we’ll ask our customers if they’d wear something, or we’ll go next door to Dough Mama and the ladies there if they’d wear this. We carry shoe sizes up to 12 and clothing sizes up to 20. Everyone is welcome!

Since Chloe and I are there six days a week, we’re able to get direct customer feedback and tailor our clothing based on the needs of the women who come in. For example, someone told us that she wished we had more work-friendly pants. So, what did we do? We ordered a beautiful pair of black slacks for the working women.

Something I really love about our shop is that it’s a place for the community, too. We envisioned having a space where people can gather to have baby showers, knitting groups, macrame workshops, self-care days, etc. The Sunroom is a place where we bring everyone together.                                               

What has been the hardest part about owning The Sunroom?

Suzanne: Learning how to manage our finances. Everything is so hard to predict. Our first month was insane! Everyone came out to support us. But then when things started slowing down, I got scared. Is it going to be like this forever? It’s just so unpredictable. We've found that random weekdays can be the busiest. Trying to accept the unpredictability is the most difficult. Also, making time for ourselves!

Chloe: We both work six days a week. Even on our days off, we're working. We’re the only two people working here until we decide when the best time would be to hire for the holidays! Trying to do everything ourselves has been challenging and tiring.                                               

Any advice to women wanting to start their own business in Columbus?

Suzanne: Start saving your money IMMEDIATELY! We were ready to start our business but we needed money for unexpected costs. Just know that you won't have a steady paycheck for a looooong time. Start reaching out to other business owners, and ask for help! We talked to the owner of Dough Mama and she was so helpful. Start looking into different resources. And, please, know that it’s possible! Don’t ever give up your dream.

Chloe: We didn't have a lot of money. We had full time jobs and still started something. It's a lot of work but if you're committed, and believe 100% that you can do it, then you CAN start your own business!


The Sunroom is located at 3337 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43202.

Photos by Sydney Palmer

Tuesday, December 5, 2017