‘Live’ drives sales

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
Billie Kelley

BARNSDALL — When Billie Kelley opened her Funky Pearl Boutique nearly six years ago, it was more or less intended to be a hobby. Since then, running the store has become her occupation in earnest and she explains that Internet sales have been crucial in that transition.

The Funky Pearl sells women’s clothing, ranging from the very casual to dressy items. It also sells shoes, accessories and home decor items.

“I mail all over the United States,” Kelley says, acknowledging it is extremely convenient that her business is located next door to the Barnsdall post office. She mentions destinations such as Alaska and Hawaii among the places to which she has mailed merchandise, but she also sells online to customers as close as Pawhuska and Barnsdall and mails items to them.

People who live within a short drive of the Funky Pearl frequently find it convenient to be able to shop for preferred items online and have them mailed, rather than having to make time for an in-person visit, Kelley said.

“I actually sell a lot even to people in Barnsdall,” Kelley said, observing that while she has pretty steady foot traffic in her physical store at 518 W. Main Street, perhaps 90 percent of her overall sales come from online activity. A major driver of that online selling is Facebook Live.

“Facebook Live has been a game changer for this little place,” Kelley said. At least once a week, usually on Thursday, she holds a Facebook Live event and sells merchandise to customers from all over.

She credits her background as a bank employee and a college degree in marketing with giving her the perspective to effectively promote her small business and to readily understand the relationship between retail shops and financial institutions.

While Kelley has someone who helps out when she needs to be away, the Funky Pearl is primarily a one-person business in a small town of just under 1,200 people that is situated along a two-lane country highway. The fact that the Internet makes it possible for her to cultivate a nationwide customer base and grow her sales is crucial; and a key reason Kelley is willing to pursue that course of action is so she can stay close to home and look after her son.

If not for the growth of the Funky Pearl, Kelley might have to commute to a larger commercial center for a “regular job,” taking her away from her son for the entire work day. It would significantly limit her ability to function in her maternal role.

“It has been very convenient for me,” Kelley said. She does, however, also consciously make an effort to encourage local customers to visit the physical store.

“I don’t put everything online, so that drives people to come here and see the store,” she said. The store is open Tuesdays through Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays from 10-6; and Saturdays from 10-2. The phone number is 918-578-4004.