“In terms of business, I always say to make sure your foundation is solid before stepping out,” says Autumn Merritt, owner of Sir and Madame, a Chicago-based clothing store. “All your moves don’t have to be super calculated, but unless you’ve decided to go into business for yourself, make sure your foundation is solid. That saves time, money and energy because you won’t have to do something over again. It leads into building up a team of people who are stronger than you in different areas. You can do it all by yourself for a while, but you’ll burn yourself out.”
Autumn is the director of retail and marketing operations for Sir and Madame, and all-in-all she keeps things running in the store while her husband manages production. Outside of her day job, she prides herself on helping to connect people.
And those connections are essential when building your foundation.
“I’d say I have a great support system,” she says, “In terms of getting time with friends, my husband and I have a good balance.”
If she has an event he’ll stay home with the kids and vice versa. And when it comes to spending time together, her parents are super involved and supportive, so they often don’t even have to ask them to watch the kids — it’s something they want to do.
“Those times it makes it a lot easier,” she says, “There are times in life when you have to be a little bit more intentional in terms of creating those times with family. It’s tough to maintain balance but when you do it makes a world of difference.”
Business as usual
Managing retail always made sense for Autumn.
“I was managing a coffee store when i was 15, and I’ve always worked in clothing stores and in the fashion industry (whether that be buying, retailing, wholesaling),” she says, “It was serendipity that my husband and I got the opportunity to go into business together. He had an abundance of sneakers and there was a void in Chicago for a men and women’s streetwear boutique and sneaker consignment. With his collection and some from a few friends who own shoe stores, we were able to open up a shop. We had friends who we look at as mentors in the Brooklyn circuit. It was a great way for us to put things in place to go into the Chicago market and to use their platform to get the word out.”
“The project is rooted in the fact that I always wear his clothes,” says Autumn. And Sir and Madame’s clientele are good for shopping on both sides of the store, so they knew they wanted to create an inspired unisex collection. And so far, the reception has been great.
“It’s nice to see our hard work isn’t going unnoticed,” Autumn says, “We’ve been doing it for 10 years, but we feel reinvigorated.”
Taking care of #1
When Autumn isn’t working, there are a few key things she does to treat herself well.
“I love to eat and explore,” she says about wanting to try out new restaurants, lounges and even places to take the kids. “I’m also on a board for a travel app, Localeur. I love to travel. And I have a pretty good travel companion in my husband.”
They love to go any place in Mexico, as the country has a special history with the couple.
“We've been together for 10 years, and when we were newly together, we just hopped a flight, spent two days in Cancun. It was pre-kids and so easy to do.
But the couple likes to explore lots of different places, including Tokyo and even places stateside like Autumn’s college town, D.C. (she’s a proud Howard graduate).
And although it’s not as exciting as a trip to another country, another important aspect to Autumn’s self-care regimen is a regular workout schedule.
“Working out about five times a week is definitely the main way I’m able to achieve that next level of self-care,” she says, “ Do I get the manicure and pedicures I like as often? No, I don’t, but I know for sure I can build in time throughout my day to get in my workout.”
She loves to box for as many workouts as possible, because it’s a challenge but also a huge stress relief. On other days, she’ll unwind with some yoga — both ends of the spectrum help fulfill her.
Day in and day out
Autumn starts off every day with prayer to silence out everything before she looks at texts, emails or Instagram alerts. She cuts off her alarm to spend time praying over her family, her business, finances, friends — whatever needs a little extra attention.
“That’s a must,” she says, “From there it’s a brief email check (I really don’t tackle too many before I get up because I’m getting the kids together). I don’t want to rush through anything, but if something is super time sensitive I’ll handle that.”
For her beauty regimen, Autumn keeps it simple.
“I’m all about supporting people, I’m happy to say I’m able to use an eye balm created by my acupuncturist. For skincare, one of my girlfriends creates all-natural products from a line called Scratch Goods. I also use the Boscia Detoxifying Black Cleanser. I don’t wear much makeup, just a signature deep magenta lip from Milani.”
After she gets the kids ready for their days, she’s out of the house by 7:30 or 8 a.m., then it’s time for a workout. She gets started on work around 10:30 a.m., when she’s able to walk through the doors, have her coffee and oatmeal and have time to take care of business because it’s not too busy before noon.
“If I’m in the shop, I’m in here for about 8 hours,” she says, “It’s an open-door policy, whether they’re shopping or not. It promotes people sitting and either laying their day on me or looking to build and contribute.”
Sometimes Autumn might have to jet out and handle a photo shoot. Or hop on important phone calls — when she’s in the store, anything can really happen. To keep herself motivated throughout the day, she’ll take a walk.
“Just being able to step out for five minutes, even if I’m strategic about when I’m going to step out to ship something, it gives me an energy boost,” she says.
For her, it makes a huge difference.
“Then the kids and Bryan typically come pick me up around 7 p.m. and from there it’s dinner, shower time for the kids, getting them to bed no later than 9 p.m., following up on emails, blog posts, and contract projects,” she says. But getting a decent night’s sleep is still a top priority for her, despite a busy schedule. And some wine or champagne are helpful parts of unwinding as well.
“I think bubbles are a cure-all — give me some champagne and I’m good,” she says.