Vivien Böhme: CEO of the Year
Congratulations to Vivien Böhme, chief executive officer at Böhme. She was named one of the 2018 CEO of the Year honorees.
It may look like fun and fashion, but the retail game is not for the faint of heart, says Vivien Böhme. “Women’s apparel is really fun, because you get to deal with designers, but there’s also a lot of stress because it’s a gamble. Until a customer touches it, you don’t know if it’s going to work or not, and sometimes the trends aren’t there,” she says. “Know your numbers in and out. Retail is a very hard numbers game masked by pretty theatrics, and you really have to put that numbers game first.”
When Böhme, a self-proclaimed “numbers queen,” took the reins a decade ago, the women’s apparel company was just a temporary location during the holiday season at a local mall. But encouraged by the success she saw during those weeks, Böhme went to Home Depot and learned the basics of everything from flooring to fixtures to build the company’s first permanent location.
Today, the business has 16 locations throughout the West and Midwest, as well as a thriving online presence, and boasts 30 percent in gains, 20 percent of which comes from brick-and-mortar growth.
There have been tough times, says Douglas Tilton, director of stores and operations for the company, but Böhme’s leadership has pulled the company through. “Retail is a very volatile career choice and the business is very up and down; it ebbs and flows with the economy, and we have certainly had our challenges here at Böhme. Vivien has been able to steer us through turbulent waters to be focused on what we were going after,” he says. “She was able to lead us through that difficult time to come out stronger on the other end.”
The success of the company validates the approach the company takes to help bring out the inherent beauty in each customer, Böhme says. “We’ve had customers come out of fitting rooms with tears streaming, saying, ‘yes, I finally found something.’” She says those moments give employees great satisfaction from being able to help women who “maybe other retailers have ignored … I think every woman deserves to be thought of as the most beautiful person in that minute. If Böhme can be, in that moment, part of that, we’ve done our job.”
But keeping that individual approach as Böhme has moved into different parts of the country has been a challenge, she says. “While my Utah customer zagged, my South Dakota customer zigged. … That was a struggle to figure out: the clean Utah woman with the very Bohemian South Dakota woman,” says Böhme. “We’ve figured out where the puck is going. It took years to trust our instincts again, but when we did, the clarity that came, and the sheer numbers that came, validated that we were right.”