Owning a business has always been Nicki Turnbull’s goal, but – at the ripe age of 24 – the Geneva high school graduate has already checked that off her list.
Her athletic leisurewear shop, Gym Chic, officially opened on June 4 at 151 S. First St. in St. Charles.
Getting to opening day was an adventure within itself. The Wheaton resident wasn’t exactly sure what kind of business she wanted to own, but after attending Northern Illinois University to study communications and spending a few years in the sales industry, she had some ideas.
With an athletic background, Turnbull eventually realized that she wanted to be involved in the fitness and health world in some way. Since her aunt had previously owned a boutique in Wheaton, Turnbull realized the potential in opening a clothing shop, but didn’t have a particular interest solely in women’s clothing.
That’s when she made the connection.
“I realized there was nothing in our area convenient to anyone interested in small niche athletic clothing,” Turnbull says.
She set out to open her own shop and enlisted the help of her parents.
“You really don’t realize how much you don’t know,” Turnbull says. “I tried to use as many resources as I could. My dad is an optometrist and my mom is in medical sales, so both know business, but they’ve never opened a business before.”
It took some time, but eventually, Turnbull got the ball rolling.
“It was a lot of information to digest and a lot of trial and error,” Turnbull says. “Honestly, a part of me really likes it. I see it as a challenge.”
The shop has transformed into a hub for athletes and anyone interested in the latest yoga and athletic wear trends.
“Athletic clothing is at the height of its popularity,” Turnbull says. “It’s called ‘athleisure,’ which is the idea of the clothing you can put on after you go to yoga –more of a lifestyle clothing – but it’s still athletic performance fabric.”
The shop currently carries around 25 brands, all of which are handpicked by Turnbull. She finds most of the brands online or by visiting trade shows, and she even took a trip out to L.A. to further her knowledge of the industry.
“It’s the Mecca of athletic clothing design,” she says. “ I went to designer houses where everything is created, and got to see clothes designed on paper to actual production. It was so cool for someone who has no background and experience in textiles.”
Not only does Gym Chic carry clothing, but also – recently – the shop started offering yoga classes hosted by Geneva’s Prana Yoga Center. Classes take place once a month and cost $10 each. Turnbull notes that if yoga participants pay to attend a class and end up buying something in the shop that evening, the $10 class fee will be credited to the purchase.
“It is really fun,” Turnbull says. “We wanted to make more of a community environment. The classes get ladies in the store who have never heard of us.”
Turnbull is in the store six days a week and runs everything on her own, but she is planning on hiring an associate in the spring.
“I feel like it’s similar to a lot of small businesses,” Turnbull says. “I do every single side of the business, from accounting to marketing and charitable donations. Everything has been something that I’ve taken on as a project.”
Turnbull acknowledges that starting a business has been quite an adventure, but so far, so good.
“It’s a lot of work, but I really like it, and it allows me to learn the business from the ground up,” she says. “I have the knowledge now, and I can build off that.”