Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Patil Swearingen.
Hi Susan, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’m in the second half of my life and focused on living a life of meaning, a life of meaningful connections: with myself, my family, my community, my spirituality, and my dog! My husband, Corte, and I welcomed our empty nest by blowing it up and starting over. We have been in St. Augustine for 4 years after living in Chicago for over 40 years, selling everything and moving here with just 2 cars full and our pup. We moved here seeking adventure and wanting to live near the ocean, and we did it with the feeling that we could have an interesting life here! When I arrived here, I knew I had to create a channel into a community so I decided to open a boutique to connect with women in a fun way and allow me to serve women through self-acceptance and confidence through fashion. As a certified yoga teacher and trained mindfulness teacher, I felt that working with women in fashion would be a unique way for me to combine passions. When I started the boutique in 2019, I also ran yoga and mindfulness retreats in Costa Rica, taught students online and worked with the Center for Mindful Self Compassion at the University of California San Diego. I found a way to integrate my self-compassion, yoga, and fashion passions! I feel fortunate that my story was included in a feature by the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Virtuous MidLife Crisis,” about different new ways people move into midlife!
My mission is this: Create spaces for women to be authentic and cultivate inner peace.
My store space is most known for bringing back that true boutique feel with exceptional service. You can find unique items and gifts presented engagingly and we change the store regularly so that our customers are delighted with new presentations and items. The overall shopping experience is what we focus on from the minute you walk in with our customers leaving with a smile.
We build a loyal customer base one person at a time by giving clients personal attention and offering style suggestions and tips while carefully selecting styles that are not only flattering but comfortable and stylish. Our goal is to enhance women’s features and boost their self-confidence with items that make them feel their best.
Here are little-known secrets, not so secret:
1. This is my first retail job! I had a 25-year career in organization effectiveness at Accenture, one of the largest consulting firms in the world. It’s been rewarding to apply my vast skills and experience to my own business.
2. I intentionally run my business with heart first. This is a departure in the business world where the mind leads.
3. I infuse my services with a mindful presence that stems from my yoga and mindfulness practices. This means that women come in and can sense an acceptance from staff and a true intent for serving them without pressure being all about sales.
4. The above combination has created a unique experience not readily found in shopping and fashion.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
We gained a wonderful following after 1 year in business, and then COVID hit just as we were moving locations from South St Augustine to the San Sebastián Arts District area of St Augustine. That, combined with my business partner leaving the business, presented interesting challenges. I met that challenge by taking over the business and working side by side with my daughter to put into place scalable business systems and create my own vision. I also invited the community to help. Local artists came in to create artwork for the shop, and previous customers stepped in to become an integral part of the business. One woman brought her retail and merchandising experience to create our “Queen of King Street”, a mannequin celebrating each season with elaborately hand made outfits – she is now an iconic feature outside our store on King Street. The WildHeart Team is made of longtime customers as well as Flagler College students learning the business from the inside out. We met those challenges creatively through community involvement and continue to hold this as a key value!
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about WildHeart Boutique LLC?
A WildHeart is someone who “embraces life with an open heart and a fierce soul”.This is the type of woman who shops our brand; women of all ages want clothing and accessories that amplify their inner beauty and capture their own uniqueness.
I have a deep respect for women and know that each one of us has a unique journey but often share common threads in our stories.We have an amazing concentration of talented and involved women in this community serving others in many different ways.I want to serve these women. I want to make them feel special, so they can keep contributing to others. “Seriously, the most comfortable clothes and shoes I have ever worn,” says one customer, Cathlene Miner, President of non-profit Hopefull Handbags, Inc. “The attention from Susan is fabulous! I love that when I walk into the boutique, I feel right at home, and I look stylish and on point when I walk out.”
Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
Heartfelt presence. I strive to live intentionally with a sense of being present with love and understanding. I carry this into how I run my boutique, from making financial decisions to working with my customers. I have found this all worthwhile and makes me a better person because I can connect with whatever is needed. When I welcome people into the boutique, I do it from a place of genuineness and am happy to see people enjoying themselves while they are with us. I have created my place to be an uplifting and positive space because this is what I’d like to see more of in the world.
- Website: www.wildheartboutique.com
- Instagram: instragram.com/wild_wildheart
- Facebook: facebook.com/thewildheartboutique
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/wildheart-boutique-st-augustine?osq=wildheart+boutique
David Steele – for the first photo of me on the counter