Shop Small and Local... With Sara O'Shea

Photos by Kara Kamienski Photography

As the founder and owner of multiple businesses, Sara O’Shea has a passion for creating unique experiences. The busy entrepreneur founded So Chic Events, her wedding and event planning business, in 2007, then went on to open So Chic Boutique in Morton in 2013. Four years later, she added a second boutique location in Peoria Heights, even as the event business continued to grow. O’Shea created Tinsel the Town in 2015—bringing together some of the region’s best local shops to make holiday shopping convenient and connect with customers in a new way. The 2018 event takes place on November 8th from 5 to 9pm at the Par-A-Dice Hotel in East Peoria.

Tell us more about the purpose behind Tinsel the Town. 
Tinsel the Town is a holiday shopping event at Par-A-Dice Hotel that brings together over 60 local businesses for a night of shopping geared towards local women. It started out of the love and passion of supporting other local businesses and we try to provide one night where all of the best local shops come together in one convenient, fun event. As small businesses, on our own we can never compete with the convenience of the big-box stores and the appeal they have during the holidays—but if we come together, we can certainly provide an opportunity to shop local and support small businesses.

What makes this event unique or distinctive? 
I really feel that it's the collaboration of all of these small businesses in one place, all wanting the same thing—to encourage people to support the charm of local business. Maybe some of these businesses are competitors on other days, but for that one night, we're all together serving our customers and creating a unique holiday experience.

How long have you been producing this event? Tell us more about the planning effort.
This is the fourth year of the event and it's planned by our team at So Chic Boutique. We consider all of our booths and small businesses partners in the event, as everyone puts amazing amounts of time into prepping and showcasing their businesses. Hauling and setting up inventory and tearing it down all in one day is no small task, but everyone does it because of the power of shopping local. We start working on the next year's event the week after it ends—constantly trying to anticipate what to do differently and how to provide the best experience for our businesses and shoppers.

How do you balance your time between your multiple businesses? 
Balance is sometimes a bit elusive. With a constantly growing wedding and event planning business, in addition to the expansion of our two boutiques and our invitation business, the last few years have been big ones in the world of So Chic. Our focus is to continue finding ways to collaborate with other local businesses and how we can all grow our small businesses together. Of course, we have huge internal goals for our stores, but more than anything, we want to be a part of helping other businesses succeed as well. It's truly the passion and heart behind So Chic. We're excited to launch some new initiatives in 2019, including small business workshops and mentoring, to really take it to the next level.

Anything else you’d like to add? 
We are adding a spring pop-up market into the mix as well: Small Shop Hop! It will also be hosted at Par-A-Dice, but will have an entirely different energy, given that it's not focused on the holidays. And of course, we're looking forward to 2019 being our fifth year and continuing to take the event to the next level! iBi