Ella Wirtz always saw herself in a career that connected computer science and business. As an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, she studied computer science and mathematics in the Raikes School of Management and Computer Science and minored in business. She continued her education by earning a master’s of business administration from UNL College of Business Administration. This combination of education gave her the tools necessary to establish her technology startup Boutique Window.
“My education gave me different skills and a way of thinking that shaped who I am. Through my business classes and the business curriculum at Raikes, I developed the ability of talking to executives and large groups of people,” Wirtz said. “I also learned to create solutions and change course if something wasn’t working.”
And changed course she did. Wirtz and co-worker Courtney Rodgers, UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications graduate, were feeling “static” in their careers as interactive strategists for a local advertising agency.
“We wanted to find a way to apply our knowledge to something new and closer to our personal passions,” Wirtz said.
After months of soul searching, brainstorming and research, the duo created Boutique Window. This software allows retailers to showcase pictures of in-store merchandise to all the online networks their shoppers are already visiting at one time.
“We loved the treasure hunt when visiting local boutiques, but as shoppers we felt it was really difficult to know when our favorite stores had new merchandise available,” she said.
Nationwide shoppers are responding favorably to the online marketing tool, and retailers are seeing increased engagement on Facebook and foot traffic through their doors.
“Shoppers are saying they love being able to see what’s in the store to plan their repeat visit or to find out if a store is going to fit their personal style,” she said. “Our retailers are happy to be saving time with marketing when they already wear many different hats each day.”
Wirtz credits its growing success to great support from stores who gave them feedback during their product development. Many of their first retailers are located in Lincoln, which was recently named Google's Capital eCity in Nebraska for its highest proportion of digitally savvy small businesses. Local retailers were eager to have a greater online presence without necessarily having to go the traditional e-commerce route to drive business.
“The 12 original stores we worked with did a great job of giving us feedback and were really excited to see female entrepreneurs trying something in the technology industry,” she said.
Wirtz and Rodgers now pay it forward and share their experience at events like Startup Lincoln and Ladies Who Launch, a networking group to help connect female entrepreneurs based in Lincoln, Neb.
“These resources make it an exciting time for local startups, and we are happy to share our knowledge to help others,” she said. “I saw myself bridging business and computer science, so with Boutique Window, it’s all come full circle.”