What does your world cost? A boutique owner talks about her finances
What does your world cost? A boutique owner talks about her finances

In our money talk we talk openly about money. This time with the entrepreneur Barbara Lukas, 42. She owns two fashion shops in Vienna and Lower Austria.

Barbara Lukas dressing room
Barbara Lukas dressing room

"You don't talk about money" - this is especially true in Austria. Most of us keep our own salaries a secret. We are confronted with our finances every day. Where has the 100 in the wallet gone? How do other people manage to put something aside? And how much do the colleagues who sit with me in the office actually earn? Last but not least, this secrecy when it comes to income means that women still do not earn as much as their male colleagues. We say we should talk about money urgently! That is why in this series we ask women in a wide variety of professions about their financial situation. In the current part of our money talk, boutique owner Barbara Lukas, 42, speaks to us very openly about how hard the corona lockdowns will hit them financially.

Barbara Lukas dressing room
Barbara Lukas dressing room

WOMAN: What exactly do you work?

Lukas: As a sole proprietor, I run two fashion retail stores in Vienna and Lower Austria.

How can you imagine a normal working day?

Lukas: Self and constantly. From getting up to going to bed, it's all about business. If I type something on my phone, 99 percent of the time it's professional. I am everything in one person: purchasing, sales, customer management, marketing, warehouse logistics, back office, shop decorator, cleaning lady … And often at the same time, because while I am tidying up the shop, I am already thinking about the next Instagram post. While I am packing up the mail, I think about what to put on the display next, and when the children are in bed, I do my office work.

What training (s) did you do?

Lukas: I studied business administration at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. My focus was on H + M (trade and marketing) and KMU (small and medium-sized companies). I already worked in the real estate industry during my studies. In these 15 years I have passed all exams for the real estate trustee (broker, administrator, property developer). With the "dressing room" I fulfilled my childhood dream of owning my own business and since March 2016 I have been running the shop in Vienna. In 2018 I studied personal fashion styling in London at the UAL (University of the Arts London). The second location in Baden was added in 2019.

How important is your job in your life?

Lukas: A very high one. I have always enjoyed and worked a lot. Balancing work and family is very important to me and actually just a question of the right logistics.

Has Corona hit you professionally and financially? If so, to what extent?

Lukas: Very much. We were able to catch up well with the first lockdown. The second was a shock, but would have been feasible had it not been for the third lockdown shortly afterwards and, since Easter, the fourth lockdown in Vienna and Lower Austria. After almost five months of closed two stores, everything is a huge state of emergency. In addition to all the tasks as a mother and entrepreneur, homeschooling and a kindergarten replacement program were added last year. The working mum balancing act has become almost impossible. In addition, I make more losses in each lockdown week than my husband earns a month - although I reacted immediately to the first closings. I have had a small online shop since April 2020. But my regular customers are “analog” buyers. They come to me for shopping because they love advice. It just takes a while until you have a regular digital customer base that is not there automatically as soon as you decide to sell online.

How much do you earn?

Lukas: Since I made a loss in the past year, I didn't earn anything, or rather I got into debt.

How important is money to you?

Lukas: Conditionally, as long as I earn enough to be able to pay all the bills. After years in management positions, at some point it meant more to me to do something that I enjoy than to earn a great salary. As it is now, I am of course very dissatisfied, because as much as I like my job, I also work to ultimately earn some money. Before Corona I was able to make a living from my independence. Even if I earned more as an employee before starting my own business and had an additional five weeks of paid vacation and the possibility of sick leave. Self-employed people simply do not have these privileges. As a sole proprietor, I am personally and without limitation liable.

How high are your private fixed costs?

Lukas: Around 2,200.00 for living, children, food, car, …

Do you have a private pension plan? If so, why and how much do you spend on it each month?

Lukas: I had a private pension plan, but a few years ago I bought a property that I see as a better investment for my pension. Here I pay back a loan every month and hope to be able to live on the rental income in my pension.

What do you like to spend most of your money on?

Lukas: My children, good food and vacations. I love to have nice experiences.

Are you saving money If so, how do you put it on?

Lukas: Since I've been self-employed, that's no longer possible. Before that, I was always able to save part of my salary. I put my savings into my business; before that, I had a portfolio of real estate funds.

What would you like to have but can't afford it?

Lukas: I would very much like to see no more closings so that I can earn money normally again and do my job.

What was your biggest bad investment?

Lukas: I hope not my business, but at the moment it looks like it …

How good are you with money? And how do you keep an eye on your finances?

Lukas: Very good. I am economical and calculate everything.

Do you know how much your colleagues in the industry earn?

Lukas: I think that it is not so easy for my colleagues in the industry to make money at the moment, but very few talk about it openly. In the industry, however, I know that many people are up to their necks. The warehouses are full of spring and summer goods, from June we will receive autumn goods and it is the third high season in a row that cannot take place due to the closings. That is really bitter and can only be achieved with large reserves that many no longer have.

Do you speak openly about your finances with your friends?

Lukas: Far be it from me to talk about salaries, but I talk openly about the fact that it has been very difficult for me financially since the second lockdown. I don’t hesitate to talk about it, because I’m not to blame for the closings and my concept only works when customers are allowed to come and buy. Our cityscape lives from the many small shops and bars and anyone who wants to live in a beautiful area with well-tended shop windows and hip bars should support them more than ever and shop locally.

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