Ryanne Wilkins

Citizen Spotlight: Ryanne Wilkins

Ryanne Wilkins is the proud owner of Style by Ry fashion boutique (photo S Jason Cole).

Courage, dedication, and passion are just a few of the traits needed to run a small business, and Excelsior Springs native and owner of Style by Ry, Ryanne Wilkins has demonstrated she’s got all three. A 2007 graduate of Excelsior Springs High School, Ryanne said she developed her love for fashion at an early age, inspired by her mother (Michelle Shade) and her father (Ryan Shade) who both had a unique sense of style. Ryanne describes her mother as a hard-working businesswoman who went to work every day at a company where she managed a group of men in a warehouse environment. “I always loved seeing her get ready in the morning… she’d get all ready and put on what I called her ‘power pants,’ like khakis and her high heels… I always thought it was so cool to have such a powerful woman as my mom,” Ryanne said. She always thought she’d gotten her fashion sense from her mom or maybe her grandmother, when she saw some pictures and videos of her dad playing in his rock band back when he was young, she said she did a bit of a double take. “He would have like DIY fashion, like T-shirts, he’d ripped up and splattered paint on them, and he might have leather pants and randomly have a studded belt wrapped around his leg, it was all so creative,” she laughed. 

Ryanne and her family have created a cozy welcoming atmosphere (submitted photo).

As a child, Ryanne’s grandma taught her to sew a little bit and as she got older she’d customize the hand-me-downs she’d get from her sister. “I’d always alter them or tweak them some way… Let out this area, or cinch this bit, add a little broach or something,” she said. Ryanne also loved vintage and thrift store finds and she built a wardrobe from her many finds. When she hit high school she said there was a definitive moment that helped her realize that fashion was something she wanted to pursue as a career. “You know how high school girls can be,” she began, “I was a freshman in choir and I came in wearing this outfit that I’d put together… and I remember going to sit down and hearing these girls whispering about me… I just started feeling sick, thinking ‘what mean things are they saying,’ and then I overheard them say ‘she can wear anything and make it look cute!’ and that’s when it clicked,” she recalled. Ryanne said that one kind comment was all it took to help her realize other people appreciated what she did and it allowed her to realize that maybe she could do it for other people too.

When Ryanne went to college she thought at first she might like to work in fashion merchandising, building display windows, and putting together outfits for presentations in big department stores. While in school she developed a business plan as a class project and discussed it with her professor who was very encouraging and thought to herself “this is something I think I’d really like to do.” As she worked to finish her degree she also worked a series of jobs in clothing stores, “paying her dues,” as she says. She worked for some large corporate stores, but also one small boutique where she was able to pick the brain of the owner and learn more about the business side of things. While there Ryanne built a loyal base of customers who leaned on her for fashion advice. “I still have customers who come to me now, who are bringing in their families,” she smiled. Ryanne said it was the relationships with her customers that drove her to pursue her own business. 

Trey, Gibson, and Ryanne Wilkins always look great! (submitted photo).

As her business ideas grew her relationship with her boyfriend, now husband, Trey Wilkins, was developing as well. Trey and his family who are also from Excelsior were very supportive of Ryanne’s dream of owning her own business. After getting married and settling in for a year or two, Ryanne said her mother-in-law asked her one day, out of the blue, “what do you think about opening a shop in downtown Excelsior?” Without hesitation, she said she pounced at the opportunity. Ryanne and her family had witnessed the rise of the downtown merchants, frequenting businesses along Broadway. Not long after they began their discussions, her in-laws Robin and Rick Wilkins purchased the building that would become home to Style by Ry in 2017. “What my in-laws didn’t know when they purchased the building, is that I was pregnant!” she laughed. So they dove in all together working to make a dream come true, “We were developing two big things at the same time. Not only was I developing a business, but I was also creating this life inside me, it was really, really amazing.” As she began talking to her own parents Ryanne discovered that her grandfather had operated a movie theatre next door to the building she was helping to renovate. When the doors to Style by Ry opened a year later in 2018, Ryanne was holding her 3-month-old son, Gibson in her arms. “Having that first customer walk in while my son was in my arms and telling them about me and my life and getting to know them and their life was just a really cool moment,” she recalled with tears in her eyes.

Style by Ry storefront window
Valentine storefront window at Style by Ry

Ryanne has done her part to make her business a success, maintaining consistent hours, building an online audience, and continuing to make personal connections. “Nothing’s better than a one-on-one conversation with somebody and then helping them, seeing the reaction of when they feel good in something and seeing that instantaneously… you can’t replicate that anywhere else,” she said. She gives credit for her success to her family, “If it wasn’t for these people, like my parents, my sister, and my husband’s parents who knew of my dream and knew what I wanted to do, this wouldn’t have happened,” she smiled. Ryanne also thinks that maybe her grandfather is smiling down on her too. When she feels overwhelmed she always remembers her grandfather, “whenever we complained, my grandfather would always tell us ‘you don’t have to do it, you get to do it,’ and I learned it’s good to work hard,” she said. Now she says she can’t imagine any other life, that maybe she’s living in a fairy tale. “I love being where I am and having this, it’s just like living a dream. Right place, right time, I really believe in that,” she concluded. 

Visit Style by Ry at 116 E. Broadway, Excelsior Springs, MO

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