All Articles Tagged "boutique"
When Kijafa Vick, wife of Philadelphia Eagles superstar quarterback Mike Vick, and her business partner Blair Sandlain first met, it didn’t take long for the two to recognize that they shared mutual appreciation for affordable fashion. Shortly after, the pair would decide to take risks on each other and turn their passion into a business relationship, more specifically the PNKElephant, a clothing and accessories boutique located on the famed South Street in Philadelphia. Three years later, business is definitely booming as the boutique has become the ultimate destination for party girls looking for something trendy, hot and most importantly, affordable to rock for an fly evening out on the town including sequin dresses, sheer guitar style leggings and the very popular PNKElephant’s signature Girls Hustle Harder t-shirt line.
But despite their personal success and overall fun atmosphere, which can only come from a shop plastered in pink and leopard print, both women will readily admit that running a business has not always been easy. Recently I sat down with Vick and Sandlain, who spoke candidly about the learning curve, which comes from being a first time business owner, and what affect being married to one of the most controversial players in the NFL has had on business.
Hopefully I won’t offend you because I mean this as a compliment but I’m walking around the boutique, going through the racks and accessories such as the Trust No B**ch nameplate necklace and I’m like, Oh Yeah, I seen that on Love and Hip Hop and Basketball Wives: LA. So describe for me who you had in mind as a typical PNKElephant customer?
Blair Sandlain: We like to think of ourselves as the ultimate party destination where women can come and get their club outfits, cocktail/after hour outfits. If you are going to the club or going to the lounge, we like to think that when people come to us they are going to have a good time.
Kijafa Vick: And it is funny because when we started out, we started as just an accessory store, we didn’t really want to go into clothes but it was like every girl that came into the store would ask for clothes too. And we’re like, ‘okay we can’t miss out on all this money [laughter]; let’s try it out.‘ And we did. Last April, we started with just a little bit [of clothing] and the response was amazing. So we were like, ‘let’s do it, let’s sell clothes too.’
Do you do your own personal shopping for the boutique?
That sounds like a lot of fun?
Sandlain: A lot of fun? [laughter] It is a job.
Vick: No lunch breaks [more laughter]
No lunch breaks? Well how many hours do you spend in the shop?
Vick: She lives here [pointing to Sandlain]
Sandlain: Yeah, I do like 12-hour days. You know, she has a whole family, a whole situation; husband, kids, house…so I just have her on the phone with me most times -
Vick: All day long…
Sandlain: And we’ll go over numbers, everyday, every week and you know, we’ll recap. I’m in the store a lot but she is still involved. She knows the day-to-day happenings and what is going on. She knows how much money we make [laughter].
So how did PNKElephant come about?
Sandlain: Actually, I was selling jewelry out of my house. And my friend was staying with me. He is a fashion designer and Kijafa found him on Facebook. She would come up to get her clothes custom-made by him because he is a great designer. And he would always show her my accessories and I would be at work because at the time I had a full time job; I used to work for Footlocker’s Corporation office. And so, she asked him if [I was] looking for a partner because I want to get into the business. And I met her and we just kind of clicked from there.
So from concept to implementation, how long did it take to get PNKElephant up and running?
Vick: A little less than a year. When I met her and we were doing business. I just kept riding by [the location] and was like, it’s a store here. I’m going to call and see how much it is. I called and it wasn’t outrageous. And I was like, come on, let’s do this. She was a little nervous because she was working but she was finally like, alright I’m going to do it. And we opened up. I think that was like March we found a building. And we opened up June 1st .
College students have been finding innovative ways to make money since the birth of higher education. From waitressing weekends, to setting up salons in dorm rooms, hustling is just as much a part of the college experience as the classes themselves. Current students like University of Kansas senior, Jacque Amadi, are giving that hustler’s spirit a tech upgrade.
A psychology major and business minor, Jacque doesn’t have a resume that screams fashion. She dabbled in fashion blogging, but never thought to pursue it professionally. Her online boutique, Lioness, started as a celebration of her hobbies and interests, one she hoped would ease the financial woes that come with a college education.
“I would sell clothes on eBay whenever I needed money,” says Jacque. “And I love thrifting, even if I don’t keep what I find. With blogging and taking pictures – I loved doing it, but I was broke. So, I wanted to do all these things that I love in a way that could make me money.”
There’s one extra twist. Lioness is a digital time machine where the dial is always set to 1995. Jacque may be too young to remember the top news stories of the decade, but the images she saw as a child made a big impression on her.
“At first I was selling any vintage clothes I found, but then I decided to focus on the 90s because I felt that time period was the best time period for African Americans in terms of our exposure and our reach on television,” Jacque said.
“I know there are women who don’t necessarily want to wear the Basketball Wives earrings, because they’ve seen them on TV and on everybody else. Even though they’re fabulous, some people just want to make their own statement,” said Crystal Whalum, founder of online jewelry and accessory boutique STONEnyc.
With a mission that seeks to empower women to embrace a style that is uniquely theirs, Whalum spends her time scouting jewelry from independent designers that are above all, different. Showcasing jewelry and accessories of limited availability; STONEnyc’s specialty is statement pieces.
“I began to meet different designers and I’d see people on the street that would ask, ‘Where did you get that fabulous piece?’ A lot of the time I would go to indie markets and find designers,” said Whalum.
“That’s where I got the idea of featuring independent designers. Through research and taking my time everything came together. It took me a little over a year to get things together to launch.”
The Look of a Launch
Acting on a push, given by her husband, Whalum launched in 2010. Prior to STONEnyc she worked as a PR and marketing professional creating campaigns for the Food Network. The idea of opening a boutique, Whalum says, was something that was always in the back of her mind.
The New York City Police Department is searching for two thieves who robbed a high-end store on the Lower East side late last week. Instead of the usual tall, black male in a hoodie description of the perp, the police are said to be looking for a man resembling Jamie Foxx’s character “Wanda” from the show, “In Living Color.”
Apparently the two men dressed in women’s clothing before raiding the A. Turen boutique. One half of the duo is a 6-foot-2 black man, 200 pounds, in his mid-40s who wore a tight-fitting orange dress and gray wig; the other suspect is as a 5-9 black man, also in his mid-40s, who wore a snake-skin print coat and black wig. (Fab-u-lous!)
Footage from a surveillance camera shows the men went to try on Kimberly Ovitz spandex leggings in extra small before they went to the dressing rooms and grabbed two collectable bags.
Store owner Ashley Turen told CBS, “They were two vintage, hand-painted Chanel bags that I happened to paint myself, and you can’t get them again.” The bags were the most expensive items in the store, valued at $3,000 each.
Brooklyn has almost everything one could possibly ask for. Travel to Williamsburg and you’ll find eclectic thrift stores. Go to Bed Stuy and you’ll taste delicious foods from a plethora of countries. Head South and the rides in Coney Island will bring out your inner child. So needless to say, it’s not hard to find shoe stores.
by De’Juan Galloway
LeToya Luckett may have established her worldwide fame in the music business as one fourth of the original Destiny’s Child but it is her entrepreneurial endeavors that define her in her hometown of Houston. After departing from the group, Luckett invested her time and energy to opening up her Lady L Boutique in 2004. Now, she maintains two stores and is riding high with her reinvented entertainment career. She is currently preparing a new album and is co-starring in this summer’s action-comedy, “Killers”, alongside Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher. For an industry veteran of 10 plus years, her drive is reminiscent of someone who has just arrived. She hopes that quality inspires her supporters to take a driven approach to achieving their own success. TAP caught up with Lady L to discuss her brand, boutiques and beats.
Why did you begin Lady L Boutique?
Honestly, it came from having a shopping problem. My mother and I sat down and I said, ‘Mom I really want to open a boutique’. I thought it would be a great way for people in Houston to get the fashion they see on the runway and worn by celebrities. My mother has a background in accounting, so she managed the business side of it. I have learned so much from watching her make the deals.
How much did you initially invest in the store?
Our initial investment was between $30,000 and $50,000. I didn’t want go on the credit side of financing; I wanted to pay cash for everything.
What is your role in the store?
I am the boutique’s buyer. I also organize the charity events and fashion shows we host.
As the buyer how do you ensure both quality and affordability for the customer?
In terms of quality, I not only consider what I like but I touch the fabrics to ensure their durability. I have worked with many stylists throughout my career, so I am able to distinguish between higher quality and lower end pieces. I also make sure that my employees acknowledge the customers because providing great customer service is another part of quality assurance.
On affordability, I talk to and observe my customer. If they’re in my store and look at the price tag then place it back on the rack, I will say ‘let’s talk about it.’ Sometimes when I am buying for the store, the asking price from vendors is much more than I think it should be. So I never do huge mark ups on clothes, the customers are getting items very close to cost. Since I chose to do higher end denim, my tops are less expensive, so they can walk out with the whole outfit.
What steps do you take to stay abreast on clothing trends?
Fashion is forever changing and people want comfort, I keep an eye on both. Women want to feel comfortable wearing something, so they can keep wearing it. I also look at clothing celebrities wear because that is what people want. You will always find comfort and the latest trends at Lady L .
How did you keep your store afloat in the climate of a staggering economy?
I made my merchandise more affordable and had a lot of sales. For example, I had a pink cup cake party with a tent set up at the store with marked down merchandise inside. It was an attraction to make shopping fun, when people were down about the recession. I didn’t want to remind them of the state of the economy; people were doing that all the time.
What are some lessons you learned business-wise from this venture?
When we first opened, I used to shop for myself. Overtime, I realized that I had to learn the customers. I had to learn the styles they like and what’s affordable for them, without pressuring them for that information. Additionally, I learned customer service is important because keeping them happy, means keeping them coming back. You can have a one-time sell but it is when the customers return that we feel like we have done our part.
As a singer, actress and business owner, how do you decide which portion of your brand to focus on?
Well the store is always open. Between singing and acting I can be in the process of making an album and filming a movie at the same time. Everything depends on my schedule.
In the new digital media landscape where album sales have suffered because of people downloading music for free, what is the main source of revenue for recording artists?
Many artists make money by doing live shows and having plans A and B. With albums not selling well, you can look to those other plans as additional income. Artists shouldn’t depend on one source of revenue.