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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.

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