"I will not go where the path may lead. I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail."-Strode
I am an artist in every expression of the word and I am not complete unless I am in a creative environment. The Red Dress Boutique was born from a need of creative expression on a larger scale…and www.reddressboutique.com, to push that creativity even further.
Raised in Fortson, Georgia, I learned the value of hard work and family from my parents through their own business. My mother instilled in me a sense of dedication to the task at hand through Girl Scout’s, dance lessons, basketball and art. My father gave me a business sense that is constantly pushing me to achieve. My brother...constant encouragement.
Instead of choosing an education in fashion, I chose to get a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Professional Writing, and a minor in Art. Throughout college I apprenticed with local boutique owners, gathering every bit of advice and guidance I could. I chose as my electives, courses that have been invaluable to me as a store owner; Painting 101, Metal-Smithing, Advertising and Accounting. I briefly considered a Master’s Degree, but felt that the best lessons in life are learned through experience.
Red Dress was inspired from a love of fashion and a fear of complacency. We didn’t have much money growing up so I just studied fashion and style. I read magazines, watched a show (long gone now) called Runway and it would show a different designers runway show every Saturday. I sketched outfits, covered my notebooks in cutouts and literally dreamed of a day when I could wear those pieces.
I got my first fashion job in college at a store called McKays. I apprenticed with the owner and he introduced me to the markets where everyone goes to place their orders. He actually let me pick styles for the store and even do window displays with no supervision. It was wonderful to act like it was mine and treat it as so. I learned SO Much from that job only because he let me participate in the stores appearance and success.
Right after graduation I got married and we both went to work in cubicles at a credit card processing company. I worked there 90 days and slowly felt my dream of owning a store fading into the background. I feared staying in that cubicle for the rest of my life more than anything in the world. In life you have to choose either security or freedom and I wanted the freedom. So in those 90 days my husband and I plotted the store. We are from Columbus GA and did not want to stay in our hometown so we looked to Athens, GA. Josh graduated from UGA and I had never been so we took a weekend trip to scope out spaces. We found a small one on the first trip and made the jump.
We put our house on the market and luckily it sold in a week. We took the money from the house and secured bank loan and line of credit and I attended my first market! I made the racks that hung in the store (my metalsmithing class) and painted all the paintings for decoration. Our first space was only 1000 square feet. Tiny!
And we couldn’t afford a new home so we slept on an air mattress in 4 different friends apartments for a whole year! We literally lived out of a suitcase. But that first year we learned so much. It is hard to run your own business. There are no 9-5 hours here. It is literally at least 65-70 hours a week of non stop working, but you are free. There is certainly no security. Some months I would panic that bills wouldn’t get paid. Other months I worried we didn’t have enough inventory. But the happiness comes from having your own schedule and no one to push you but yourself.
I wanted to fill a void in the women's market. Sure, I could go to the mall and see stores that carried merchandise I either could not afford or that would increase my chances of having at least 5 other people wearing the same outfit I was. But I also wanted to create this place that would bring color and confidence and happiness to a woman's day. Sometimes just having that one fantastic new outfit is all a woman needs to turn a bad day into a good one, to give a woman the confidence she needs going into an interview or to give that stay at home mom a reason to smile after that rare moment she treats herself. So I started handwriting all the thank you cards that went in our orders, packing it up like the present that it was and sending it off in hopes that it brought a smile to the woman it went to. I wanted to give women like me a bit of "happiness" in a world that could all too often make her feel like she just wasn't "this" or "that." I began asking our customers what they wanted to see in our stores and on the website. It had never been done before. Imagine going into your nearby department store and asking the store manager, "Hey, can you find me a caged wedge...or a palm print maxi?" I listened. I took notes. And I went on a hunt for their wishes and wants. To make it feel like it was just as much their store as it was mine.
No doubt, it has been the most challenging and fulfilling experience of my life. A notorious workaholic, I live for my stores and for helping my customers find that perfect outfit. You cannot walk in my store without seeing me in it. From the way Red Dress looks to the clothes that are picked...my soul is on display.