First of all, thank you to all of our supporters, family, and friends who have helped Magnolia Moon grow so much in the past year and half, and thank you to all of our future supporters for taking the time to learn a little more about my crazy journey and about Magnolia Moon.
Born in east Texas, raised in the “loveliest village on the plains,” Auburn, Alabama (War Eagle!), and now settled in Fort Collins, Colorado, I call many places home. After moving to south Texas in high school, I attended Texas A&M University-Kingsville where I received my Bachelor’s degree in Fashion & Interiors Merchandising and a minor in Business in 2009. As most of you know, this was not the greatest time to graduate from college because the economy was struggling, and many companies were freezing internship programs and new hires. This was the reality, and it sucked. It was a hard time for a lot of people. I was lost and didn’t know what to do next. I was facing what seemed to be a bleak future of working at the same retail jobs I had been working at all through college.
Thank goodness for my best friend, who encouraged me to visit her in Fort Collins where she had moved after graduation to pursue a Master’s degree in Design & Merchandising at Colorado State University. I never thought that would be the path I would take, but after visiting this wonderful town and realizing there wasn’t much left for me in south Texas, I made the decision to move and go back to school! It was the best decision because it led me to where I am now, though in a roundabout way. It was during this time at CSU, that I fell in love with Colorado and Fort Collins and when the seed for entrepreneurship was first planted. At the time, there weren’t a whole lot of clothing stores and other shopping options in Fort Collins, and for a fashion major that was just unbelievable to me. The idea to open a boutique was always hanging around in the back of my mind, but I didn’t act on it until a few years later.
I finished my Master’s degree in Design & Merchandising at CSU in 2012, and at the encouragement of my advisors and my own academic success, I decided that a PhD was what I should do next. So, in the summer of 2012, I packed up and moved back to my hometown of Auburn to start a PhD at Auburn University. I was SO excited to be back “home,” visit the old stomping grounds, and catch up with dear friends. Unfortunately for my academic career, it turns out that was about all I was excited to do! I quickly realized my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I knew my time at CSU and my Master’s degree had served their purposes, and it was time for me to move on and do new things. But what?! I hit a bit of low point, or as I like to call it, my quarter-life crisis. I worried that I had wasted the last few years of my life, racked up way too much student loan debt (which is still true), and missed out on a career in fashion. I’ll admit, it all kind of fell apart for a couple of months as rejection letters and no-replies built up for all of the jobs I was applying for in the attempt to figure out my next step. It was rough.
Then, the step all post-college twenty something’s dread: moving back home. I love my parents, and they’re pretty dang awesome, and actually I was pretty relieved to move home and remove the burden of paying for bills while unemployed. It meant leaving my beloved Auburn, but I knew it was a necessary step that had to be taken if I was going to have any chance of making my dream career a reality. Back to south Texas I went. I worked as an assistant manager at the King Ranch Saddle Shop for about six months (which was wonderful) while I sorted through my life post Master’s degree; post failed PhD attempt; post job rejection. It didn’t take long, though, for me to realize what I really, deep down, wanted to do and had been dreaming about for some time but didn’t really want to admit: I wanted to open a clothing store in Fort Collins. It actually all came together for me in a dream I had one night. I saw Magnolia Moon: the fixtures, the floors, the clothes, the customers, the cash wrap, everything. I felt myself working in the store. When I woke up, I knew it was a sign. I told my mom about my dream, and she said something like, “Well then, just do it!”
I made the move back to Fort Collins to begin the process of opening Magnolia Moon during the summer of 2013. Just a few weeks before the move back, as luck would have it, my crazy Aussie/Lab puppy broke my ankle. Of course! It took some time to recover from that, but it gave me plenty of free time to plan and research. I got my old retail job at Talbots back that I had when I was in grad school, and began my planning and preparation. Between the summer of 2013 and December 2013, I began to seriously doubt my boutique clothing ideas and my ability to pull this thing off, but during that Christmas I made the decision to suck it up and just go for it. I knew I’d regret it forever if I didn’t take the leap.
Magnolia Moon was started on the most shoestring of budgets, largely made possible by my wonderfully supportive parents. Because of that, I didn’t pick the coolest, flashiest downtown location, but instead a small (600 square feet) former office space on a tucked away but growing street just outside of Old Town. I opened on May 5, 2014 with a seriously small inventory and a few homemade fixtures. As the store made a little more money each month, I bought more merchandise, made a few more fixtures, hired an employee and then two, made another fitting room, and so on. While it would have been nice and maybe easier to start in a prime downtown location with a ton of cute clothes, all the bells and whistles, and the coolest hipster decor, I knew that wasn’t a choice for me at the time. So, I pulled myself up by my “bootstraps” and made it work, little by little, pinching pennies as much as possible. I mean, I used to save the tape off of boxes of merchandise we received. I got really good at figuring out the cheapest way to get stuff done. Also, for most of that first year, I worked full-time at Magnolia Moon, continued working evenings and weekends at Talbots, took surveys online for money, and sold Chloe + Isabel on the side to pay myself so the money could stay in the store. It was definitely an interesting year!
By the end of our first year, I felt like I had learned enough about the business and our customers and knew that we were outgrowing our Mason Street space and needed to move to Old Town. Seems like an easy next step, right? Not so much. I spent months looking, received a lot of resistance from building owners in Old Town, and was faced with ever wildly-increasing rent prices, but through some stroke of luck or karma, just as I was giving up on moving to Old Town, I was approached by some wonderful people who wanted to help me to sublease their space. Within a whirlwind of a month, I had signed a new lease for a sweet space in the heart of Old Town, went to market, renovated and moved into our new and current space on Walnut Street by the end of August 2015.
What I have learned is that nothing worth having is ever easy, that sometimes you have to try a lot of things before you find what works, that you’re going to fail at some things and that’s okay, and that sometimes it feels like the universe is just trying to f*** with you, but it really is trying to guide to you where you need to go, if you listen. Also, wine helps.
I hope my story resonates with some of you and that it provides some encouragement that even when times are tough, when the world seems to throw roadblocks up all around you, and when you’re feeling lost, that there is always hope, and there are always people willing to help you. Just put in the work, be the awesome person that you are, and keep on hustlin’.
Some fun facts about me: I love Auburn football. I love my insane dog Lucy and my two cats. I love all things Paris…and Italy. I snort when I laugh. I’m a published author. I love me some wine. I love shopping. I miss the ocean.