It Takes an Entourage

Occasionally, I will meet people on the street or at a dinner party, and when I tell them that I own my own business. Many times I get the response, “Oh, that’s cute!” I often see a little smile and nod from them, as if to say, “Good for you, how fun.” I cannot help but think that the ones that elicit this response must believe that it’s more of a hobby than a job. I love seeing their expression change once they find out that I run an extensive retail store, with a robust web presence and eight retail locations around the Southeast.
 
The combination of being an entrepreneur and a woman is something that I feel very blessed to be. When I started my company in 2008, I was a crew of one (give or take a few friends and family pitching in) and was on my hands and knees painting the floor of my first retail location the day before it opened. I wanted everything to be perfect and I wanted women to feel empowered when they walked in the door. I like to think that women still get that feeling now, eight years later when they walk in one of my retail stores.
 
Aspiring mompreneurs often ask me what it takes to run a successful business as a woman?
Such a simple question without a simple answer!
 

If I had to sum it all up, I would say it takes:
Vision
Inspiration
Balance
Hard Work and
Flexibility

 
 

Vision

When I opened Entourage Clothing, I wanted to provide affordable, accessible fashion with high-end boutique service. Through many sleepless nights filled with ideas and notebooks by my bedside, I was able to execute my vision for this beautiful dream. Along with vision, you have to have a mission. At Entourage, our mission is to empower women by providing affordable fashion and an exemplary client experience through integrity, sincerity and respect. As a business owner, the only way to successfully execute your mission is to have a team around you, helping to ensure that that mission is carried out each and every day in everything we do. I could not have had the success that I have had with Entourage without the dedicated individuals around me. As Steve Jobs famously said, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” I am so lucky to have such a great team by my side every day.
 
 
 

Inspiration

Entourage Clothing grew from grassroots and it is so humbling to hear stories from our clients that share their Entourage experience with me via an email or a phone call. Recently, we had a young lady that was dreading going to her friend’s wedding because she didn’t have anything to wear. She walked in our store feeling low and not very confident. After working with one of our helpful and kind store managers, she not only found a perfect dress for the wedding, but she discovered a sense of pride and confidence that she– at her admission– had not seen in quite some time. She was practically in tears by the time that she left the store and left feeling more beautiful and confident than she did when she walked in. This happened many years ago, and she is still one of our most loyal customers to this day.
 
 
 

Balance

When I had the idea of opening my own business, one of the benefits I saw was the flexibility it would afford me when and if I have a family. I now have a 19-month-old and a five-month-old and let me tell you…they are a handful! I am so thankful to have the flexibility to be at work when I need to, but also having the ability to spend time with my family is something I am so grateful for. I meet women from time to time that constantly feel guilty; they either feel guilty about missing work for their kids or guilty for being at work so much and not being able to spend time with their family. My advice? Stop feeling guilty!
 
Working hard at something you love is empowering and allows your children to see what it means to be a leader and an entrepreneur. How inspiring! It is important to put family first, but don’t beat yourself up if you have to work late occasionally and miss a recital or a little league game. It will happen from time to time. Try to make most of them and I promise that you will be nothing short of a positive and motivating role model for your kids.
 
 
 

Hard Work

Without question, the key to my success lies in hard work. The work is fun for me most of the time, but it’s still work. I value my team immensely, but also expect the same hard work and dedication from them that I, myself, put in each day.
 
 
 

Flexibility

Along with hard work, I think an important aspect of success is the ability to adapt to change. We have to deal with changing economies, trends, styles and demand. The more open and adaptable you are to change, the more likely the chance that your business will not only succeed but will continue to flourish over many years to come. Do I always know what each day will hold? No, and I love that! Trends may come and go, but hard work and helping others are at the core of what we do each day.
 
As we say at Entourage,

“Lead with fashion. Serve with style.”

 

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Katie Nichols

Katie Nichols opened her first Entourage Clothing & Gifts in 2008 with a dedication and drive rarely seen in 20-somethings. The consumer economics graduate desired to provide women with a welcoming and unique shopping experience where they could find on-trend clothing and gifts without breaking the bank. Not afraid of handwork, Katie maintained her full-time employment while tackling the Athens, Georgia flagship store buildout and launch. Her determination and inherent understanding of the marketplace has taken Entourage Clothing & Gifts from one boutique to eight locations, 127 employees, and a booming online presence in just eight years.
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