Updated: Jun 10, 2020
Carolyn, the co-founder of Been Around the Roc blog, was kind enough to ask us for an interview about the story + journey of how Creatures of Whim was born!
Check out her blog for more inspirational content about independent women: http://beenaroundtheroc.com
Below is the full interview!
How This 25-Year-Old Opened A Fair-Trade Boutique and Is Making a Worldwide Impact
Meet Lynna, who at the age of only 25 opened up her brick-and-mortar boutique in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. Lynna’s story depicts the importance of embracing the law of attraction, ethically sourcing goods, and supporting the independent makers in the U.S. and abroad. This interview will DEFINITELY leave you inspired!
This girl boss interview goes into how the small business owner got to where she is, why you need to just START even if you don’t feel ready, and how she handled the obstacles along the way.
Be sure to check out more pictures of her shop and intentionally curated artisan goods on the links below!
Tell us a little about yourself!
I’m from sunny Orange County, CA which is about an hour south of Los Angeles. I grew up there my whole life and moved to Lexington, KY to start my business in October 2018. I am a small business owner (of a brick and mortar retail store), entrepreneur, and content creator.
You own a boutique at such a young age. So impressive! What’s your background and experience in business, the arts, fashion?
My background is in fashion design and I have a Bachelor’s degree in this major. I worked in several different fashion accessory companies for the next 3 years after graduating as both a product developer and designer, but was very unsatisfied and disillusioned with the fashion industry as a whole. It was filled with abusive relationships between the companies and their manufacturers overseas. I vowed to change this relationship between the consumer, the brand, and their makers.
Growing up I was always very creative and I knew I wanted my career to be something to do with the arts / creativity. This is the main reason I decided to pursue a career in fashion design. I always had side hustles growing up and knew I would definitely be a business woman and be my own boss one day. I sold drawings of Neopets to make money as a 5th grader! In high school I had a pretty successful business on Tumblr with a very niche group of followers – we were all obsessed with Korean pop culture/music and these were the type items I sold to my online friends! LOL!
I promised myself that I would be running my own business by the time I was 25. And guess what? I did just that as I reached my 6th month of being 25! The Law of Attraction is totally a thing!!
What steps were involved in starting your own business and opening up a brick and mortar?
I’ve had the idea for the business for a few years now, but the retail spaces in LA were just way too expensive for a startup and so I never really took action on it. I tried to start other online businesses in the meantime. When I met my current partner in May 2018, we started a long distance relationship – he lived here in Kentucky and I was still in LA. This went on for 6 months until…. I decided to move across the country to be with him and shift away from my life in LA. I was only comfortable doing this once I had the idea of starting my shop in Lexington, KY (after visiting for just an hour one time!). It made sense for me to move because I wanted to be with my partner, and I also wanted to start my business in a place where it was viable and possible for me to start it and where I knew there was really an untapped niche.
As soon as I had the idea, I started to research retail spaces in Lexington. The space I have now is the first and only retail space I contacted! Everything fell into place really seamlessly! I then researched all the (annoying!) paperwork tasks I had to complete before I could launch the business – how to start an LLC, what kind of permits and licenses I needed, taxes information, and basically any other paperwork I would need in order to legally run my business. Honestly this was the most frustrating and toughest part!
After that was the fun part – ordering inventory! I reached out to a couple of the artisans in Nepal and India that I already had been in contact with for the past year and who I already knew I wanted to work with. I also reached out to some local brands and companies within the US that I knew and liked. This was basically the starting inventory!
Then I had everything shipped to Kentucky, and as soon as I moved we started set up the store. I signed the lease with the realtors, built some furniture, and set up the store with the newly ordered merch and inventory! As soon as we had our soft launch day, I went in 100% with the social media game which was a really vital part.
What does a typical workday look like?
A typical workday for me – I get into the shop, do the usual open store routine that I have, then I sit down at the front counter which is basically my desk, and I go through my list of daily tasks and to-dos. I like to use this time almost like it’s an office space so that I can kill two birds with one stone. I will work on getting something done administratively (making labels, ordering inventory, answering emails, social media, reaching out to do something PR related, etc.), but at the same time I am running the store and will help customers anytime they come in.
What were some obstacles you had to overcome with opening your boutique? What are some obstacles you still face as a new business owner?
Getting financial capital to start up the business was one of the biggest obstacles, as well as dealing with the confusion / headache of the legal paperwork that had to be done before the store could even open (we had to delay our launch day several times due to issues with permits / licenses. Currently, we are still facing some financial obstacles that originated from the original start up costs, but other than that, I would say the biggest struggle is keeping everything well stocked and updated because we are still so new, everything is still a very manual process and takes time to keep track of it all, but it’s also fun at the same time to see an almost empty shelf get restocked.
How do you find artists and sellers to source your products from?
I’m a huge fan of independent artists and indie brands and have gained a lot of knowledge about different brands over the years just being a total shopaholic (LOL!) and so sometimes I’ll reach out to those brands specifically. As for our fair trade artisans in other countries, I had to do some research in the beginning to find nonprofit organizations that would be able to produce the things we wanted to buy, but now we have a pretty healthy list of artisans and vendors to buy from. I guess nowadays, as we are getting more well-known and gaining more exposure, I’ve had more and more artisans and artists reach out to me and asking to partner with me, which is a great feeling and also it’s a lot less work on our end!
You clearly are passionate about spirituality and wellness. Can you speak a little about how they are involved in your business and your life?
My whole life and everything I do is tied in with spirituality and wellness. I truly believe that since I’ve had my spiritual awakening in 2017, that everything started to move in this direction (the direction of me following my purpose / my Dharma). Every day I try to do everything very intentionally and I always check in with my why – does this action or this decision benefit my why/purpose? Does this lead me into the direction I want to go? Is this bringing more light and love into my life or is it adding something negative? What message is this experience trying to teach me? Everything I do is all supported by my spirituality and it’s a main foundational pillar in my life. Since I’ve had my awakening, I knew I wanted my business to not only be creative and beautiful and eco-conscious and supporting fair trade artisans, but I also wanted it to have a spiritual wellness aspect to it – which is why it’s so amazing I was able to fuse all of these important parts of my soul together into one business.
What would you tell someone looking to do what you’re doing? What advice would you give to a woman that’s just starting her own business?
Don’t get hung up on the how part of it. This is what I was hung on up for years. I kept asking “How will I do it? How will I start my own business? How how how?” The answer is, the path will reveal itself to you as you take the first step. Just do the very next step you can imagine doing. Maybe that is creating a logo, maybe that’s applying for a loan for some capital, maybe it’s writing your business plan, maybe it’s applying for an LLC, maybe it’s writing your mission statement / purpose statement …. whatever that immediately next step is – take it. As soon as you take that step, the next step will reveal itself, and then the next, and then the next. All you have to do is take action. Just know that you will never feel 100% ready. Never. So if you want to follow your dreams, you have to just jump all in, even if you don’t feel ready, because being 100% ready doesn’t exist. The excuse of “I’m not ready” is actually just your fear of the unknown. Ignore the fear, and follow your heart. Take action, because action creates momentum. That momentum then keeps you going.
What has been something (other than opening your boutique) that you are most proud of in your entrepreneurial/ professional journey so far?
I’m pretty proud of the fact that I started out as a sample coordinator getting paid a measly hourly wage and made my way up to a Product Development and Design Manager within 2 years since graduating college. I feel pretty satisfied with where I ended my office / corporate career, despite not being a huge fan of it while I was in it… I guess I’m proud of myself that I made it that far and tried that hard regardless of how much I disliked the industry. I think it shows that I have a really strong work ethic and I’m down to do whatever it takes even if it’s rough at times and I don’t personally like it. It’s taught me a lot about sticking it through and working hard and being an honest and trustworthy employee.
Been Around The Roc is run by two best friends and has a central theme about lifting up other women. Can you speak to how you uplift others?
I am always encouraging others to follow their dreams / their hearts and do the things that they love and try not to get caught up too much in “the rat race”. I always support my friends’ journeys who have just started to follow their hearts. I think it’s so important to follow your purpose and do your mission because that’s what we were brought here to do.
Your boutique embodies a strong sense of community. What does community mean to you and what are you doing to create that community?
To me, community is about creating a feeling of belonging and being totally supported and understood. It’s a tribe of like minded people who are there to uplift each other and support each other’s dreams and goals. It’s a space to be freely yourself without worry of being judged. It’s a comforting and loving space to share ideas and stories and discuss important topics. Creatures of Whim is a huge proponent of being a community space. Here, like-minded individuals can gather to discuss topics that may be taboo elsewhere. Here, they can express themselves freely and be surrounded by people who simply understand and would never judge them. We have weekly / biweekly events that connects individuals within the community with other individuals to really build a strong network and to also act as a sacred space to share thoughts / ideas / opinions / discussions.
What are your professional goals going forward? What’s next/new?
I plan on starting a blog and podcast next!! I also will be creating an online webinar course on how to start your own business. Eventually, Creatures of Whim will also have its own custom clothing collection designed in-house and handmade by our beloved artisans in Nepal! I plan to travel to Nepal and work hands-on with the artisans for a few months to create the collection.
What does being an independent woman mean to you?
Being an independent woman means someone who does not need other people to sustain herself and her well-being. She can support and take care of herself – on every level. She has tons of confidence and has learned to step into her power and take control of her life. She takes responsibility for her own actions and emotions. She doesn’t mind spending time alone because she actually enjoys her own company and likes herself; she doesn’t feel lonely when she is alone. She doesn’t have any problems making decisions regarding her own life.