By Jennifer Gardner The Charleston Gazette-Mail, W.Va.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Mikayla Dent opened her mobile boutique "Ooh La Lucy" in June while balancing a full course load at the University of Kentucky. After graduation she will greet customers at a new home base...a brick and mortar location in Charleston, West Virginia.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail, W.Va.
While most college seniors were preparing for graduation, Mikayla Dent was plotting her next "girl boss" move.
Dent, a Charleston native, is making her fashionista dreams come true at the age of 21.
Next week, she will graduate summa cum laude from the University of Kentucky. However, unlike her peers, she will not be enduring stressful job applications and interviews. She will go to work for herself.
In the last six months, Dent has built a brand out of her mobile boutique, Ooh La Lucy. She recently opened a brick-and-mortar store on Bridge Road, which has its grand opening Friday.
"I knew I wanted to work for myself and I wanted to open my own business," Dent said. "I didn't know what, when or where. As I got further through college, I knew that I wanted it to be in West Virginia. There's definitely a market for it here."
Dent opened the mobile boutique in June while balancing a full course load. Her big-box, UPS-style truck travels around town allowing her to meet customers at city festivities and private parties.
"I found the concept on Pinterest and I just thought it was something really unique," Dent said. "I decided that it was now or never. No one else in Charleston was doing it."
It was her chance to jump at the opportunity, before someone else did.
Though she didn't take it very seriously at the time, Dent wrote her business plan in a retail entrepreneurship class. After some tweaking, she then submitted for a loan and began building the business from the ground up.
Her father, a contractor and one of her biggest cheerleaders, helped her find the truck and modify it into a little shop on wheels.
"To this day, I have never been on or seen another mobile boutique in person," she said. "I designed it all from pictures, all from what I found on Pinterest."
The logistics of building a store on a truck led to some interesting projects, like how to make things stay while going 70 miles per hour down the interstate, but it also offered a unique advantage: her bright pink, 26-foot truck is hard to miss when it's parked on the corner of Capitol Street and Kanawha Boulevard.
Dent also relies on social media to attract customers to her location on any given day.
"I try, even though I don't always succeed, to keep my social media really consistent as far as colors go," she said. "Having a super defined brand and brand image has been very helpful on social media with brand recognition."
She defines her image and Ooh La Lucy's approach as "feminine chic." Its color scheme is comprised of "blush, creams and golds with just a touch of black."
Dent credits her public relations and journalism classes for teaching her how to send a clear message to potential customers. Communications combined with business classes taught her to create a brand to center herself around.
When it came to the creation of her shop, she says her parents were not only her biggest supporters, but they provided inspiration for the name.
"I spent four months, everyday, thinking of what the name should be," she said. "My parents have always called me 'Lucy'. I've just always liked the name and always thought it was short and cute. It kind of had the flair that I think the store has."
Racking her brain, and pairing Lucy with every word she could think of, a wall decal in her apartment inspired the "ooh la" theme.
"I think 'Ooh la Lucy' is really fun and kind of gives the vibe of the store even though at the time I didn't know what that was going to be."
Six months ago, Dent said she definitely did not see herself at this point -- opening a brick and mortar -- already. But with a lighter course load and graduation around the corner, she felt ready to grow.
"I didn't know exactly what that meant, whether that meant focusing more online, or trying to get the truck out everyday," she said. "We saw the 'For Lease' sign on this space and it was just meant to be."
Within three weeks, she, her parents and her father's construction crew turned the shop into a larger version of the truck, which meant going from about 105 square feet to 1,600.
It was complicated. Since she hadn't planned for a space this large months ago, she had only purchased enough inventory for the truck.
"I had to really think about how much merchandise I needed -- that was really overwhelming," she said. "It's something I love, but just planning that out and designing the space is a major process."
Just in time for holiday shopping, in mid-November, she debuted her storefront on Bridge Road, located between Charlie Boutique and South Hills Market.
"It was just magical -- that's the best word to describe it," she said. "I had so many awesome customers, people I knew, people I didn't know, people who had shopped the truck before, all just showing up to show their support."
To her, the response is a clear indication she is doing her "job" well, which is in part, making women feel good about themselves.
"Having someone try something on and feel absolutely great about themselves is an incredible feeling, especially for women," Dent said. "They don't always feel great in their clothes and being able to provide that service that gives them that feeling is pretty awesome."
As a young business owner, she says other female business owners and entrepreneurs have been some of her biggest supporters.
When she started running the mobile boutique, Dent worked with local businesses to host collaborative shopping events. Now, she's working with her neighbor, Charlie Boutique, to host shopping events.
"Collaborating is a really cool way for businesses to come together," she said. "We're just working together to build both of us up, because when you tear down or you try to be against your competition, no one wins." Her favorite T-shirt sold in her shop reads "Girl bosses rule the world."
"That's kind of my mission, to always spread the girl boss attitude," she said.
Ooh La Lucy is located at 1006 Bridge Road. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Follow the shop on Instagram at @ShopOohLaLucy and on Facebook at facebook.com/ShopOohLaLucy.