By Josh Sigler Kokomo Tribune, Ind.
Maggie Talbert's eyes light up when she's asked about her great aunt Rosemary Zimmerman.
It's clear, just by facial expression alone, before any description comes out of Talbert's mouth, just how influential Zimmerman has been on the 24-year-old entrepreneur.
"She's one of my favorite people," Talbert said. "I got to hang out with her almost every day when I was little. Both of my parents worked insane hours at their jobs. They always needed someone to watch us and my grandma couldn't. We would always be at her house. She was a fabulous lady."
By that time, the mid-1990s, Zimmerman was near the end of her life, having returned to her childhood home of Russiaville after a life full of exciting experiences, including her time as a reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times in the 1940s.
"She interviewed Helen Keller, JFK , Teddy Roosevelt -- just insane people," Talbert described. "She lived in one of the largest buildings in Chicago. She wore all black and heels like every single day, so much so that [her feet] were stuck [in position]. Even her house slippers were heels."
Zimmerman once shared a motto which has never left Talbert, even 14 years after the elder's death in 2001.
"She'd always say 'you know girls, every woman has to have a little garish in her wardrobe,'" Talbert remembered. "And then she'd pop a collar."
Those words were a major inspiration for Talbert's current business, Garish Gal, a clothing company which features a mobile boutique.
She was always interested in fashion, but Talbert's life path seemed to be taking her in a different direction. Following graduation from Western High School in 2010, she headed to IPFW to study biology in hopes of becoming a dentist, also playing golf for the Mastodons along the way.
But, what Zimmerman told her all those years ago always seemed to be calling to her. Talbert couldn't help but listen.
So, after graduating from IPFW, instead of applying for dental school, she set out for New York to follow her dreams of a career in the fashion industry. She landed a gig in wholesale, rubbing shoulders with account executives from Macy's.
"I went and lived the big city life like she did and I always wanted to pay homage to her no matter where I was," Talbert said. "I realized the fashion dream in New York is you drink water and pray you can pay your bills next month. When I was toying with the idea [to create a business] I thought 'I have to do it. She would love that.' It's clothes that she'd love. It's something I knew I had to do.
"That was more the catalyst for moving home, but I had always wanted to start a boutique eventually."
She gained valuable experience of how to market a website for business purposes while in New York, so Talbert headed home with hopes of creating a successful .com venture. Garish Gal was born Oct. 1, 2014, with contemporary, versatile clothing offerings for women in an online setting, shopgarishgal.com.
So what does garish mean? A dictionary definition describes it as "obtrusively bright or showy."
"When you google it, it sounds horrible; like 'lurid,'" Talbert said. "But, in the terms I'm using it in, it means 'different, out there, unique', or 'something that you're not expected to find here normally.'"
In the beginning, her vision was to strictly run the website, but she quickly observed differences in the way New Yorkers and Hoosier shop.
"I realized in New York, everyone shops online because they don't want to go out when it's cold or are always online anyway," Talbert said. "But, that's not so much true in the Midwest. They are on the go. They are tactile. They want to feel the clothes. They want to try them on. I was thinking about opening a store, but I didn't know where."
A friend suggested starting a fashion truck. Talbert had seen some in New York, and thought the idea might just work. So, she bought an enclosed cargo trailer, and with the help of her grandfather Jack Talbert, had it tailored into a small boutique which offers jackets, pants, dresses, tops, scarves and fair-trade jewelry to your door, just like what you'd see on the website.
"I just had a vision for what I wanted from it," Talbert said. "There were a couple times when I walked in there and thought 'I hate this whole thing. It's not going to turn out that great.' But, once it was all done I said 'wow this is great. I love it."
The mobile boutique was first unveiled to the public on Black Friday, and Talbert has been pleased with the results since. In addition to booking private parties, she's taken the boutique to locations such as the Kokomo Farmers Market, Chippendale Golf Course, and events like a Mike Gardner stand-up comedy act at the Elite Banquet and Conference Center on Dec. 11.
"You dream of something and think 'OK, yeah this is sort of possible,'" Talbert said. "But, then when you see people coming in and enjoying the goods, it's the most humbling thing you can ever experience. I never dreamed this big. When I started I was just going to be online only and that was it. I don't know what the next step is, but hopefully it's something I haven't dreamed of yet."
Talbert will also invest back into the community, pledging 10 percent of her profits toward Project 117, a non-profit, education-based organization which specializes in helping impoverished children in Haiti receive schooling.
"I'm great friends with [Project 117 founder] Curtis [Stout], I've been there, I know where the money is going and who it's benefiting," Talbert said. "I always wanted to have that component of helping people out. That's why on my logo it says 'fashion with a future' because all you have to do is shop and you know you're helping someone or changing a life."