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Meet Shop Owners: Kayleen + Vicki

Posted on 26 May 2015

Meet the ladies (and pup) behind Coquette Couture. :)
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
I started Coquette Couture during my senior year of college.  It was originally meant to be online only.  We didn’t plan on expanding until we were presented with an opportunity at the Bridges.  In the meantime, to make ends meet and pay bills I coached at All American Gymnastics Academy.
You have been at The Bridges at 57th for over 2 years now. Tell us more about your roots and how you got started.
After initially being online, we wanted to explore what a store front would be like without having to be stuck somewhere. We opened a kiosk in the Empire Mall and later at Jordan Creek Mall in Des Moines, Iowa. In addition to those locations we also tried getting our name out there by hosting booths at the Brookings Arts Festival, SME Women in Business, ETC. For Her, and private shoe parties.
How did you discover your passion for fashion, clothing, shoes, etc.?
I wish I could share this grand story on how I loved to dress up since I was little, but I would be lying. I was actually a huge tomboy. At one point I even wore Fubu jeans. I hated anything “girly” or the color pink. My mom had to pretty much beat me into a dress. It wasn’t until high school where I would voluntarily wear a skirt. After that, I made the mistake of being a self-proclaimed ‘Abercrombie Queen,’ and was even voted best-dressed in high school.
I loved looking at fashion magazines, but never wanted to stand out by wearing things that wasn’t “cool.” It wasn’t until college where I started to develop my own style and stopped caring about what other people thought. I really got into designers. Learning about them, reading about them, and trying to find stuff that looked like items in magazines, but within my college budget. I’d have to say shoes were my first love. I remember my very first pair of heels. They were bronze Nine West, peep-toe pumps, that I never wore, but I thought I was so cool because I owned them.
Tell us about Coquette Couture. How did you build your brand?
Coquette started as a project for school.  In order to graduate we had to create a fake company and build a business plan around it.  I decided that if I were going to do all of that work, it wouldn’t be for a fictional company.
I brainstormed, came up with a rough draft, and presented to my parents.  After a little interrogating, they were all for it and so incredibly supportive.
Next came the name.  My mom and I spent hours trying to come up with a store name using letters from her name, my name, and my grandmas. We failed terribly. We Googled “cool store names,” typed “flirty girl” into a translator, and “Coquette” was born. My love for shoes came in handy for this, because I knew I wanted to do quality footwear that would last multiple seasons, and not break the bank.
What has been the most challenging thing about owning and operating your own business?
Originally, the biggest challenge was being a 22 year old female.  Even though it’s the fashion industry, men still predominantly run it. It was hard to be taken seriously by most people, banks and even brands. I constantly felt talked down to and ran into a few situations where we were taken advantage of and essentially cheated.
Now, I would say the biggest challenge is my time.  When does work stop and a normal life of a 25 year old start, how to balance things so I can spend time with my friends and family.
Tell us about yourself?
First and foremost I am very family oriented. I consider my mom my best friend and my dad my hero. My brothers are my buddies, and my nephews are my favorite form of entertainment. I am a dog mom of two. I would prefer to be outdoors. Napping is my favorite pastime. I am fluent in sarcasm and have been told I can be quite sassy. I love being around people, but I consider myself an introverted extrovert.
What draws your clients into the boutique?
We treat our customers like our friends.  We shop WITH them.  Our goal is to  make each woman feel as confident as possible.   If something isn’t the best color for them, we tell them.   We have a fun light hearted atmosphere, great customer service, and unique pieces.
My mom and I hand select every item for our store. We only carry six sizes of each style to guarantee exclusivity to our customers. We love unique pieces and bringing new trends to the Midwest. What we try and focus on is taking trends and making them more wearable for everyday and also every body type.
Tell us about going to market?
I actually get this question a lot.  People often think how fun it is and glamorous it must be.  In reality it’s A LOT of work. By 5 p.m. we are back at the hotel, shoes off, in sweatpants, and ordering room service. It has gotten easier over time and it is just a matter of predicting what our customers will want. Some items that we think are going to sell like crazy, may not sell at all. While others we are unsure of sell in a day. It is very unpredictable. Not to mention we cram buying for two seasons in only three days, or sometimes even one day.
How would you define fashion and confidence?
I think confidence is essentially a fashion statement. I’m a firm believer that as long as you feel confident in your clothes, you will look as chic as ever. The most important aspect of fashion is your style. Fashion is essentially just the clothes you put on your body, but your style is your own personal take on that “fashion” turning it into whatever you want it to be.
What’s your go-to Saturday look?
I am all about simplicity when it comes to my clothes. I have about 10 white v-neck tees.  I feel most confident when I am in jeans and a tee to be honest. I’ll dress is up if I’m going into work with a long pendant and some great wedges or converse and a baseball cap. I wear the same jewelry almost every day…All the pieces I wear are either my grandma’s or gifts from my parents.
 Best moment of your career so far?
I had a woman in here shopping one day and said she needed a whole outfit…she was very indecisive and unsure about everything, but I walked her through it. Two hours later, we find her a perfect outfit.  While at the register, she tells me she has a date and hasn’t been on one for over a year. She poured out that an ex had broken her heart and she began crying and hugged me, thanking me for helping her feel beautiful again. That was, by far, one of my favorite moments, ever.
 Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Ideally, I would love to open another store. I also can see myself doing some designing eventually, as well.
 Tell us what a typical day looks like at Coquette Couture.
Oh gosh, emails start rolling in at 7 a.m.  I purposely don’t answer them until I get to the store, otherwise it’ll take me even longer to get ready.  After I open, it’s light cleaning and then to the computer.  Answering emails can take 30 minutes or hours depending on how busy we are.  Alternating between customers, online orders, and organizing. That’s my day.
What fashion essentials are you seeing for 2015 and 2016?
Summer – anything stripe and floral (navy is back). In the store we are super big into muscle tees.  Menswear-inspired with oversized boyfriend jeans and loafer looking sandals.  Fall/winter – more abstract prints instead of Aztec, although it that will still make a minor appearance.  We are seeing a lot of muted neutrals – burnt orange, dark emeralds and purples.
 Who’s your favorite designer and why?
Favorite designer for their style: Marc Jacobs.  I love how he plays with vintage prints, but with trendy silhouettes.  I love men’s wear inspired items that are still wearable.  I would love to go to a runway show of his at New York Fashion Week.
Favorite high end designer as a person: Diane Von Furstenburg.  She has such an incredible story and her attitudes towards her life, business, and how she treats people is something I can connect with and aspire to be more like.
Favorite entrepreneur/smaller scale designer. Sophia Amoruso. She is such a badass. I have read and re-read her book.  Even though she is no longer the CEO of Nasty Gal, she is an integral part and so incredibly creative.



Best thing about living in Sioux Falls, SD?
Being from a small town, I love the “small town feel,” yet everything is so accessible at the same time.   If I want to escape and go to a secluded park in the middle of nowhere with my dogs, there are options within a 20 minute drive. Nights when I’m an insomniac, I can hit up Boss’s Pizza at 3 a.m. The most exciting part of Sioux Falls when it comes to the business aspect is the growth.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t borrow trouble.”  My grandma used to say it and now my mom says it all the time. It is easy to get overwhelmed and stressed in a job, but I’ve learned to tackle each problem, one-at-a-time. I’m the most creative when I’m stressed.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I genuinely like to be alone. I always joke that I’m a 90 year old woman trapped in a 25 year old body.  I love staying at home, in my sweats, with my dogs, and binge watching Judge Judy.
Fun facts about you and/or Coquette Couture:
  1. My dream pet is a mini pig named Silvia
  2. My moms middle name is my first name
  3. I HATE heights.
  4. I had a pet frog in college named Frankie. It had teeth and I fed it baby mice
  5. I like snakes, but hate spiders
  6. Coquette was never initially supposed to be a clothing store.
Catch more of Kayleen, Vicki, Rudi, and everything behind-the-scenes at Coquette onInstagram.com/coquettecouture 

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