Marissa has a sweet spot in her heart for children – especially for her 10-year-old son and her two-year-old niece. She also loves fashion. Combine those loves with a deep desire to be her own boss and to determine her own destiny, and what you get is Sweet Peas, a unique boutique for children’s clothing in Fultondale, a Birmingham suburb.
“I enjoy shopping for little girl's clothing,” Marissa said. “I have a little boy, but when my niece was born, it was like a whole new world with all the cute clothes for the little girls. I enjoy shopping for her. When I decided I wanted to start my own business, I wanted to do something for children.”
Marissa works for a benefits company, and was able to save money to secure a lease for a commercial space and get initial inventory. She opened Sweet Peas in March 2013, filling the store with hand-made dresses and unique designs.
“I wouldn’t say that the clothes I sell are formal, more vintage or old fashioned, like capri pants with ruffles on the bottom, high quality but not formal,” Marissa said. “I have some items for people who like leggings with tunics. We have clothes for infants up to size 20 in girls and boys for the big kids.”
Marissa didn’t want to get into debt. But she needed a sign and some working capital for advertising, inventory, or whatever else came up as she got her business started. She also wanted to build her business credit to prepare for the possible expansion of her business in the future. She consulted a friend, who told her to look into Accion Texas Inc. Marissa is using her $5,450 loan to buy a store-front sign and inventory. She also plans to hire a web designer to help her build a website.
For the time being, Marissa continues to work her full-time job and entrusts the store to her aunt, who handles sales until Marissa can get to the store in the evening and on the weekends. Marissa dreams of expanding and opening several stores in Alabama and possibly outside of the state. But for the moment, as a start-up business, her goal is to generate enough sales so she can work full-time on the store.
“Being a business owner vs. being an employee, I can make decisions and say this is something that I think will be good for the company and make things happen, so it’s great,” Marissa said. “It is also very stressful, because you have to make sure you’re making the right decisions. And even when the sales aren’t there, you still have to pay your lease and buy the inventory. So it’s hard. But I think it’s better to be a business owner.”
Marissa said though her business is new, she is confident that her store concept will take off because Sweet Peas is filling a need.
“In my area, we don’t have any children’s boutiques,” Marissa said. “I really wanted to do something having to do with children, because there just aren’t enough things here for them.”
LiftFund. (www.liftfund.com) is an award-winning nonprofit organization (previously known as Accion Texas) with a mission to provide credit and loans to small and start-up businesses that have limited or no access to credit from commercial sources. Established in 1994 in San Antonio, LiftFund has helped Texas and Louisiana entrepreneurs strengthen their businesses, stabilize and increase their incomes, create employment, and contribute to the economic revitalization of their communities. Learn more at www.liftfund.com.