MBA's, textbooks and years of experience are not prerequisites to entrepreneurial success. Just ask 19-year-old Lauren Feather, who in six months conceptualized, created and launched her already-profitable Summerlin boutique, Best Kept Secret.
Inspiration sometimes emerges when least expected, and for Lauren Feather, it came during her freshman year at Arizona State University, when a tight budget and a diminishing allowance left little room for True Religion jeans and designer clothes.
"My friends and I were really tired of spending all of our money on clothes," Feather said. "We needed a place to buy trendy clothes at affordable prices, like some of the Southern California boutiques."
Last summer, Feather approached her father, Bill, with the idea of opening a small boutique in Summerlin to offer trendy, adorable and reasonably priced clothing. Her father's support had a catch -- Feather had to conduct the research, create the business plan, build the budget, find suppliers, learn logistics, select a location and launch the business on her own.
Her father would provide the initial capital under those conditions. So while her friends enjoyed their summer vacations, Feather built a business.
"There are so many things that have to be done, but everything depends on how bad you want it," she said. "I gave it all up to build my dream."
Feather knew that the boutique needed to reflect her brand in its design as well. Throughout the summer, she scoured Las Vegas and California antique shops, discovering a zebra chair, crystal chandeliers, a pink sofa, distressed shelves and trunk, unique artwork and bright purple paint for the walls. As she collected her finds, her family had growing concerns whether it would all work together, but Feather knew her brand and how to package it.
Only three months after presenting the plan, Feather opened Best Kept Secret Boutique. The store offers such brands as Lush, Cielo, Iris Basic and Flying Monkey. Stylish shoes, trendy fashion and one-of-a-kind accessories line the walls.
"My research included Forever 21 and Target, where women can find fashion at affordable prices, but I wanted to offer quality pieces, not disposable fashion," Feather said.
Initially, Feather focused on the college female demographic, but that focus shifted soon after the opening, as mothers accompanied their daughters, and grandmas from Sun City visited in search of gifts.
"Not everybody is a size 1," Feather said. "So we offer small, medium, large and all the way to 3XL. Our customers range from 10 to 90, conservative to sexy."
Loyal customers don't have to worry about showing up at the next event wearing the same thing. Feather sources her merchandise in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York and purchases only two pieces in each size.
"Once I am out of something, it will never be in the boutique again," she said.
Feather's merchandise reflects her pricing concept. Customers can find T-shirts for $8, tops for $20, jeans for $30, bags for $25 and accessories for as little as $10. The average price point is $24. According to Feather, "You don't have to spend a lot of money on clothes to look great. That's the Best Kept Secret."
Feather even thought about the men who get dragged along on shopping sprees. She created the Boyfriend Bunk for their comfort. While the comfy sofa may be pink, guys can occupy themselves reading GQ or Sports Illustrated. They can even peruse and try on fashions from an expanding men's collection.
Among her friends, Feather has been the group stylist, the one who shares her clothes. Not much has changed, except she has more friends, her closet is a bit larger and her clothes come with an affordable price tag. As a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur with plans for future expansion, Feather shares lessons learned with other young dreamers.
First, success requires support. It is a myth to believe that entrepreneurs need only themselves to succeed. "I was fortunate to have the support of my dad and mom and family and friends," she said.
Friends and family offer encouragement and honesty. Use that support to find the courage to never give up. "My dad is my business counterbalance, and my mom is my moral counterbalance. Without them I could not do this."
It looks glamorous from the outside, but hard work is the key to success. Feather stayed up nights, gave up vacations and chose not to return to ASU for her sophomore year.
"Remember that it isn't easy," Feather said.
Passion and attitude make the difference between a great business and a mediocre business.
"If you lose sleep over it, then it's a good idea," Feather said. "I am totally in love with my business. Every day is Christmas."