There’s an old saying about marriage: ‘the magic isn’t in getting married, it’s in staying married.’ Most often people compare or treat their marriage as a business, and these same rules apply to Chiquita White, the owner of Kiwi’s Boutique, a Chicago-based fashion boutique located at 1015 S. Western Avenue (corner of Western Ave. & Taylor St.) in the Tri-Taylor neighborhood also known as ‘Little Italy.’
For White this boutique business didn’t come as easy as she thought, but as she grew in business so did her hunger to learn more about the apparel industry. From attending various expos to trade shows, White continued her fight to keep the doors of Kiwi’s Boutique open no matter what.
This year as White celebrates the 10th-year anniversary of Kiwi’s Boutique she chats it up with RowASeat1 about the journey of becoming a businesswoman, how she survived the trials of owning a boutique during the lows of the economy and her advice to future entrepreneurs. Check out the feature below…
RowASeat1: When did you fall in love with fashion?
Chiquita White: I would say around 1995, it was my senior year in high school and I wanted to find the ‘perfect prom dress.’ However, the things I saw on the racks were not exactly what I wanted. I knew it was more than what I searched for at the typical department stores and that’s when I discovered a knack for boutique shopping.
RowASeat1: Tell me about the beginnings of Kiwi’s Boutique.
CW: Well as the years went by I became even more familiar and a lover of boutique shopping. Then in the early 2000s, I noticed more exclusive pieces at the boutiques I would frequent, but the sizing would be ill fitting. At this point I began to inquire about finding clothes for my body type and other women such as myself. This is how Kiwi’s Boutique came to life.
RowASeat1: Congratulations, 2015 marks your 10th year anniversary for your business and as a businesswoman. What are some ups and downs of the business you’d like to share?
CW: Thank you and it has been a true learning experience, but I wouldn’t trade it at all! Within these 10 years, especially in my beginnings of Kiwi’s Boutique I had so many unanswered questions and trial and error periods. And the enthusiasm of being a businesswoman didn’t come as easy as I thought either.
But through it all I never gave up and I trusted God, myself and continued to follow my dreams. I gained the bare minimal research and the go-getter spirit, and sometimes if I didn’t know, I winged it and here I am celebrating 10 years in business – a true blessing from God!
RowASeat1: How did you maintain the presence of your business throughout the years?
CW: I learned that when the customer doesn’t come to you, then I must go to them. I became more savvy about networking and getting to know my customers on a more personal level, which is why I participated in private shopping parties, church events, expos, seminars and booking events during the slow months to always generate income.
I learned that people want to be up-close and personal by allowing them to experience my brand. And my motivation has become this: ‘keep doing it until you no longer have to introduce yourself.’
RowASeat1: Can you express the importance of being in attendance to trade shows?
CW: Such a very good question – It’s 100-percent mandatory because you must keep up with the latest trends, forecasting, knowledge of fabric the upcoming seasons and relationship building amongst vendors. It’s super important to build relationships and I understand traveling from city to city can become expensive, but if you’re not investing in your business then why are you in business. You must have all faith or nothing.
CW: (Laughs) I have so many, but these are at the top of my list. I would have to go with Diane von Furstenberg, Rachel Roy, Talbot’s and Michael Costello.
RowASeat1: Name five things you can’t live without.
CW: For me it would be prayer, fashion, summer days, vacations and junk food (I know my trainer is going to kill me).
RowASeat1: Any advice for the young girls who aspire to be a businesswoman one day?
CW: Follow your dreams. Follow your heart. Let no one stand in your way.