Hi, I’m Mandy. Thanks for joining me! How did I become the Monogrammed Fashionista you ask? Well, it all started when I was about 16…
I grew up in south Georgia in a little town that had an amazing gift shop. Everyone bought their gifts there. I’m pretty sure ALL of my high school graduation gifts came from there and at least 80% of them were monogrammed. I often thought about owning a similar store one day. BUT, I was really good at math and science so my parents “suggested” that I attend Georgia Tech and become an engineer. Ok… Why not – right? And of course it was all part of God’s plan, because there I met my future husband.
It was spring semester 1996, there was this really hot guy sitting in front of me. Why had I not met him before? Lucky for me the teacher didn’t show up and I ended up talking to him for 15 minutes! I then walked straight to my sorority house to call my mother and tell her that I met the man I was going to marry! Of course he didn’t have the same “love at first sight” feeling as I did, but it only took me 8 months to get rid of his lame girlfriend and become his one true love. He proposed the day after I graduated, we got married a year later and within weeks of getting back from our honeymoon we moved to Apex, NC.
Maybe we should back up just a bit to my last semester of college. I was interning at a small business, and when my boss found out that I had taken a job with GE he said, “You have too much swagger for Corporate America. You will definitely own your own business one day.” He had no idea that had been my dream. The problem was that I had spent the last 5 years of my life getting my bad ass engineering degree and I couldn’t go and open a gift store – could I?
Fast forward to my big girl job. I sold programmable logic controllers (seriously as boring as it sounds) and all I did was drive from one account to the next day dreaming about my gift shop. What would I call it? Would my Mom help me run it? How do you actually start your own business? What would my husband think? I was still paying off school loans for goodness sake!
When the idea was consuming my every thought, I went to my wonderful husband and said “Would you mind living in a cardboard box?” He was like – “Come again?” I told him my idea and he said write me a business plan. I truly don’t think he thought I was serious, but in less than 2 days I had a fifty page business plan to discuss with him. My husband has always had an entrepreneurial brain so he said “Ok – let’s take this to the bank and see if they will give us a loan.” It was 2002. No one was getting a loan. Certainly not two 25 year old kids who wanted to open up a retail store. But again it was all in God’s plan and we ended up meeting with the most wonderful woman at Wells Fargo who said she believed in the two of us and really the rest is history. We got our loan, my parents moved to Raleigh so my mom could work with me, and I opened up Swagger in November 2002. Isn’t it amazing how dreams turn into reality?
Swagger has evolved over the years, but our initial product offering consisted of monogrammed items, sassy stuff (our tag line is “gifts with attitude”), jewelry, purses and other cool stuff I thought my customers couldn’t live without! I found out early on that our customers loved monograms as much as I did, so I continued to add different lines every year and became THE place in Cary, NC for personalized items!
In August 2011, four months before my little girl was born, I had the opportunity to double the size of my store and add clothing – something my customers had been asking about for years! My dream had always been to open up a gift store not a clothing store and I won’t lie I was more than a little scared, but everything in me said “Why not” and the fashionista in me was born!
So there you have it – the story of how the Monogrammed Fashionista began:) It has been a wild ride, but I still wake up every morning with a smile on my face thanking God for the opportunities He has given me and the amazing people He has put into my life.
I hope you will follow me as I write about my life as an entrepreneur, momma (my child speaks southern), wife, homeowner and Pinterest addict. Please comment below so I can learn more about you too!