“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak”
– Rachel Zoe
For years, the struggle of being beautiful, stylish, and curvy has definitely been real! Faced with very few options of clothing and places to shop, full figured women have always tried to make the best out of what the fashion industry offered for our unique bodies and sizes. As if the quest for stylish ensembles alone wasn’t already tiresome, the headache of being bold, curvy, sexy, and a fashionista was another issue that I was trying to figure out. So right about now I’d personally like to thank God for audacious, productive, and ambitious female entrepreneurs in the fashion industry who have helped make fashion options more diverse for every body and personality; you are appreciated.
It is women like Qiana Allen, owner of Curve Culture Boutique, who realized there was something lacking in the fashion industry for women with fuller figures and acted on it. She took what she felt was a need, combined it with her passion for fashion and birthed Curve Culture Boutique, one of THEE hottest and thriving boutiques in the U.S.. Curve Culture is 1 of VERY few (less than 5) boutiques that is based in Chicago who caters solely to the women of the plus community. With me being apart of the Miss Plus America Pageant system, I have met and are friends with women from all over the U.S., and many of these ladies are loyal patrons of Curve Culture. Just last year, Curve Culture showcased some of their featured fashions at the 2015 Indie Designer Showcase for Full Figured Fashion Week in New York! That is absolutely huge!!! But don’t be fooled….that is definitely not where the grind stops for them! Curve Culture completely sold out of tickets weeks before their annual spring fashion showcase this past May, and will also be apart of the Fuller Woman Expo in Detroit this fall.
With business booming the way it is, I was extremely grateful that the owner of this wonderful brand and establishment found time to meet with me for an exclusive interview!!!!
What inspired you to start Curve Culture?
“Prior to opening the stores I did consignment for boutiques, and what inspired me to do that was that most boutiques didn’t offer plus size items and if they did it was very few items. So I thought “How could I benefit from this?” because I like to shop, I like to look cute. I decided to speak to my mentor because she had a boutique and I spoke to her about doing consignment. She informed me that it might be a good look, so I started off with her, then I went to another boutique…..then another one. I ended up doing consignment with 5 different boutiques just doing their plus size section. It was kind of like I was doing buy in but consignment at the same time, which allowed me to start the Curve Culture brand inside of those boutiques.”
So I heard you mention you do have a mentor…..how has having a mentor helped with the success of Curve Culture?
“TREMENDOUSLY!!! She basically taught me how to make my money work for me, and how to avoid getting loans, and all those other things. I already have a degree in business management so I kind of knew the ends and outs of the financial part of it, but the actual running of the business she taught me a lot about that.”
So your mentor is also in the retail industry?
“Yes, she had a shoe store.”
What did you see was lacking in the fashion industry for full figured women that made you want to start your own boutique? Especially in Chicago, because there aren’t many boutiques here that cater solely to plus size women.
“I went to a particular boutique and I saw the clothes were a little frumpy. For as far as I can remember, I’ve always loved to look super cute and as I was growing into womanhood I always wanted to look sexy and have sex appeal. I think that’s kind of what sets Curve Culture apart from other boutiques and even big box brand stores, aside from Ashley Stewart because they’re a different kind of sexy. My brand is basically bringing that sex appeal to the forefront, not being slutty or trashy, but just to say that I’m plus size, I’m curvy, I’m confident, I love myself, and demand people to love me too!”
When did you decide that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
” Girl since I was a teen!! Jorrie, you think I’m lying but I’ve sold some of everything, did some of everything! I use to do nails, I went to hair school, I use to sell t-shirts, I use to get my friends on my block to rake leaves! All that kind of stuff, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur since forever! My Uncle had a comic book series and he was an entrepreneur. When I use to hear him say “I’m an entrepreneur”, that word sounded so fascinating to me and I use to say “I WANT TO BE THAT TOO”! Not knowing what it was really about then because I was probably only about 7 or 8 at the time. Also, my grandfather owned a cleaners. So having that foundation and watching my uncle and grandfather be in business for themselves motivated me to do that as well.”
What’s the most stressful part about being a business owner and mom/wife?
“The time away from my kids….. This is my kid too, it’s my fourth baby (2 store locations in Chicago). I guess it’s like when you have another child you give the new child a little more attention than you would the older children because they are more self sufficient, and independent. That’s what takes the time away from my children because it’s not like I’m taking time away to take care of a baby inside the house. I have to be here and I have to make sure it’s running the way I want it to.”
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
“So right now it’s all over the place because I’m renovating a new home I purchased, and I’m just getting the new store off the ground. I don’t have a set schedule, but once things calm down I am going to be here more because there are a lot of things I’m trying to push out for Curve Culture, and I’d have to be present to do that. After I get everything settled with the house I’ll be back on a time schedule.”
How’s your support system with you having 2 different store locations, parent/teacher conferences, extra curricular activities, etc? Do you have a lot of support?
“Yea, I do. I’m married, I don’t know if you knew that or not, but my husband is a great support system. He works a lot as well but he does support me in everything that I do. But I do want to say that my managerial staff is amazing because they can basically handle the fort while I’m gone, or don’t have to be there. Even my staff is excellent at doing the things that I would want them to do if I was here. So just the combination of those things.”
Do you have any family members on your staff?
“I don’t. Not family, but my best friend is the general manager for the Curve Culture stores in general; my childhood friend is the store manager on 95th street. I’ve known them all my life so their basically like family. I don’t have any direct family on my staff.”
Ok, because I’ve always heard business owners say never hire family, so I wondered if you had any working for you. LOL
“I can definitely see why they say that, but it works for some. I guess to each its own.”
So you JUST purchased a new house, you JUST finished your fashion show, and you JUST left Full Figured Fashion Week in New York….How in the world are you not insane or crazy right now?! LOL
“Girl, IDK…..GOD, that’s how because I pray for strength!!! I’m learning as I’m going because at first I looked at it as being overwhelming, but it’s a job, it’s what I have to do; regardless of how much work it is, I love what I’m doing and I love the Curve Culture brand. As far as the stuff that’s personal, I’m going to go hard for my family regardless but the Curve Culture brand is my life as well, so I don’t really look at it as being overwhelming. Like I said, I have the support system that I need to make sure things run smoothly and that helps.”
What were you doing prior to the conception of Curve Culture? Has your previous work history helped in any way with the success of the business?
“I’ll say yes and no. I use to be a bill collector for 7 years, but I was also in management for 4 years there. We had goals to hit, so I believe that has helped me in the aspect of forecasting my sales and making sure that I’m getting my girls trained to have a mouth piece to make the sales.”
I’ve always admired entrepreneurs but I’ve also felt that it’s scary being a business owner because in my mind there are no days off or me time. I’ve always thought your mind constantly thinks of new ways to do things or is always on the business. It seems very tiring. What do you think about that?
“Well I like it! I love to shop! So the parts about me picking the clothes and getting my model dressed….I LOVE THAT! To me it’s work but it’s not. I think that that’s the key for anybody who’s an entrepreneur; YOU HAVE TO LOVE WHAT YOU’RE DOING IN ORDER FOR IT TO WORK! I love this, and I love the reaction from the women that come in here and are amazed that we have so much stuff for them. I get gratification from that!”
What’s YOUR personal style like? We definitely know it’s cute!
“I despise blingy things; I don’t know why. But I just got some Chuck’s blinged out, so it just depends on what it is. Sexy of course….that’s first. Otherwise, I’d just say trendy.”
So the garments that you select for the store, are they more of a reflection of your personal style? How do you choose what will show up online and in your showroom?
“I have these alter egos in the back of my head when I’m shopping. One would be me of course and then 2 others. Where Qiana wouldn’t wear a certain thing, the other 2 alter egos would. A lot of people that own boutiques do shop for themselves, I don’t do that. I try to shop for everybody that I’m targeting. I think those 3 women that I have as alter egos are the main 3 customers that we service.”
How has opening up a second location helped business?
“It’s helped tremendously! This store in the 3 months that it’s been open has done amazing numbers. I just sit back and think that I can’t believe that this is even happening. But I feel like it was ordained and that’s why it happened the way it did.”
Are there any future plans on more locations? Chicago? Other states?
“Definitely outside of Illinois! I have a 2 year plan to open up a store in another state. I have Georgia (Atlanta) and Texas (Dallas or Houston) on my radar. Kind of leaning more towards Atlanta but I’m going to go to Texas to check it out because we do get a lot of customers from there as well.”
Outside of Mom, Wife, and Entrepreneur, what do enjoy doing when you have “Me time”?
“I like kicking it! I turns up a little bit. LOL That’s basically it, as long as I can get a little me time maybe twice a month just to kick back with my girls.”
Do you have any advice you’d offer to women who may be interested in starting their own business?
“Be persistent! Don’t take “NO” for an answer! Figure things out! Love what you’re doing! Just do it! Also, for me it’s having faith too! I know everyone doesn’t believe in God but whatever you believe in or whatever you do, whether it’s meditation or prayer, to me it’s very important as an entrepreneur; it helps you with the sanity part of it.”
Curve Culture’s annual fashion show was in May, so what’s next for Curve Culture? Are there any other events on the schedule?
“We don’t have any other fashion shows on the schedule but we do have the size sexy brand and usually in the fall/winter we do workout events. This past January we had the twerk out, the year before we did pole dancing. I like to do fitness things that are fun for plus size women because of the struggle of just trying to workout and being dedicated to it. I think that making fitness fun for the curvy girl works together. We are also working on the Curve Culture Lifestyle where we will take you on a journey on some of the things that I do as an entrepreneur, our brand model, and our other models that work with us so you all can get an inside look on what Curve Culture is really about.”
If someone asked, what would you say the mission of Curve Culture is?
“To empower, help plus size women be liberated, and to add to the body positive movement! I believe that Curve Culture in itself is a movement as well and not just a brand or a store; we are more than that. That’s why the Curve Culture Lifestyle is going to show you guys that it’s more than just clothes.”
Curve Culture is definitely doing some big things whether it’s showcasing their super trendy fashions at expos all over the U.S. or collaborating with celebrities such as Tasha Cobb and The Mama’s (Beyonce’s Background Vocalists), they are definitely a force to be reckoned with! I can attest to the quality of clothes and definitely the great quality of service, and I’d recommend them to any and everyone! I have nothing but love and respect for Qiana and the Curve Culture family, and I personally can’t wait to see what else is in store for them!
If you’re interested in the last eat and hottest fashions exclusively for full figured women then CLICK HERE to shop now with Curve Culture! You definitely won’t be disappointed!
***SIDENOTE: Hey Delma!!! They love you over at Curve Culture!!! Bosslady Qiana said so herself! ;-)***