An Entrepreneur’s Leap of Faith Is Rewarded in Style

This writer turned entrepreneur launched a national business.
(Photo: Lisa DeJong; illustration: Jessica De Jesus)
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Dec 9, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Bekah Wright is a Los Angeles–based journalist who specializes in travel, entertainment, and lifestyle.

Fashion has been at the forefront of Kim Crow’s career. She spent 20 years as a style writer, most recently at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, before the media industry hit on hard times. Pondering career options, she remembered a shopping trip with her three-year-old niece, Evie. While Crow expected her to want a pink tutu, Evie chose a gray dress instead, explaining that she wanted to be comfortable yet still look nice.

(Photo: Tim Harrison)

Crow was astounded: “It took me 40 years to learn what she’d figured out by age three.” Then Crow realized she had 20 years of fashion expertise as a style writer that she could share with other women by opening a clothing boutique that would sell comfortable yet fashionable attire. Of course, she named it after her niece: Evie Lou.

“Keeping in mind all the feedback I’d gotten as a columnist,” she says, “we set up Evie Lou to sell to the ‘forgotten customer’—older, rounder women who go into stores in hip neighborhoods and think there’ll be nothing there that will fit them.”

As with many new business owners, Crow’s first significant hurdle was procuring funds for Evie Lou. As many new entrepreneurs do, she approached several banks and pitched them her business plan. After six months, though, she was getting nowhere.

So Crow followed the advice of other boutique owners and took a leap of faith. She charged all of her launch expenses to credit cards. “It felt fiscally irresponsible,” she says, “but in the end, it was my only recourse.” Three credit cards and $30,000 worth of inventory later, Evie Lou came to life in 2010.

Starting safe and small, Crow rented a 750-square-foot store space in one of Cleveland’s trendy neighborhoods. Clevelanders loved Evie Lou. Within two years, the business needed a larger store. Since then, the company has expanded twice, adding a storage facility and a photo studio for website shoots.

Things really took off for Evie Lou when the company began selling via its website. With the addition of e-commerce, shipping and logistics became even more integral to Evie Lou, which led Crow to investigate her options for the best partners. Crow chose to team up with UPS after getting an enthusiastic recommendation from the company that built the Evie Lou website.

(Photo: Tim Harrison)

“UPS has worked competitively to get better prices for us,” says Crow. Making cost savings a priority, UPS does monthly check-ins with Evie Lou to monitor the company’s shipping volume to ensure it is getting the best rates.

Another UPS perk: “We import a shoe line from Germany, and UPS is my agent in Europe, dealing with customs and tariffs. I just pay the bill; they do everything else, which is nice, as I understand none of it.”

With experience and success under her belt, Crow has had time to reflect on Evie Lou’s journey. Despite bankers who doubted her vision, she knew countless women were out there who needed clothes that made them feel good as well as look good. That customer insight and the inspiration from her niece gave her the confidence to take a leap of faith—a leap that has been rewarded with national expansion for Evie Lou and happy, stylish customers.