Omaha's Women in Fashion Retail
It was the late, great Edith Head who said, "You can have anything you want in life -- if you dress for it," and I could't agree more. Fashion is a way to express ourselves every day, but it's so much more than that. Dressing well telegraphs confidence, self-awareness and intelligence. It's a matter of style, it's a matter of good manners and it is -- now and always -- a matter of empowerment.
This month, as we celebrate great women of history, who better to weigh in on what it's like to be a 21st century woman business owner in Omaha than the women who are helping the city get dressed?
Trish Lonergan, Esther's
Esther's began in the early 1970s when Esther Lonergan opened a business in her home to share some of the clothes her sister, a fashion model for designers such as Bill Blass, sent to her. Over the years, the store has become Omaha's best-kept secret for women in the market for chic, top-quality fashion consignment. Today, Esther's daughter Trish Lonergan runs the shop with a keen eye for what smart, accomplished women want -- both sartorially and professionally -- in Omaha.
"I'm struck by the number of new women-owned businesses opening here. Omaha is still an affordable place to take a chance on starting your own business. There's a willingness to search out small, independently-owned businesses particularly among women. It's important to be willing to support/partner with other businesses in the area. We share a building with another small business, Among Other Things, and it's been terrific sharing back and forth.
One of the iconic women I admire most is Michelle Obama. I love the way she has supported lesser known designers. She is a strong, ethical woman and seems unswayed by others."
Megan Hunt, Hello Holiday
Megan Hunt's initials could also stand for multi-hyphenate. Small business co-owner, single mother, and now, political candidate. The owner of Hello Holiday -- a pink-walled boutique selling small-batch fashion from up-and-coming designers and fun, grrrly gifts -- is currently running for state senate in Nebraska's 8th District, and she's got a lot to say.
"I've started three businesses in Omaha, and I did it on purpose! There are so many advantages to setting up shop here, like our strong K-12 education system, public universities and the amazing talent pool they attract, our low cost of living, the friendly communities and the opportunities for networking.
At the same time, there are things Omaha and Nebraska could do policy-wise to make this an even friendlier place for women entrepreneurs. With better access to preventative healthcare and family planning, with equal pay and paid family leave, and with more women in leadership, Omaha and Nebraska will be a place where more women are seated at the head of the table.
My advice for people, especially women, is that when you have a good idea, you just have to START. You will be shocked how many hours you find in the day when you are working on something you are passionate about, so there is no valid excuse for why you can’t just start today. When you love what you do, you won’t notice the hours going by because you can’t wait to show your blood sweat and tears to the world and say 'THIS is what I care about.'
Work smart and work hard. Evaluate the effectiveness of your methods, and be ready to change if you’re getting feedback from your audience that it isn’t working. Leverage your resources--social media, professional connections, personal skills and strengths--to get your work in front of as many people as possible, and opportunities will come. Someone will pick it up and it just takes one little break, one great connection, to start the series of dominos falling.
And if that’s not enough of a pep talk, I can tell you that if you don’t work smart and hard, you can bet someone else out there is, and they’re going to kick your ass!"
Sarah Troia, Denim Saloon
Sarah Troia and her sister Jenny Galley opened Denim Saloon in the Dundee neighborhood of Omaha in 2010 and the pair quickly became the city's top-choice retailers for well-designed, perfect-fit jeans. Since then, they've expanded their presence online and moved the business to a larger location in Omaha's Aksarben Village.
"This quote from Diane von Furstenberg really holds true to me. 'You are the one that possesses the keys to your being. You carry the passport to your own happiness.'
I, 100 percent, think that Omaha is a hospitable environment for women business owners. The people of Omaha are excited to support our community and businesses, whether owned by a man or woman. Being a woman and having the opportunity to fulfill my dream and have my community support me is one of the most exciting and humbling adventures."
Natalie Navis, The Fold
Natalie Navis was practicing law full-time (and fashion blogging and styling on the side) when she hit the reset button on her career to enter the world of fashion retail. After immersing herself in the biz at Standard Style in Kansas City and helping designer Marisa Webb and her team launch their Soho store, she opened The Fold in 2016 to bring highly sought-after brands, like Ulla Johnson and Veronica Beard, from New York and L.A. to Omaha. But Natalie hasn't completely lost her legal love. Last month, she offered tips on how to dress for jury duty on the fashion blog Who What Wear.
"At The Fold, we are a small team of women who work together to accomplish a lot. No matter how difficult, we come together and make it happen. This is the same for many of the designers we carry at The Fold- they are companies made of small teams of women coming together to make big things happen. We are endlessly inspired by what women in the fashion industry are accomplishing.
On a more direct level, I see fashion empowering women every time a client puts on a piece of clothing that makes her feel beautiful and strong. Fashion truly has the power to transform a woman. For example, a customer preparing for a big career moment can put on a Veronica Beard blazer and feel like she can take on the world. Watching her face transform into complete confidence when she puts on her wardrobe- her armor in the everyday world- is such a rewarding moment for me.
I admire so many of my customers who are doing amazing things- from running companies, to raising families, to volunteering their resources for worthy causes. They never cease to amaze me by balancing so much on their plates with grace, and they inspire me to keep going when I feel overwhelmed. Knowing I have their support is what keeps me building The Fold."
Sheila Christ, She-la
The words "LOVE HER!" come up a lot when Omaha women talk to each other about Sheila Christ, owner of the women and children's boutique She-la for nearly 20 years. They love her personal style, her eye for fashion and her warm, reassuring confidence. She's exactly the person they want by their side when it's important to find just the right look.
“Omaha is brimming with so many interesting people with dynamic ideas. Plus, they are all willing to co-exist and share their resources and talents. I fondly remember returning to Omaha after a very long trip that took me overseas. As the plane started to descend, I was awestruck with the land below us. The harvest season was well underway and the fields resembled a perfectly designed patchwork quilt. The true colors of fall were directly under us. At that moment I realized the true beauty of living in Omaha.”
Sabrina Linden, merci
After graduating with degrees in international business, marketing and Spanish from Creighton, Sabrina Linden landed an entry-level job at Chanel in New York, where she worked her way up the ladder for six years. She returned to Omaha to combine all she had learned about fashion, retail, marketing in merci, which sells cult luxury labels like M. Patmos cashmere and fur and leather goods by Inès et Maréchal.
"Globally spoken, personally interpreted, fashion is a language all its own. Without word, creativity emotion and knowledge are all expressed. As women; as muse, model, mother -- we are the driving force of such creation. To mold ones work into our own provides endless expression. As female, as “fashionistas” this opportunity is ours; Creation, infinite. Power, unrestricted."
Kelly Newell, Scout Dry Goods
Not only is Scout Dry Goods a great place to find affordable fashion you won't see anywhere else in town, but because it's a re-sale shop, you can actually reduce your carbon footprint whilst scoring a cool pair of gently-worn Loeffler Randall shoes. Owner Kelly Newell mixes a strict eye for quality with a fun sense of style and, in her words, a love for the type of woman "who has a voice and vision, and doesn't take shit from anyone. "
"I love how passionate and vocal our customers are about issues that they believe in. They are also unapologetically themselves which I absolutely love! I'm inspired by our customers and our community, we've made a lot of progress in just the last five years."