Have you ever walked into a public place – a restaurant, a store, a bar – and instantly felt at home? As if everything from the décor to the patrons was exactly where you belong?
That’s how I felt walking into FOUND Austin, a posh boutique, nestled on the corner of 5th & Oakland in downtown Austin, TX.
It was almost as though the pages of Vogue Magazine had come to life around me. The store was bright. Dainty. Organized. Chic. There was cool, disco-type music playing softly over the speakers. The décor, the clothing, the style, and the overall energy at the store had a note of femininity, but not in that over-the-top, vibrant, girly, pink way. It was Audrey Hepburn Style class & elegance from floor to ceiling.
The molding around the door frames of the dressing rooms was polished & sleek, but so classic. Timeless. The clothing, too, was feminine, but sophisticated. Each style was hung or folded neatly with a handful of identical garments. Everything had the allure of high fashion, without the risk of disposable trends, & the price tags to match.
Two arm chairs sat off to one side of the front counter – you know, the vintage-type that’s similar to furniture at your grandparents’ house, but way cooler – the type of chair that makes you hesitate before you sit down, worried that you & your klutziness will spill something all over their exquisite perfection. Or maybe that’s just me.
Stacey Smith walked in, bubbly & full of energy. She gave off the vibes of someone who can put a smile on almost anyone’s face, just by saying “hello.” She was the owner of Heaven – I mean, Found – this lovely boutique we were meeting in.
She spoke with the most perfect Southern accent I’d ever heard. She was from the Dallas area, where she worked at a family-owned boutique through college. About five years ago, they asked her to move to Austin to open a new branch of their boutique. She said she was shocked at how little shopping there was here in Austin when she first moved. It was either one extreme (high-end, expensive couture) or the other (cheaper, trendy, collegiate-wear). She saw a gap – a sweet spot – that later became Found Austin.
Stacey’s vision is one of timeless, quality, & class. The clothing sold at Found is contemporary, upper-bridge clothing. It’s not as expensive as couture, but it’s certainly pricier (and considerably better quality) than Forever 21. You might find a “trendy” piece at Found now & again, but you’re not likely to find something that you won’t be able to wear in a season or two. Stacey wants her clients to be able to wear clothes from Found season after season.
In conjunction with that, Stacey didn’t want the name of her store to be uber-feminine or to share her name. Through a bit of creativity & Google searches, she happened upon “Found.” It added a bit of mystery & intrigue.
I was connected with Stacey through a mutual friend, who knows of my ambitions & love for fashion. Our meeting was a bit like a blind date: I didn’t quite know what to expect, other than a chat about the fashion industry & entrepreneurship. What I did know, after looking at her website & Instagram, was that I loved her style.
I’d prepared a list of questions to ask her…but I didn’t even need to use them. Our conversation flowed effortlessly; I checked my list at the very end, to see if I had any final questions or thoughts, and realized that most of my questions had been answered naturally.
Stacey is packed with knowledge & advice that I didn’t even realize I need. She opened my eyes to the inner-workings of the fashion industry & followed it up with literature for me to read, to learn even more.
“Hold tight to your vision.” She told me, and elaborated.
Everyone has a vision; their own vision for your brand or business. Hire experts to do what you can’t. Get advice. But don’t lose yourself to it. You are your brand. You are your vision.
I walked away from our talk feeling like I’d made more than just a business connection, but a possible friend, too. The advice Stacey gave me was invaluable, but the spirit – the drive – that she inspired in me is worth more than words can say.
Sometimes, networking is not so hard. I’m extremely grateful to both my friend Anthony for introducing us, as well as Stacey, for taking the time to chat & mentor me.