retail

Downtown Boutique Offers Rochester Opportunity to Shop with Purpose

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The past twelve months have involved a sizeable amount of hard work and hustle for Soul Purpose Boutique Owner Kristie Moore as she’s launched her vision.

“Everything we’ve done this year has been a brick a day,” Moore explained.

Soul Purpose Boutique opened its doors last November in downtown Rochester, providing a different type of shopping experience. This retail establishment aims to show that “newer, bigger, and better are seldom as satisfying to the soul as artistically repurposed, smaller, and reimagined.” Some of the clothing, jewelry, and home goods in the shop may look like items that could be purchased anywhere. But every selection at the boutique was carefully curated and sourced to empower and improve the lives of both the artist creator and the consumer through fairly traded, hand crafted, and repurposed goods.

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Moore was deeply impacted by the mission of “shopping with purpose” through her church, where she was exposed to the value of fair trade to sustain and improve lives. She logged ten years of experience in retail working with her sister at Refashion Consigned Furniture and Clothing; the stores are now literally linked together and share the same door on South Broadway. After her time at Refashion, Moore spent several years at home raising her children, but missed owning her own business, building those relationships, and just creating.

After her kids went to sleep at night, she would stay awake researching socially impactful organizations on the internet, familiarizing herself with their stories and purpose. She ended up filling over ninety pages of information on her findings.

“I could not even really go to bed and sleep at night. I felt like people didn’t even know about [these organizations],” Moore said. “I firmly believe that the average person wants to do good, but they don’t always know how and they don’t have access to it.”

To fill this void, she launched Soul Purpose Boutique in 2016, focusing on artists, organizations, and missions that empowered women and put spending dollars toward their support, both locally and globally.

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The greater goal of the boutique is to provide creative, unique clothing, jewelry, and home goods of deep meaning and value; items that are healthy and safe, pay a fair wage to their creator, and are ethically sourced. The store aims to provide balance between what looks good and what actually is…good.

Often these items can’t be sold at the same price points as products in big-box stores, Moore explained. In part, Soul Purpose Boutique educates consumers to be mindful of where their goods are coming from and how they are created, to use their spending power for the greater good of at least one person.

Soul Purpose Boutique sells items from Minnesotan artists like Amber Engelhardt, Joyful Revival, Allison Marie Design, and Creative Gathering. The boutique also stocks products from Art 2 Heart, a non-profit in Hamel, Minnesota. This organization partners with the Beads of Faith mission in Peru to support an artist co-op for women, with the sales money directly impacting their families and communities.

Customers can also find items from national organizations like The Shine Project at Soul Purpose Boutique. This Phoenix-based non-profit helps inner city students create handmade jewelry. If a student continues with the program, they are eligible for scholarships to become a first-generation college graduate in their family.

The shop also sources handbags and accessories from the New York-based Unshattered, an organization that assists women in recovery. Soul Purpose Boutique additionally carries products from Thistle Farms, an organization that helps female survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction to create and sell natural home and body products, and Women's Bean Project, a non-profit that teaches chronically unemployed women how to create nourishing food products, which are then sold across the U.S.  

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Now that one year is in the books for Soul Purpose Boutique, Moore is learning how to educate even more people about shopping with purpose and being more intentional with their spending power.

“I wish I had done somethings a little differently. Every day is success and failure,” Moore explained.

Moving forward, she aims to be very deliberate with each moment she has to grow her business, share its larger purpose, and shine light on the talented people supported by the goods sold within its walls.

Rochester Mom Opens eth'tique, the First Mobile Women's Fashion Boutique in the City

Chrissy Ries, female entrepreneur and mom of six, is bringing ethical fashion to the streets of Rochester.  Just last month Chrissy opened eth'tique, the first mobile clothing and accessory store in the city.

eth’tique is an “ethical women’s boutique,” selling clothing, jewelry, shoes, and handbags from small business owning mothers across the world who are making social and economic impact.  A purchase from eth’tique guarantees that no one in the line of product production was victimized or exploited.  If that’s not novel enough for you, Chrissy runs eth’tique out of the back of a truck.

As a stay at home mom, Chrissy first cut her teeth in retail selling fair trade jewelry.  “Then I became aware, through [the jewelry company] of a problem worldwide, where there’s these women that have these amazing skills, and men, that have these amazing skills and amazing talents and creativity that I don’t have.  And yet, they’re struggling to keep their children and their home and feed their children and send anybody to school and fight poverty because they don’t have the market where they’re at to sell what they can make,” she explained.

Chrissy saw a drastic need to create alternative economic possibilities for these mothers who were living in impoverished areas where there was just no spending power to purchase their products.  She also realized that people who did have this spending power often wanted to use their money in socially conscious ways, and use the funds to do good.  But as far as women’s fashion was concerned, “there’s no local option to try things on, to feel things, to touch things.”

Enter eth’tique. (Pronounced eth-teek).

Just last month, Chrissy launched eth’tique, her very first company, with the goal “to make stylish and ethical fashion accessible while empowering others around the globe”.  With eth’tique, she’s created a marketplace for mothers living in economically limited regions to sell their responsibly produced wares in areas with expendable cash flow.  Chrissy serves as the middleman, purchasing the fashion items from the women and bringing it to the American marketplace with eth’tique. 

“So [these women] have their own companies and they are driving social change in their own countries within, with them leading that change.  They know what they need.  They know what matters. …They know what their biggest needs are.  They just need to be able to make their business thrive so that they can drive that change themselves.  And so that’s where my role is.”     

Chrissy herself is the living manifestation of the eth’tique brand.  She is a small business owning mother, working to support her own children and effecting change for many other mothers whom she will never meet.  And she handpicks all the items sold by eth’tique.  Every time I’ve met her, she’s been wearing only eth’tique carried brands. 

eth’tique sells fashion products from all corners of the globe.  One eth’tique carried brand, called The Root Collective, produces hand-made Guatemalan shoes and provides jobs and opportunity to that region of Central America.  The shirt Chrissy wore on the day of this interview was from the Nepali based elegantees, a company launched by a victim of sex trafficking.  The eth’tique carried JOYN handbags are made in India.  “They’re all hand printed leather and hand signed by each person.  And they come with a little card that says this many jobs were created by this bag being made,” Chrissy explained.

Chrissy is constantly adding to the brands that eth’tique carries, helping to form a link in this chain of mothers to bring some piece of hope and change to even one life.  eth’tique also carries American-made brands, most of which are manufactured in the Los Angeles region. 

While eth’tique is a mobile fashion store, Chrissy also provides an online ordering option for those looking for streamlined convenience.  She also drives the truck in and around Rochester, traveling up to two hours outside of the city, for private parties.  With only eight RSVPs (in the Rochester area), eth’tique can drive right up to your doorstop to provide an afternoon of ethical shopping. 

“But the neat part that I’ve instituted as far as my private parties is trying to equip and enable people to give back to their local community or to Rochester.”

Each time you host an eth’tique private party, you receive 10% of the total revenue of that party as an in-store purchase credit.  Which is great if you’re eyeing up a more pricey item.

However, you can also choose to have that 10% revenue donated by eth’tique to a local charity or non-profit.  Or maybe you want to contribute to somebody’s adoption or mission trip.  The main goal is just to get people to start seeing need in the community and give back.

Opening eth’tique was a huge risk and life change for Chrissy.  She’s actually a trained nurse.  Besides her brief stint in direct jewelry sales, she had no other retail experience.  And she’s a very busy mom of six children, so a transition from stay-at-home-mom to small business owner was a major life decision.  

Chrissy explained that she didn’t have to work if she chose not to, a decision she recognizes is not the case for every American woman.  But her world would not have been impacted if she worked or not.

“And so there’s all these people across the world that want to work and can’t because nobody will buy what they can do. …If I was going to work, I wanted to make it work for somebody else as well.”

The idea of ethically manufactured women’s fashion, sold out of a truck, seemed like the perfect solution.  A mobile clothing boutique in Rochester is certainly a novelty.  The truck allowed for less overhead for starting a new business.  But more importantly, the truck allowed her more flexibility to be that mom to her children.  With the truck, she could set very flexible hours and work both from home and on the road.

I first met Chrissy at the eth’tique grand opening on June 18th in the Forager Brewing Company parking lot.  Her time as a female entrepreneur so far has been “very, very busy.  It’s been fun.  There’s been a lot of things I didn’t know.”

The biggest thing she’s had to sift out: figuring out what products will be good sellers.  Finding a balance between home and work life has also been no walk in the park.

“I carry a big load between everything on my plate.  And I want to.  It’s making me a more complete person, but it’s still a lot to figure out.”

Want to find the eth’tique truck around Rochester or book a private party?  Check out the eth’tique website and Facebook page for the latest information.