This week on The Dharma Project Stephanie is talking with Alison Kingston, owner of Exit 16 Boutiques.
Alison opened her first store 18 years ago as a Merle Norman Cosmetic studio and has grown Exit 16 to a full-service fashion boutique with three locations. She shares how she started by working the store during the day and as a nurse at night, all while taking care of a baby girl! After hurricane Katrina, Alison's husband pushed her to take a leap of faith and go "all in" on Exit 16, and today they have three successful locations!
Stephanie and Alison also discuss:
Hi! My name is Alison & I am the owner of Exit 16 Boutique. I was born & raised in Hattiesburg, MS by my wonderful parents, John & Rebecca Backstrom. I attended North Forrest High school & received my bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Southern Mississippi. My wonderful husband, Jamie & I are looking forward to celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary this month. We are the parents of a smart, beautiful, & extremely artistic, 19 year old daughter named Kennedy. I am proud to say the she just completed her first year of college at our alma mater, USM. She also works full time with me at the boutique, which I absolutely love, as a sales associate & our social media manager.
I enjoy spending time with my family, traveling (preferably to Jamaica), exercising, cooking, reading, party planning, attending church, & just hanging out by the pool. I absolutely love, love, love fashion & makeup! Just a few fun facts, I am slightly obsessed with Bret Michaels from the 80’s hairband Poison, I sometimes like to binge watch reality shows, I’m a super picky, or should I say clean, eater, & I have a slight addiction to LaCroix flavored waters.
I started my business 18 years ago when Kennedy was only one year old, in an effort to work, but still be able to spend time with her. What I did not anticipate was the amount of time it would take to get the business on its feet. So I ended up working the store during the day & nights as a nurse. Needless to say, the store was not an instant success like I imagined it would be. It has been a learning process but has evolved into a successful business that I absolutely love!
Just to give you a little history on the store. When we initially opened, it was strictly a Merle Norman Cosmetic studio. After hurricane Katrina, we lost the majority of our customer base & had to make a decision on whether to close the store or reinvent it. At that point we started carry shoes & handbags, which then evolved into clothing. We are now a one stop shop offering superior customer service & the best selection of the latest fashion.
Four years ago we officially became a “chain” & opened our 2nd retail location at the Fremaux shopping center in Slidell, LA. We are excited to say that last October, we opened a new store at the Premium Outlets in Gulfport, MS. We have been beyond blessed to see growth & are excited to see what the future holds!