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Life & Work with Makya Swanagan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Makya Swanagan. 

Hi Makya, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
In 2015, I left The University of Missouri-Columbia after one semester — college jitters, and I moved back to my hometown of St. Louis, MO. After about a month of sitting around not knowing what my next steps in life would be, I enrolled at a university here in St. Louis (UMSL). One day while sitting in class, the idea of starting a business to make some extra money dawned on me. I knew I was always into fashion, so I stuck with the idea of a clothing boutique. With no real knowledge or experience, besides what I learned in my high school business major, I went out on a limb, ordered some clothing, marked the prices to make profit, posted on social media, and that was the start of my business, Signed Posh! At the time, there weren’t too many people in my sphere, or my age, who had a business, so people really thought highly of what I was doing and supported me. Eventually, I moved back to Columbia, MO and re-enrolled at Mizzou. In that small city, there weren’t too many places for girls like me to shop for trendy clothes. My next collection was targeted to sell to black girls, with and without curves, who were into trendy apparel because they didn’t have any stores like that there. Over the years, my market has changed, as have I. I am still selling apparel, but my brand now represents “for every version of one’s self” because I know that one day, I can wake up a girly-girl wanting to wear a dress and heels, the next day I’m just existing in the world, and want to throw on sweatpants and a cute graphic tee. So, I sell something for every version of myself and others. In addition, I’ve always wanted to help other people. To fulfill that passion, I have added branding services to my business. I offer services like website design, business plan write-ups, social media clean-up, and business consulting, at an affordable price. I want to help people create passive income, and help them look and feel beautiful, too!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has not always been a smooth road. Since my startup in 2016, I have had to take a couple of years off to go back to the drawing board. In an industry like selling fast fashion, there is so much competition! Especially since I’ve moved back home to St. Louis, there are too many boutiques to count, that are selling similar merchandise as me. I’m still not where I know my brand has the potential to be. My biggest obstacle right now is growing a dedicated clientele, outside of my hometown. With an unsteady growth in clientele, sales sometimes slow down, thus leading to me having to slow down on releasing new items. I am actively learning to grow my audience though, and still catering to the customers that I have now!

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I source clothing from Los Angeles, and occasionally overseas. I go through thousands of items, most of the time online, and hand-select which pieces I want to sell for my boutique. I then price my items based on wholesale price, quality, and competitive pricing. I direct photoshoots, run my social media accounts, package, deliver, and every other small task needed to smoothly operate. I specialize in trendy women’s apparel — so I have to actively watch bigger brands within the fashion industry because that’s what sells. People like when they can get the same look as a celebrity for an affordable price. I am most proud of everything I do behind the scenes. I source all of my products, sometimes I fly to Los Angeles to meet distributors, source products, and shop in person. A lot of people doing the same thing, don’t invest like that. I also act as director, most times the photographer, sometimes the model, and I also edit the photos. I remember working full-time and promoting my release date. My items arrived late, so I couldn’t get a professional photoshoot done in time. I had to set up my tripod, order a Bluetooth clicker, hang a sheet on my wall, and had to do my own Photoshoot on myself, by myself. Some other duties I hold is marketing, creating, and posting content for my social media, packaging all of my orders, and delivering them either in person or to be shipped. I run every aspect of my business and I’m most proud of that! I hope to grow and not have to be a one-woman-army forever, but it will be good to one day look back and say “I use to do all of this alone!” That is also what sets me apart from others I know. Some boutique owners find the cheapest wholesaler, and use that, whereas I find the best quality + affordable prices. Others also don’t take the time to really brand their businesses, as far as doing photoshoots, instead of using stock photos, creating neat content instead of just posting an item & price, interacting with their audience instead of just looking at them as dollar signs, and overall, just taking the “by any means” approach that I take — no matter who can or can’t show up to assist, I’ll get it done by any means!

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
Honestly, like any business, it’s trial and error. What might work for someone, doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone. I suggest just reaching out. The best you will hear is yes, the worst is no. If you see someone with a growing business that you want pointers from, just professionally and respectfully reach out for advice or mentorship. Also, to network by attending  as many vendor events, or pop-up shops as you can, whether you’re selling too or just attending as customer. More importantly, think outside of your hometown. Don’t get too comfortable with selling to your friends and family, all of the time. Growth come when you begin to market to strangers. I am currently working with a marketing expert that I hired to assist in creating more appealing content, so never be afraid to get help from someone more experienced than you.

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