Purposeful fashion motivates 19-year-old Ashton Hendricks, owner of & Such Boutique, also known as & Such for Haiti. Refurbishing and selling flannel shirts is just the tip of this business, which helps to provide jobs for Haitian women. Offering employment opportunities for people in the underprivileged country of Haiti is this young entrepreneur’s mission, and she does it while promoting and offering trendy clothing along the way.
Alex Belden: When exactly did you start & Such Boutique?
Ashton Hendricks: I started & Such Boutique August 1st, 2015 (we just had our 1 year birthday)! I was 18 and going into my freshman year of college.
AB: Were you into fashion before you began your business?
AH: I’ve had a passion for fashion since before I started the business. When I was younger, I would sketch out fashion designs just for fun. Growing up, my favorite TV shows were Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model. As I got older, I would mess around on my sewing machine to improve my personal clothes and that is how I got to where I am today with & Such Boutique.
AB: What inspired you to use flannel shirts?
AH: Flannels have been worn and accessorized in fashion for years, but recently flannels have become more popular (especially for women) to wear. The recent trend of flannels made me want to do a little something unique with them. A design that is more modest, yet chic.
AB: Where do you find the shirts you refurbish?
AH: I get my shirts from all over. Since the business is mission-based, some people will so generously donate them. I get other shirts from a big warehouse thrift store in southern Indiana. I also find shirts at other local thrift/mission based stores.
AB: Do you repurpose the shirts yourself?
AH: When I first started the business, I was repurpose the shirts all by myself (although, sometimes my grandma would help sew here and there). At the time, I was sewing out of my 12ft x 16ft dorm room, which I shared with someone else. As time went on and as the business grew, it was becoming impossible to balance school, activities, a social life, a clean dorm room, and a business on my own. After 7 months of making the shirts primarily on my own, I hired a friend of mine to help me sew. Since then, I have hired another woman to help as well. However, since our mission is to employ women in Haiti, we are excited to say that Haitians will be refurbishing the shirts starting this September!
AB: Where do you get your inspiration?
AH: I get a lot of my inspiration from grandma. She actually came up with the idea of putting lace on the bottom of recycled flannels. She is always coming up with adorable ways to re-do and restore something to a modern tone.
AB: I read your mission, but could you explain why you chose to serve Haiti specifically?
AH: I chose to serve the country of Haiti specifically because of my heart for the people there after seeing the poverty while there on a mission trip in early 2015. I did not know what to expect going to a country I felt called to serve and had never been to; however, the first thing that stuck out to me was the poverty level. It could not be ignored. Being naturally business minded, I noticed that there was a minimal cycle of economics. After doing some research, I found the unemployment rate in Haiti is estimated at seventy percent. For every ten people in Haiti, there are three jobs available, and that broke my heart. I know I can’t change the world, but I can change someone’s world.
AB: How does the selling of these shirts provide jobs for people in Haiti?
AH: After one complete year in business, a percentage of the profits that have accumulated will be used to ship materials, shirts, thread, and sewing machines down to Port-de-Paix, Haiti where local, unemployed women will have a chance to assemble and refurbish the clothing for a pay in return.
AB: What boutiques can we find your shirts in, aside from your online store?
AH: You can purchase & Such Boutique clothing at Simply Primitive (located in Bloomington, IN) and Fancy B Boutique (located in Bedford, IN). In the fall, it’s our vision to sell in more shops in central and northern Indiana! You can also purchase our clothing at vintage markets and other shows we will be vending at. There is a list of upcoming markets for 2016 on our website!
AB: What is the best part of running your own company?
AH: The best part about running your own company is seeing how far you’ve come. When I first started, my goal was to sell only 10 shirts. Without realizing it, as time went on, my business goals were reached, and increased. When the going gets tough, sometimes you have to take a step back to look at how far you’ve come to keep yourself going.
AB: What is the hardest part?
AH: There is no one specific hard thing about running this business because it’s all hard work, but very rewarding – and nothing worth having is easy. I am failing, learning, and succeeding all at the same time.
AB: Any advice for young people wanting to start their own business?
AH: My advice for those thinking about becoming a young entrepreneur is to first take the risk. Taking the first step is the hardest step. I’d rather try and fail then go to the graveyard with my ideas and dreams. Start small and work really hard. Dedicate yourself because you are your business. Actually envision your success and reaching your goals because when you envision it you stay motived to work hard to achieve your goal and soon enough, you will be on to the next goal. Some advice that has been motivating and impactful to me that I listen to everyday is from the famous Steve Jobs. He says… “When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it the world… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”