University of Rhode Island  
Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

TMD 402 Spring 2012 "Entrepreneurship"

Rachel Lessne: Green Envy and the Eco-boutique

Summary by Kelly Krakowski


Opening a boutique right after college seems like an unimaginable, almost impossible thing to do. However, like Rachel Lessne proved, it can be accomplished. With hard work and dedication, and little time to herself, Rachel opened Green Envy Eco-Boutique just one year after graduating from URI’s Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design program. After four years of being open, Green Envy Eco-Boutique is finally breaking even. Every dollar earned gets put right back into the business to continue to help people look great while saving the planet. “What does eco-friendly even mean?” asked Rachel. With help from Dr. Bide and years of research, she concluded that the answer was organic textiles, sustainable dyes, and ethical work places. Every item sold in Green Envy Eco-Boutique must meet certain requirements, including being made from 90% organic or recycled textiles, as well as, being Fair Trade Certified.

Rachel discussed how to open and run a successful business. Her first piece of advice was to shadow another business owner. Shadowing someone helps give an idea of how much time and effort gets put into the business. That person can also give helpful advice and show the pros and cons of owning a business. Before anything, Rachel suggested developing a business plan, which helps the owner stay organized. A business plan defines the target market and how to appeal to customers; it includes a financial plan and projected profit and loss statements. This also helps keep track of money being spent on little details, such as signage, supplies, and packaging.

A business owner must figure out whether to finance through loans, grants, and/or credit lines before finding a retail space. Rachel suggested using small business resources, such as US Small Business Administration, to find information on how to start and grow a small business, and Idea Café, to enter contests to gain exposure and funding. Once an owner finds appropriate financing, he or she may find a retail space within budget. Whether leasing or buying, a small business owner is better off starting in a small retail space to gain experience. Taking in a new business in a larger location would be a lot to handle and is often unsuccessful.

Some other important aspects to consider when opening a small business are where to buy merchandise, hiring employees, and advertising. Once a business is established, buying merchandise will become easier. Rachel finds new unique, eco-friendly designers through trade shows, online research, and consignment. From a trade show Rachel found unique bangles made from recycled flip-flops. Through online research Rachel discovered a talented designer, baabaazuzu, who turns old sweaters into chic mittens. Rachel advertises Green Envy Eco-Boutique through networking and social media.

Four years after opening Green Envy Eco-Boutique, Rachel has won numerous awards including Best Eco-friendly Clothes and Accessories in 2009 and most recently, Young Entrepreneur of 2012 by AATCC. She is starting to design pieces for her store and hopes to expand. Rachel is an inspiring young entrepreneur and setting a great example for URI’s Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design program. Once last, meaningful, bit of advice from Rachel was, “don’t let anyone tell you ‘you can’t’.”

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