20-year-old Southeastern student owns, manages online clothing boutique independently

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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A Southeastern University student worked at a clothing boutique for two years, fueling her dreams of one day owning her own store.

But instead of waiting until she earned her degree to pursue her goal, she decided to launch her own online boutique during her junior year–and she did it all by herself.

Grace Lasseigne, 20, used what she’s learned as a management major and a former boutique employee to launch The Kate Clothing in January. Without mentorship from other business owners, professors or older family members, Lasseigne only receives help from her twin sister and a longtime friend.

“Honestly, I did it all by myself,” Lasseigne said. “It was a lot, but I knew it was worth it because this is something I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Although more than half of small businesses are managed and staffed only by their owners, Lasseigne stands out from the rest.

She makes up the 1% of female entrepreneurs who belong to Generation Z, composed of people born in or after 1997, according to 2021 data trends from Small Business Trends Alliance.

Lasseigne may be young, but her vision for the boutique has remained clear.

Lasseigne said she didn’t want a brick-and-mortar store from the start because the overhead costs are too high. Plus, having an exclusively online shop allows her to focus on the behind-the-scenes aspect of running a clothing store—marketing, choosing merchandise and modeling the clothes.

“Hopefully, I can get to a point where I can hire someone to do all that,” Lasseigne said.

In the meantime, she’s recruited her twin sister, Hope Lasseigne, to help her with photographing the clothes.

Hope Lasseigne, an art student focusing on graphic design, learns photography as part of her curriculum. She said photographing her sister and the clothes helps her further develop her skills, so even though she’s not paid, she does gain something from it.

“We’re waiting until she starts making a lot of money, and then we’re gonna start doing the payment,” Hope Lasseigne said, laughing and side-eyeing her twin. “But right now, it’s just a sisterly favor.”

Hope Lasseigne said she and her sister have gotten closer since the launch of the boutique, and they’ve learned to work together more.

One of Grace Lasseigne’s longtime friends echoed that sentiment.

Kennedi Pease, who went to school in Denham Springs with Lasseigne, has helped her since the inception of the business, and she said it’s strengthened their friendship.

“Watching Grace become successful was so inspiring,” Pease wrote in an email. “She’s been dreaming of having her own boutique for years and I was happy to see her finally accomplish her goals. I see a big future for The Kate and Grace.”

Pease has helped Lasseigne model and photograph clothes when she has free time, and Lasseigne said Pease has helped her immensely, especially when the store first opened.

“She’s been a great supporter, and I think without these two, I wouldn’t be where I’m at,” Lasseigne said.

Lasseigne said she doesn’t plan to stay where she’s at in the coming years, even though her boutique has seen a steady flow of business since its launch less than five months ago.

Without a warehouse or a physical store to house the clothes, Lasseigne is working out of her one-bedroom apartment.

“Basically, my office is my dining room and a closet,” Lasseigne said. “It’s kind of nice—I have a system going. But eventually, I do want to have a space—maybe, like, a bedroom just exclusively for that, or, hopefully, I can get a warehouse.”

She said she also hopes to do more marketing soon. She’s already ran a few ads, but she wants to be able to invest enough money to make the ads effective before running more of them.

One way she advertises her clothes is by utilizing the influencer culture that’s overtaken social media, particularly Instagram.

Lasseigne said some influencers have reached out to her, and she’s reached out to others to discuss collaborations. Once an influencer agrees to collaborate with her, she sends them free clothes, and in return, they post pictures of themselves in the outfits and plug her business.

“That’s also a main thing, too—ads and influencers,” Lasseigne said. “If you can succeed in both, then you can grow your store tremendously.”

Lasseigne said she’s been smart with her money and how she’s invested in her business, and she advises other young entrepreneurs to do the same. It’s important to stick to a budget and do research before investing in something new, she said.

She said she wants to make the boutique a long-term investment, as she wants to run it full-time without needing another job after she graduates.

Until then, academics are her main focus.

“For me, I’m putting school first,” Lasseigne said.

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